‘I just want to retire on a winning note’: track king Usain Bolt eyes final hurrah at world championships in London
Jamaican is aiming to go out on top in London as he prepares to pass the torch to the next generation
Sprint superstar Usain Bolt will seek a final golden hurrah when he takes to the track at the IAAF World Championships in London this week.
Bolt has dominated sprinting since taking double individual gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, going on to win a further six Olympic golds and also picking up 11 world titles.
World records of 9.58 and 19.19 seconds in the 100 and 200 metres when winning in the 2009 Berlin worlds were followed by the towering Jamaican winning consecutive world golds in the 100, 200 and 4x100-metres relay in 2011, 2013 and 2015, with the exception of a false start in the 100 metres in Daegu in 2011.
The 30-year-old scored triple gold at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics in London and Rio, his sole hiccup being stripped of his 2008 Olympic relay gold after teammate Nesta Carter failed a drugs test.
It is a staggering tally for a track athlete who has admitted he wants to go out on a high as athletics seeks to turn a new page.
“My main aim is just to win (in London). I just want to retire on a winning note,” Bolt said recently in Monaco, where he won the 100 metres in 9.95 seconds, dipping under the 10-second barrier after two sluggish outings in Kingston and Ostrava.
Bolt has opted not to defend his 200-metre world title, meaning he will not race against South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk, the athlete Bolt has tipped to take over as the next track and field superstar.
“That’s one of the most disappointing things in my career now,” he said. “He came along at this late stage and I didn’t get to compete against him, because I think he’s one of the best now.”
World and Olympic 400-metre champion Van Niekerk, who will attempt an audacious 200/400-metre double in London, added: “Usain has been a massive inspiration.
“But I’ve still got quite a long way to go before I even get close to the heights that Usain has reached.”
One of the stand-out moments of the 2012 Olympics at the same stadium in east London was ‘Super Saturday’, when Britain won three gold medals in the space of an hour to set the packed stadium alight.
Distance running legend Mo Farah, on an unbroken streak of nine global final wins (the 5000 metres in 2011, and the 5/10-kilometre double in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016) will again compete, but there is no Jessica Ennis-Hill, the heptathlete having retired, or long jumper Chris Rutherford, out injured.
But Ennis-Hill will sit atop the podium once more as the world champs sees the reallocation of a number of medals from previous championships including two golds.
The upgrades follow the disqualification of the results of the original medallists after their sanction for anti-doping rule violations.
Ennis-Hill will pick up a 2011 gold and the US women’s team the 2013 4x400-metre title.
“I’m delighted that the athletes are properly honoured for their achievements and what better way than in front of passionate athletics fans at a major championship,” said IAAF president Sebastian Coe.
“For those receiving gold medals, their moment in London will be all the more special as they will hear their national anthem played. Whatever their nationality, clean athletes worldwide will celebrate with them.”
Coe, a two-time Olympic 1500-metre gold medallist, will chair a series of IAAF meetings in the run-up to Friday’s start of the track and field proper.
Coe heads up the IAAF Council meeting on Monday, with lively discussion expected on Russia, which will miss the worlds because of its state-sponsored doping programme that also saw its athletes barred from the Rio Olympics.
Since then several Russian athletes have been cleared to compete under a neutral flag as the IAAF works with all parties to ensure a transparent anti-doping culture in the track and field powerhouse.
The Council meet is followed by the 51st IAAF Congress with Coe on hand to launch an innovative one-day convention called IAAF Athletics Connect on Wednesday.
Tellingly, in Bolt’s swansong season, the convention is designed to “prompt discussion about building a strong future for athletics”.