So far the first half of the Diamond Leagues Series and other grand prix races have lived up to expectations.
Post-doping era, track and field was supposed to be lifeless. Sort of like baked chicken with no seasonings - bland. The mainstream media has long written off the sport or at least will not write about the sport unless there is a drug scandal involved.
The bad press to the sport was a self-inflicted wound that was somewhat deserved. During the last decade a parade of athletes were found guilty of doping. The sport became the running joke of late night television fueled by ESPN reports that broke into programming to announce to deliver the news.
With a major international championship, 2010 was written off by some.
But the competition within the sport as it must goes on and it does. David Oliver has rebounded from an injury plagued 2009 season to not only break the American Record once, but twice. Almost immediately Kara Patterson became a household name among avoid fans after crushing the American Record in the javelin. Oh, and Chaunte Howard Lowe has emerged to break her own American Record in the high jump not once but twice while also finding time to dabble in the long jump this season.
The compelling force behind track and field is the athlete’s story - the most important ingredient. Their journey. Their toil. Their condition behind the wins, defeats, and records. The story is what the community wants to hear about. And we must never forget that athletes are center stage.
In 2004 there was concern. Handwringing. Consternation.
The worldwide screaming of BOLT! BOLT! BOLT! drowned out all of that. And thoughts of the greatness? Who cares about all that with the green and gold around?
The calendar flips one year and then ten years fly by and it’s 2012.
So who is the next Usain Bolt? It would make a great round table discussion at a nice restaurant. This is the stuff of internet chat board conversations that last for days. But in actuality no one really knows.
That’s because there will never be another Usain Bolt. How long did we wait for the next Jesse Owens? Usain Bolt’s feats do not to alter the accomplishments of the aforementioned except to distinguish the two as well before their time. People weren’t ready for them.
Remember “the next” great was Carl Lewis whose nine Olympic gold medals and longevity make him royalty. Michael Johnson has left him stamp on track and field. And along the way there have been a number of phenoms who have had brushes with greatness.
The real question is who is the next phenom this time around.
If another athlete of Bolt’s caliber is coming up there is a distinct likely that he/she will not be an American, however there is a high likelihood that they will train the U.S. under some of the best coaches and facilities in the world.
There will be Tyson Gay who will more than likely accomplish enough to finish a legend. There are shooting wonders like Johnny Dutch, Jeshua Anderson and the likes of Queen Harrison who are having outstanding careers.
There have been a share that have burned out before reaching their zenith and the of course the hazardous hamstring, knee and ankle injuries that make going through the motions of a full career nearly impossible.
Usain Bolt will probably be around in 2012 and and will probably take victory laps up to 2014. He is reportedly earning $250,000 a race and will have more than enough stacks to retire.
It’s to be seen if Bolt has the business drive of Michael Johnson to become a CEO. Or the entertainment drive of Carl Lewis to take on Hollywood shine. And that is good because Bolt will be around to be the sport’s spokesperson. Which is when we may again be asking where is the next Usain Bolt.
Nearly a decade later - we may still may not have answer to the question.
Event: 110 meter hurdles
Personal Record: 12.90 seconds, ties American Record
Weight: 205 pounds
College: Howard University ‘04
High School: Denver (Colo.) East ‘00
Coach: Brooks Johnson
Current Resident: Kissimmee, Florida
2010 U.S. Indoor National Championships 60m hurdle runner up
2010 U.S. World Indoor 60m bronze medalist
2010 U.S. Outdoor National Champion
2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist
2008 U.S. National Champion
2007 U.S. Outdoor Championships Bronze Medalist
This needs to stop.
I’ve had countless conversations with my colleague John W. Davis and read a recent article and I seem to be in the minority that Tyson Gay is not a running Saltine Cracker.
Gay has done this.
1. Hamstring injury
2. Groin injury
3. Tendon injury
Does any of that seem odd for a world class sprinter?
He recently injured his tendon. That is a freak thing that can happen to anyone. He injured his hamstring back at college days and injuries to the muscle is fairly common in the sport.
Gay’s fast movement has nothing to do with the fact this his tendon is sore. Absolutely nothing. He has been working out since the fall, practicing five days a week and hoping planes to compete in races around the globe. It happened to Usain Bolt, it happened to Maurice Greene, He injured his tendon. Same thing.
Shawn Crawford battled injuries in both feet in between making the 2004 and 2008 Olympic teams.
Lui Chang injured his foot and leg after the pounding of hurdling. That is completely different story. There is nothing about Gay’s injuries that has anything to do with stress or wear and tear or anything brittle.
Freak thing, it could happen to anyone.
I don’t see anything in Gay’s injuries that tell me he’s anything more than incredibly unlucky. There was nothing in what happened recently that should tell us otherwise.
May 23, 2010: In his first trip to China since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt cruised to victory in the 200m in 19.76 seconds at the Diamond League Shanghai meet.
For the next couple weeks everyone will be talking about who had the biggest season. And for good reason. Usain Bolt had a mind boggling season that shocked even his most ardent critics. Yes, Sanya Richards sealed her legacy in the sport and Kenenisa Bekele added another chapter to an already hall of fame career.
But this debate is officially closed.
This year Usain Bolt’s answered the one of the last questions for the Jamaican superstar. The Jamaican megastar proved that he can win great competition in the 100 meter race and also shattered his own 100 and 200 meter world records. It’s the litmus test of greatness. Carl did it. Michael did it. At the World Champions in August, Bolt bettered a Tyson Gay who said before the meet that he was in the best of his life by a comfortable margin.
That’s what the great ones do.
The other pressing issue is whether Bolt is big enough to save the sport. Sure it’s a lot of pressure for any athlete and especially in track and field. Legend Michael Johnson remarked this summer that he believes the sport is in decline. Rather than another article bemoaning the sport’s ills, we should focus on the man who can do something about changing the tide.
Sure Usain Bolt astonishes every time he gets in the blocks. But can the three-time world record holder put butts in the seats, sell overpriced hot dogs, and give the average sports fan a single reason to care even a morsel about the goings on in elite track and field?
That’s what the great ones do.
Bolt puts on a show and that is good for the sport. He is not afraid to pull up before the finish line or strike a pose after a win. He is quickly becoming a global superstar on the track. The next challenge is to do so off the track.
Considering his track record, you would be a fool to beat against him. Stay tuned and you may want to get your popcorn ready.