KINGSTON, Jamaica – They say that a Bolt of lightning only strikes the same place once; one arresting moment that captivates your attention and then disappears. That is the case of retired track and field athlete Usain Bolt, still the greatest sprinter ever, whose presence was deeply missed at the recently concluded 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
Since 2008, when the charming 21-year-old from Trelawny grabbed the world’s attention, he has been the face of not only Jamaican athletics, but the sport of Track & Field. No one else managed the exude the humility, charm and confidence while consistently entertaining audiences on the track for almost a decade.
Bolt announced his retirement from the sport after the 2017 World Championships in London. While fans around the world were distraught at the thought at never again seeing the “lightning bolt” pose on the tracks, perhaps the most distraught and nervous were Jamaicans and Jamaican athletes who knew that the retirement of Usain Bolt meant that Jamaican tracks would be changed forever.
After 2017, Jamaican coaches and international stakeholders began the search for the next “Usain Bolt”. Most of the athletes that ran alongside Bolt in the 4×100 relays are now on the backend of their careers, so it was (and still is) up to youngsters like Yohan Blake and Michael O’Hara to lead the way for Jamaican track and field, post-Bolt.
But in a rare moment this past summer while defending his former coach Glen Mills, Bolt took a shot at the younger Jamaican male athletes, saying that many of them do not want to put in the work to be the best. “Blake, Warren, Bailey-Cole, the younger ones, them complain because them don’t understand the benefit of having a conversation with Coach Mills”, he said.
At the recently concluded World Champs, Jamaican’s sole 100meter finalist Yohan Blake finished fifth, causing the country to miss out on a 100m World Championships medal for the first time in more than a decade.
As for who will be the new “Usain Bolt”, many international sports media have suggested that the next person to dominate men’s track and field will not be a Jamaican, but an American.
The 22-year-old Noah Lyles, who specializes in the 200m, broke two Diamond League meet records set by Bolt and took the gold at the World Championships. Multiple Olympic champion, American Michael Johnson tweeted earlier this summer that “Lyles is the only American I’ve seen that I believe can surpass 19.32 [Johnson’s previous 200m world record].
But with a personal best of 19.50 at 22-years-old versus Bolt’s 19.30 at the same age, Bolt’s 200m world record of 19.19 may very well still be in-tact for years to come.