Usain Bolt’s name has become synonymous with speed and he is the most recognized sportsman since Muhammad Ali, with a greater reach than Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan. Saturday, August 5th, saw Bolt’s final solo sprint of 100m where he was able to muster up a bronze medal finish as American duo, Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman took the gold and silver. The crowd at the London Stadium were clearly taken aback with this anti-climax as they were hoping that this would be their favorite runner’s perfect race to bid adieu. But no matter how much they jeered, it was clear that Gatlin was the winner with 9.92 secs, Christian Coleman second in 9.94secs and Bolt third in 9.95secs.
Though there was no animosity on track between the athletes, the crowd wasn’t going to forgive the winner so easily given his history rash drug scandals. Fans were clearly dissatisfied that an athlete who had served two doping bans was allowed to compete with the likes of Bolt. Runner’s World reports that in 2001, Gatlin was briefly suspended for the use of amphetamine. The suspension was later shortened after it was found that the drug was contained in his Attention Deficit (ADD) medication that he had been taking since childhood.
In 2006 he was given an eight year suspension for using testosterone. Gatlin however denied that he was using any banned substance and claimed that a massage therapist rubbed cream containing testosterone on him. This eight-year suspension was ultimately reduced after Gatlin was cooperative in giving information to the anti- doping authorities. It was no wonder, given Gatlin’s notorious history that the crowd was booing him for stealing Mr. Lightning’s thunder.
But things were different on track. Everyone’s favorite track villain, Gatlin, who was in Bolt’s psychological grip was seen with tears streaming down his face during a post-race interview with NBC. “I dreamed about this day, and I worked really hard for this day. It took for me to not be selfish and think about myself and think about others to give me that fight. I’ve had many victories and many defeats down the years. It’s an amazing occasion. We’re rivals on the track but in the warm-down area we joke and have a good time. The first thing he did was congratulate me and say that I didn’t deserve the boos. He’s an inspiration.”
Gatlin was generous enough to forego the traditional victory lap, allowing Bolt to bid adieu to a sport that seems to already miss him. It was an emotional affair for many as the sprint champion for over 9 years and the winner of three consecutive 100m-200m Olympic doubles was finally stepping away from global championships. He kept the sport’s dignity alive without a positive dope test against his name. He truly was a hero on track as he kept the crowd’s spirits and hopes with his understanding of what the masses wanted and how to give it to them. Bolt’s retirement marks the end of an era of pure sportsmanship and maintaining the sanctity of the game.
Image Courtesy: ABC Network