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Athletics enters post-Bolt era, but nothing changes for India

NEWS
73   //    20 Dec 2017, 07:22 IST

By Philem Dipak Singh

New Delhi, Dec 20 (PTI) Internationally, athletics took tentative steps towards a post-Usain Bolt era but time continued to stand still for the dope-tainted sport in India as another long shot at a global medal ended in disappointment.

When Bolt, arguably the greatest sprinter and showman of all time, kneeled down and kissed the finishing line at the London Olympic Stadium on the final day of World Championships this summer, the sport entered into an uncertain future.

The towering Jamaican, now 31, became the second name for credibility in dope-tainted athletics, managing a clean record for the entirety of his career.

Ironically, the script of Bolt's farewell went horribly wrong as he was beaten by dope-tainted Justin Gatlin in the 100m dash.

The London crowd promptly booed Gatlin with world athletics boss Sebastian Coe joining the chorus of why the American had not been banned for life earlier.

Ironically, Gatlin found himself in a doping controversy this week afer his coach was seen offering false prescriptions for performance-enhancing substances in a sting operation.

Bolt's final race was even more heart-breaking as he pulled his hamstring midway into the anchor leg of the 4x100m relay race.

It was a gut-wrenching scene when the all conquering athlete -- who won eight Olympic and 11 World Championships gold medals -- lay on the track in pain and agony, unable to finish the race.

At the same time, it also showed how cruel the sport can be though it was not the first time the greatest of sprotspersons ended their careers on a disappointing note.

It's debatable whether Bolt, world record holder in both 100m and 200m, can be put at the same pedestal as legendary boxer Muhammed Ali as Coe did.

But for nearly a decade since 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Jamaican enthralled the athletics world with his speed and his showmanship. He was the reason, in large part, for fans turning up to stadia to enjoy athletics.

The world braced up to a post-Bolt era but for India there was no momentous change as the country's athletes did nothing for the global audience to take note of.

Since 2003, when Anju Bobby George took a historic bronze in the women's long jump in Paris World Championships, every two years her name is recalled in the hope that somebody would emulate her.

Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra was the best bet among the 25 Indians who went to London but the strapping Haryana teenager, the junior world record holder, came up short at the global stage, failing to make even the final round.

Surprisingly, Davinder Singh Kang became the first Indian to qualify for the final round of a javelin throw event. Ironically, his inclusion in the Indian team was in doubt after he tested positive for marijuana, a drug included in the specified list of WADA Code but which does not attract automatic suspension.

All the other Indians brought up the rear while Govindan Lakshmanan managed a personal best in men's 5000m race.

Kang was one of the top Indian athletes who flunked a dope test during the year though the menace did not hit athletics as hard as the past few years.

Shot putter Manpreet Kaur returned positive twice and her dope flunk took away some of the sheen of India's historic top finish in the Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar ahead of China, who ruled the roost in all previous editions since 1983.

India has been an Asian athletics power for many years and despite the absence of some continental stars, it was an achievement to top the medal tally with a record-breaking haul.

Quartermiler Priyanka Panwar was the other athlete who flunked a dope test and she was banned for life as it was her second offence after the 2011 doping scandal.

A few national records were set during the year, while Gopi Thonakal scripted history by becoming the first Indian man to win an Asian Marathon Championships towards the end of the season.

Delhi hosted its annual half marathon amid a massive uproar over the poor air quality in the city.

Doping apart, poor facilities and lack of qualified coaches continued to be the big problem areas. But like the years gone by, there was no significant move made to change things for the better.

A high performance academy was announced to be set up in Bhubaneswar as a joint effort of the IAAF, AFI and the state government and a few foreign coaches were appointed.

But whether that would be enough for the country's athletes to do well in the Commonwealth and Asian Games next year, remains to be seen

NEWS
Press Trust of India (PTI) is a news agency in India
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