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Rio Olympics 2016: Stars who can take over the sprinting baton from Usain Bolt

Experienced Justin Gatlin and youngsters Bromell and De Grasse will be a challenge to Bolts third 100m Olympics gold in a row.

Feature 03 Aug 2016, 19:01 IST
Usain Bolt had pulled his hamstring a month before the Olympics

Nowadays, the cliché “best ever” for athletes is thrown around extraneously. It just doesn’t refer to the different number of titles or achievements of an athlete, but also their respective magnitudes. One of the only times you know it can be said sincerely is when you use it for Usain Bolt, the man with a body of a Greek god, and a bit taller than one.

Usain Bolt knows how to run faster than anyone on the planet ever recorded. It takes a couple of seconds to absorb the magnitude of this statement. One amongst the innumerable luxuries that stem from this is that you walk the streets with a tacit understanding in your head: I cannot be mugged by anyone on two feet.

In short, Usain Bolt is the sprint king, but you already knew that. The world already knows the crown sits on top of the Jamaican’s head ahead of Rio 2016. What we are looking at here are the few that have the capability to surprise him this time around.

The Jamaican is going to Rio with having just recovered from a hamstring injury that he picked up a month ago during his Jamaican trials. This will only motivate his opponents to give it their all on the track. 

Justin Gatlin

Earlier this year, Justin Gatlin of USA beat Bolt’s best ever of 9.58 in the 100m. He appeared on a Japanese TV show that had it all set up for the sprinter. A track, proper equipment, timers, but they went a bit overboard by adding a tailwind by a large fan. The tailwind, unfair assistance, debased any value of Gatlin’s record.

The world believes it was for entertainment purposes, but as history has shown, these athletes are not above crossing the line when they really want to taste gold. Gatlin shared a laugh with the world that tuned in to watch him fly; it really is the fastest recorded time in human history if you ignore all the fan assistance.

Don’t worry; it looks exactly as funny as it sounds.

Gatlin does hold a valid chance to steal the gold. At the World Championship at Beijing last year, Gatlin was only behind Bolt by a millisecond recording a time of 9.8 seconds as opposed to 9.79, that of the Jamaican. From a wider perspective, Gatlin’s experienced and more motivated than ever after making a comeback from his doping ban.

Like Bolt, Gatlin too, is an Olympic medalist having won gold at the 2004 Athens games. The man has come a long way after his doping ban of 4 years in 2006. Despite this, he had to make do with just a bronze in the 2012 London Olympics but has been closing the gap over the years ever since Bolt’s 2008 run.

Younger legs:

The American Trayvon Bromell and the Canadian Andre De Grasse are few amongst the promising youngsters that are poised to take Rio by storm. Both the sprinters are sure to keep Usain Bolt looking behind him during the 100m. Though, it won’t be the first time seeing the Jamaican doing that in a race.

Bromell and Andre De Grasse were tied for the bronze in the 100 meters at World Championships, Beijing last year. But back then, both the American and the 21-year-old Canadian were amateurs. Now they are professionals and have signed for themselves deals with the likes of Puma and New Balance.

When the crowd’s favorite 100m is run this month, Bolt will be as a man still in his 20s, or to be exact, 29, one week short of 30. This is just past a sprinter’s peak. 

One impressive feat that Bromell has under his belt is no teenager, not even the great Bolt in his teens, has run as fast as him. He secured the 100m in 9.84 seconds at June’s USA Track & Field outdoor championships when he was just 19. The athlete, a Family Guy fan, broke his high school 100m record by running 9.99 when he was just 17. He also owns the 100m world junior record. 

“He’s a big-time competitor,” said De Grasse’s coach Stuart McMillan. Andre De Grasse has considerably less experience than most of his opponents, but something like this has never stopped a rising star. 21-year-old old sprinter’s selection and participation will be in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at Rio.

The Canadian is still adjusting to professional life but is determined to be ready for the biggest global sports competition. 

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