Monday 7 August 2017

So He Is Human After All! Gatlin Beats Bolt In 100metres

Usain Bolt was denied perfect end to his career as Justin Gatlin clinched gold at the World Championships
Gatlin clocked 9.92 seconds to beat Christian Coleman as Bolt finished third in his final individual race
Jamaican retires after next week's 4x100m relay but despite a season best of 9.95 he was comfortably beaten
Gatlin - banned twice for doping - was booed before race and celebrated wildly, putting his finger to his lips

A terrible silence met the end of the men's 100m final at the World Championships in the London Stadium on Saturday night. What was supposed to be a night of celebration turned into a night of shame. What was supposed to be a river of gold turned into a track of bitter tears.

Not only was Usain Bolt, the great hero of the sport, denied victory in his final individual race but it was won by the American two-time drugs cheat, Justin Gatlin. A rom-com turned into a slasher movie and athletics' worst nightmare unfolded in front of a watching world.

The fans who had packed into the stadium to savour every last moment of this race, hoping for one last signature Bolt moment of celebration, one final flourish, one last waltz, one more victory pose pointing his arrow to the sky, watched in stunned amazement as Gatlin dipped for the line a fraction of a second ahead.
Bolt was third, beaten to the silver medal by the young American Christian Coleman, who had also beaten him in the semi-final a couple of hours earlier. When the result flashed up on screen, the hush was replaced by booing and then denial. Everyone pretended Bolt had won anyway.

Even Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic men's 100m champion, knelt before him in theatrical awe of his greatness. Gatlin shushed the crowd but he was roundly booed anyway and it was Bolt who was interviewed trackside and told that the whole stadium loved him. Gatlin celebrated alone.

Two years ago, the BBC commentator Steve Cram said that Bolt had saved the sport when he beat Gatlin at the World Championships in Beijing. So what does this say? Nothing good, I'm afraid. On Saturday night, the only feeling was that something more than a race had been lost here.

And the truth is that athletics made this happen. Athletics allowed Gatlin to come back after doping bans. Not once but twice. And it made it easy for him, too. Nike even rewarded him with a new sponsorship deal after his second failed test. I'm sorry, but you reap what you sow.

How does Lord Coe, the president of the IAAF, feel now, I wonder? A few days ago, he insisted that doping was not his sport's most pressing problem. Really? A 35-year-old two time drug cheat, who got faster as he got older, just ruined the farewell of track and field's greatest Olympian. If there's a more pressing problem than that, I want to hear about it.

After the race, the crowd kept being told that Bolt was the saviour of the sport but this was the worst possible outcome for a saviour. Not just to be beaten in a major final for the first time in ten years but to lose to Gatlin, the American who symbolises everything that is wrong with athletics.

Perhaps that was why it was so galling when Gatlin put his finger to his lips in the moment he realised he had won. What? He thinks that his victory is a vindication of something? He thinks that it is a defeat for those who speak out against doping in sport? Don't make us all laugh. The only thing his victory proves is that athletics is still stuck in its cycle of self-destruction.

How many more people will turn away from it now that Bolt, who was seen as the last bastion of hope, has been beaten in his final race by an athlete who is seen as one of the most powerful symbols of the cheating that has disfigured the sport?

This was the moment that athletics has been dreading. Not because Bolt lost and Gatlin won but because it marked the moment when the sport could no longer shelter beneath the Jamaican's wings, the moment when the camouflage of the greatest showman it has ever had, was taken away and the sport had to be judged without him.

For all the reforming efforts of Lord Coe, athletics was still not a pretty sight even before Gatlin's win. Events on Saturday night were speckled with competitors called 'authorised neutrals', innocent refugees from Russia's state-sponsored doping programme that has led to the country's ongoing suspension. The label makes them sound like extras from Blade Runner.

The crowd here also witnessed another absurdly dominant run by Olympic women's 10,000m gold medallist Almaz Ayana. It was met with a strange mixture of giddy awe, disbelief and downright cynicism. This is athletics' cursed hinterland, a place where even Bolt's greatness cannot reach.

Colin Jackson pointed out last week that athletics existed before Bolt. Well, yes, but it was not morally bankrupt in the minds of the public before Bolt. It is now. Especially now. Especially after the triumph of Gatlin. Bolt was all that stood between athletics and the abyss.

All that is left for now is to take solace in what Bolt achieved before anti-climax invaded his career at the last. This is the record that we look back on now: eight gold medals at the Olympic Games in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro, 11 World Championship golds and world records in the 100m and 200m that may take a long time to be beaten.

When he burst into the world's wider consciousness before those Beijing Olympics, the ebullience of his character was a glorious contrast to the orchestrated order of those Games in the beautiful Bird's Nest. And in the next nine years, his star shone more and more brightly.

Out of the smoking ruins of athletics, Bolt has emerged to attain a status granted only to a very few in the history of sport. He has earned the kind of adulation only bestowed on those who achieve greatness with style and grace and charisma.
His breathtaking list of achievements combined with his personal dynamism means he is mentioned in the same breath as Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, Pele and Roger Federer.
What separates them is that the others had rivalries to define their greatness. Bolt has been a one-man band. For him, there has been no Joe Frazier, no Bobby Moore and no Rafael Nadal. In athletics, there is only Bolt and then there is the void.

Bolt's importance to the sport in the last decade is all but impossible to overstate. One of the most charismatic athletes the world has ever seen, he has reigned at a time when athletics has been brought to its knees by a long series of doping controversies.

Its past sins still haunt its present and not just in the triumph of Gatlin. A few minutes before Bolt's semi-final on Saturday, Britain's Jo Pavey climbed on a podium here in the Olympic Stadium to be presented with a bronze medal from a World Championships women's 10,000m that took place ten years ago.

Pavey was upgraded from fourth to third after Turkey's Elvan Abeylegesse, who originally won silver in the Osaka championships, was found guilty of an in-competition doping offence. Kara Goucher, who has made allegations against Mo Farah's coach, Alberto Salazar, was moved up from bronze to silver. Doping still lingers like a restless ghost around this sport.

In his years at the top, most of Bolt's main rivals have been stripped away, not by age or injury, but by doping suspensions. Gatlin, Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake and Tyson Gay, all pretenders to his crown at one time or another, have been tainted by ignominy and shame.

Athletics is a land of scorched earth and Bolt has hurtled across it in a yellow and green blur, an icon of brightness in a desert of doping. Of the 30 fastest 100m times ever, only nine were achieved by a clean athlete - and all were run by Bolt.

In that climate, it is understandable that athletics has become trapped in an unhealthy inward-looking culture where those who exhibit anything other than blind admiration for the two stars of these championships, Bolt and Farah, are treated not as people who want to help the sport but as pariahs.
So even though Salazar is under investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency over a raft of alleged doping violations, and there remain questions about Farah's two missed drugs tests in the run up to the London Olympics, anyone who raises those issues becomes a non-person.

This era of athletics loves nothing better than shooting the messenger. Even on Saturday, a British Athletics official made a huge drama out of a Farah press briefing because of fears it might be infiltrated by a journalist who would ask Farah inconvenient questions.

For all the awe that greeted Farah's victory in the 10,000m here on Friday night, there are equal measures of paranoia emanating from Farah and his entourage. There remain legitimate questions to be asked of him and he has chosen to avoid answering them.

That is the world that Bolt has presided over with such majesty, a world of suspicion and doubt and fear and loathing, a world where no one quite knows whether to believe that what they are seeing is real.

It is perhaps the greatest of Bolt's triumphs that he dominated his events so completely and still rose above the suspicion that cloaks the rest of his sport. He has been a light in the darkness and now the light has gone.

Culled from:  DAILYMAIL

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