Bolt stole the thunder in a year of eye-catching performances

Athletics

Bolt stole the thunder in a year of eye-catching performances

 Kenenisa Bekele

In the universe called athletics, there are stars and there are stars. Then there is Usain Bolt, occupying the position of the sun.

Like the big bright star, he stands right in the centre, spreading light, warmth and a certain sense of assurance that while he is there, nothing can go amiss.

Like the big bright star, he evokes a feeling of unlimited power and energy, towering way above the rest of the world.

And if one says the athletics world revolves around this man now – like planets around the mighty sun – can anyone question it, indeed can anyone even doubt it after the kind of season the Jamaican has had?

If Beijing 2008 was Bolt’s coming out party, Berlin 2009 was the celebration of his incredible talent. In the Chinese capital, he raised the 100 and 200M world records to levels hitherto believed unattainable. In Berlin, he proved there is nothing unattainable in the sporting world, with two more world records – 9.58 seconds in the 100M and 19.19 in the 200.

The buzz he created with those exploits was unbelievable and by the time the World Championships ended in Berlin, Bolt was the name on everyone’s lips. Unsurprisingly, he swept a clutch of awards, including the Male Athlete of the Year prize from the International Association of Athletics Federations, with its president Lamine Diack openly acknowledging the Jamaican’s impact.

Bolt’s impact was most felt on his rivals, with none coming anywhere close to the big man. Tyson Gay struggled with a groin injury and despite his career best effort, failed to challenge the Jamaican while Asafa Powell managed to fill the frame most times. Gay, however, did manage to produce a tremendous surge late in the season with a 9.69-second burst, equalling the time clocked by Bolt at Beijing last year.

Like in Beijing, Jamaicans had a wonderful year. But a clutch of positive dope tests just ahead of the World Championships did cast a cloud over the Islanders’ performances.

Sanya Richards American Sanya Richards was the Female Athlete of the Year, deservingly so after crowning a glorious season with her first world title in the 400. Pole vault ace Yelena Isinbayeva would have been a serious challenger for that award but for her spectacular fall in Berlin, where she no-heighted for only the second time in her international career. Just a few days later, Isinbayeva showed the stuff champions are made of, knocking over the 27th world record of her career – a cool 5.06M.

With Tirunesh Dibaba injured and Meseret Defar off-form, the role of protecting the Ethiopian pride fell on Kenenisa Bekele and the long distance king performed it in style, becoming the first man to win a 5000-10000 double at the World’s. It was a great year for the quiet achiever, who also won a share of the Golden League jackpot in its final year. From next season, the series will be replaced by the Diamond League, with competitions spread over different continents and more head-to-head duels assured as the IAAF looks to widen the sport’s base. Bolt will be central to those plans while in Asia, the presence of Liu Xiang, who returned late in the season after a crushing injury last year, will add star value to the series -- a fact even the sunny Jamaican won’t dispute!

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