Friday, 14 July 2017 15:27

Timing Of Bolt's Exit Shows Smarts & Shrewdness

BY DWAYNE RICHARDS | Observer writer

If it were up to his father, his coach, his sponsors, the people and the Government of Jamaica, Usain Bolt would not quit track and field at the end of the 2017 season.

No one wants to see the legendary sprinter exit the stage just yet at the “tender” age of 30 years.

Ever since 2007 when he finished second behind Tyson Gay in the 200m at the World Championships, the anticipation has been high whenever Bolt puts on a pair of spikes to run.

In 2007 in Osaka, Japan, a fresh faced Usain Bolt with a simple “pinky finger point” and a raise of the arms to the heavens when he was introduced, lost to Tyson Gay. Coming around the turn with a slight lead, Bolt was surpassed by the shorter Gay who took control of the race down the stretch to win in 19.75s.

It was the last time that the American would finish in front of the boy from Trelawny over his athletic career.

At 6ft 4in tall, he was deemed too tall to run the 100m, but after breaking the world record in New York City on May 31, 2008, everything changed.

Bolt broke the previous record of 9.74 seconds held by countryman Asafa Powell that was set on that memorable date of September 9 in 2007, lowering it to 9.72 seconds in rainy conditions and shutting up his doubters after he had run 9.78s at the Jamaica Senior Championships a week earlier.

A year later Bolt returned to the Asian continent stronger, faster and the world record holder over 100m — an ominous sign for the rest of the world's best sprinters.

The Olympic Games held in Beijing, China, became the coming out party for Bolt and Jamaica's track and field, as the “Pocket Rocket” Shelly-Ann Fraser stunned the world to win the women's 100m final in a most memorable race, where Jamaica finished 1-2-2 and Pryce became the first Jamaican female to win a Olympic 100m gold medal.

However, for the legend it was the beginning of the greatest era in track and field for himself and his beloved country, Jamaica. Three gold medals and three world records in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relays inside the “Bird Nest” stadium left the world of track and field in awe.

His times of 9.69 seconds in the 100m final while thumping his chest with five metres to go and breaking the world record, and in the 200m which he won by a city block, had experts searching for superlatives to describe the performance of the big man.

His showmanship before and after his races also won him millions of fans, but one or two detractors as well. For the most part, however, his antics became a part of his trademark, including his now world famous “Lightning Bolt” pose that photographers race to capture. His trendy dance moves are also popular with fans.

Bolt's charisma and charm, as well as his excellence on the track, have made him a marketer's dream, and he has certainly cashed in on this as he will earn US$5 million a year as PUMA ambassador starting in 2018.

Three consecutive gold medals at the Olympic Games in both the 100m and 200m have made him the greatest sprinter of all time, but what he has put into his persona and global appeal also makes him the greatest track and field athlete of all time.

This was corroborated by President of the IAAF Lord Sebastian Coe who will be engaging the athlete (after he hangs up his spikes) to help to continue grow the sport.

After a decade at the top, time has finally started taking a toll on Bolt and the hunger, it seems, is no longer there. Having achieved all that he could have wanted, he now finds it harder to motivate himself to train.

So the legend will make the World Championships in London, England, in August his last hurrah. He will end his illustrious career by running in the 100m only. This comes as a surprise to many as he favours the 200m, but this may be the greatest move of his storied career and one which could prove crucial in preserving his unbeaten legacy at major athletics championships since 2008.

Why is this so? Wayde Van Neikerk, the South African who set the world record in the 400m final at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero in Brazil last year and who has continued with his impressive form this season, has indicated that he will be contesting the 200m at the World Championships in London.

It is not known if he could actually beat Bolt in a 200m contest, but what is certain, is that Van Niekerk is creeping up on the world record, and with much younger legs and a greater hunger the South African is a real threat to the Jamaican superstar.

The tragic loss of his dear friend Germaine Mason, who died in a motorcycle crash earlier this year, set back the training of the 'ageing' Bolt, who took the loss very hard. That coupled with the perennial back problems which will require realignment in Germany means that the big man still has some catching up to do as he has looked sluggish in his early season races.

Van Neikerk isn't the only threat that Bolt faces, as his training partner, friend and the man he has dubbed “heir apparent” Yohan Blake, is returning to real form this season, claiming the sprint double at the National Championships in June.

The threats are real and rising as the younger, hungrier athletes take aim at the bull's eye on Bolt's back. Too many athletes, in a variety of sports, have overstayed their welcome and diminished their own legacy by doing so. Bolt is smart and is likely to leave the sport at the top of his game, walking away gloriously as an immortal.

So while many of us continue to cling to the slim belief that he may do an about face and cancel his plans for retirement, it is beyond a shadow of a doubt the right time for Bolt to take a bow and leave with a smile on his face, instead of regrets in his heart.

Let us then prepare ourselves for what will be the last episode in the greatest ever show in track and field; this as we await the coming and crowning of the new king of sprinting.


Track and field becomes obscure in the U.S.

By Jaime C. Harris | New York Amsterdam News

The Green Packers’ superlative quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, arguably the NFL’s best player, could walk down the streets of Helsinki, Finland, Zurich, Switzerland or St. Kitts and Nevis—a two-island country in the West Indies—relatively unnoticed.

Same for Clayton Kershaw, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ wondrous three-time Cy Young award winner and 2014 National League MVP. Not so for Usain Bolt.

The nine-time Olympic gold medalist in the 100- and 200-meters, as well the 4x100 meter relay, is mobbed like a rock star across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Many other of his track and field brethren are also subject to being surrounded by adoring fans seeking autographs and photos for Instagram consumption while abroad.

But here in the United States, Olympic gold medal sprinter and Los Angeles native Allyson Felix, one of the world’s most recognizable female athletes, is as inconspicuous as she is fawned over outside of her home country.

For several decades, the popularity of track and field and its pre-eminent performers has gradually declined among U.S. sports fans.

There was a time when the sport was markedly more prominent in America than professional football and basketball. Jesse Owens became a historical figure and symbol of American pride when he single-handedly dispelled Adolf Hitler’s postulations of Aryan superiority by winning four gold medals at the Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany in 1936.

For a period during the 1980s, sprinter Carl Lewis was more famous than Michael Jordan. However, the globalization of basketball and exploding interest in the NFL, as well as the shift in the economics of sports, have rendered track and field a second tier sport in the United States.

So as the 30-year-old Bolt prepares to end his unparalleled competitive career at the World Championships in London next month, the sport’s lone transcendent personality will further tow track and field away from the American fans’ consciousness.


American Distance Great Chris Solinsky Joins Gators’ Coaching Staff

Solinsky helped William & Mary runners to 15 individual CAA titles, six All-America honors, and five CAA Cross Country team titles

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Chris Solinsky, the former American record holder and first non-African to break 27 minutes in the 10,000 meters, will join the University of Florida track and field and cross country programs as an assistant coach, head coach Mike Holloway announced Thursday (July 13) evening.

"Chris obviously made a name for himself as a runner, but what he's done as a young coach is impressive as well," Holloway said. "He's a fiery competitor, and he's a winner. We think those two things will enable Chris to bring a lot of passion and a lot of intensity back to our distance group."

Solinsky joins the Gators' coaching staff after three seasons at College of William & Mary (2014-17), three years at University of Portland (2012-14), a record-breaking professional career with Nike, and a standout collegiate career for University of Wisconsin (2003-07), where he was a five-time NCAA champion and 14-time All-American. Solinsky also helped the Badgers to wins at the 2005 NCAA Cross Country Championship and 2007 NCAA Indoor Championships.

"I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity Coach Holloway's presented me with at the University of Florida," Solinsky said. "With everything the University of Florida has at its disposal and the atmosphere of the team right now, I'm excited to pitch in my part to make sure the distance runners are contributing just as much to that success and culture.

After working as William & Mary's assistant men's and women's distance coach his first two seasons (2014-16), Solinsky was promoted to head men's cross country coach in 2016; he continued to serve as the assistant men's coach (distance) for the track and field team for the 2017 campaign.

Solinsky, a native of Stevens Point, Wis., was named the 2016 Colonial Athletic Association Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year last fall after leading the Tribe to their 17th consecutive team title.

On the track, Tribe runners won the 1,500 meters, 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters, and 3,000-meter steeplechase titles at the 2017 CAA Championships, in addition to accounting for 21 of the 30 scoring spots in the 800 meters and four aforementioned events. That staggering number included a sweep of all six scoring spots in the 5,000 meters.

Solinsky had a hand in six USTFCCCA All-America performances—all on the women's side—in his first two years with William & Mary. Two were outdoor first-team accolades, which came from Emily Stites' (10,000m) third-place finish, and Regan Rome's (5,000m) seventh-place finish at NCAA Outdoors.

Rome also broke the school record in the indoor 3,000 meters (9:09.74) in Feb. 2016 and ranks No. 3 on the William & Mary All-Time Indoor Top 10 in the 5,000 meters (15:58.07 – Feb. 2016). Those were two of the 12 William & Mary All-Time Top 10 women's performances Solinsky assisted in.

"I'm incredibly grateful for Stephen Walsh, the director who brought me (to William & Mary) three years ago, and now Coach (Alex) Heacock for bumping me up to head men's cross country coach," Solinsky said. "It's been an amazing three years. I'm really sad to leave all the guys. They accepted the challenges I gave them and performed really well consistently. Very grateful for the opportunity. I'll probably always be a fan of the William & Mary Tribe."

Solinsky's Coaching Notables
2016 CAA Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year
Helped the William & Mary women's team reach the 2014 NCAA Cross Country Championship by winning the NCAA Southeast Region Championship
Two women's USTFCCCA Cross Country All-Americans
Two women's USTFCCCA Indoor Second-Team All-Americans
Two women's USTFCCCA Outdoor First-Team All-Americans
Helped coach two CAA Women's Athletes of the Year (Emily Stites, 2015; Regan Rome, 2016)
Helped William & Mary runners win 15 CAA individual titles (13 track and field, 2 cross country)

Helped Carolyn Hennessey (2014) and Emily Stites (2015) to CAA Women's Cross Country titles
Assisted for 2014 and 2015 CAA Women's Cross Country Championship-winning teams
Two 2017 men's NCAA East Preliminary qualifiers, including William & Mary's first 1,500m national quarterfinalist since 1995 (David Barney)
Helped Ryan Gousse to consecutive men's NCAA East Preliminary qualifications in the 3,000m steeplechase (2015-16)
Helped men's runners to four William & Mary All-Time Top 10 performances
Helped women's runners to 12 William & Mary All-Time Top 10 performances, including Regan Rome's indoor 3,000 meters school record (9:09.74)

Solinsky's Coaching History
William & Mary (2016-17) – Head Men's Cross Country Coach / Assistant Men's Track & Field Coach (Distance)
William & Mary (2014-16) – Assistant Men's and Women's Distance Coach
University of Portland (2012-14) – Volunteer Assistant Coach
University of Wisconsin (2007) – Student Assistant Coach

What They're Saying About Chris Solinsky

"People who know cross country and distance running know Chris Solinsky … from his days as a multiple-time NCAA champion at Wisconsin, to his brilliant exploits as a professional runner. What they probably don't know is that Chris has been able to use those experiences to effectively coach and motivate the men and women in our program for the past two years.

"Chris is a great coach, but also a great competitor and I know he will do a great job in continuing to set the bar high for our men's distance runners and help them achieve great success under his tenure." – Alex Heacock, William & Mary Director of Track & Field and Cross Country, after promoting Solinsky to Head Men's Cross Country Coach on Sep. 5, 2016


Solinsky's Notable Running Achievements and Accolades

Solinsky is one of the most accomplished American distance runners in history, despite not making an Olympic team or earning a World Championships medal.

The highest note came on May 1, 2010 at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif. It was there the Wisconsinite demolished the American 10,000 meters record by 14.38 seconds (26:59.60). Solinsky had never run a 10,000 meters race prior to that evening.

Below are some of Solinsky's other achievements as a runner:

Only American and one of six men in history to run sub-27 minutes (10,000m), sub-12:56 (5,000m), and sub-3:36 (1,500m), according to athlete bios maintained by the IAAF
Others: Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia), Mo Farah (Great Britain), Haile Gebrselassie (Ehtiopia), Salah Hissou (Morocco), Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya)
Second-fastest American 10,000 meters runner in history (26:59.60)
Second-fastest American 5,000 meters runner in history (12:55.53)
First non-African to break 27 minutes in the 10,000 meters (May 1, 2010)

2009, 2011 IAAF World Championships qualifier (5,000 meters)
Sponsored professionally by Nike for eight years (retired in April 2016)
5-time NCAA champion – University of Wisconsin (2003-07)
2007 indoor 5,000 meters
2006, 2007 outdoor 5,000 meters
2005, 2006 indoor 3,000 meters
14-time All-American (3 cross country, 11 track and field—school record)

2007 USTFCCCA National Indoor Runner of the Year
2007 NCAA Indoor Championships team champion
2005 NCAA Country Championships team champion (individual bronze medalist)
University of Wisconsin Athletics Hall of Fame (Class of 2017)
Eight-time state champion at Stevens Point (Wis.) Area Senior High School