I’m going to continue with my “Favorites” lists, but there is news that crops up even when things are “quiet”. So for those wondering what Usain Bolt plans to be doing in the year 2016, apparently it will be the same as in. 2012. Word out on Twitter in the last couple days is that Bolt will not be changing events, and is looking to attempt to repeat as sprint king in Rio de Janeiro.
Personally I don’t find the news astounding. Bolt has always shied away from the 400 throughout his career in spite of showing promised in his youth. And the move to something like the long jump had always seemed like too big a stretch to me. So I’ve always looked at Bolt 2016 as a short sprinter, or out of the sport.
The real question now is: what are the chances of titles in Rio? The first issue on the table is that to get to Rio he will first have to make the Jamaican team. A squad that gets stronger each year, at a time when Bolt will be 30 – a task that could be somewhat daunting. Of this years’ teammates, Asafa Powell will be past his prime by ’16, while Yohan Blake will be entering his. That should mean one spot locked up in each sprint – two open.
So the next question is: what are the odds of a Blake like explosion by an athlete in each event, or by another strong doubler? Judging by recent results, I would say pretty good. Warren Weir win bronze in London and ran 19.84 in his first year with the big boys. For years of seasoned improvement could see him as a major contender. Ditto Nickel Ashmeade (19.85) & Jason Young (19.86) both of whom completed strongly on the Circuit. Either or all three could be muchfaster and nearing their peaks by Rio. So could Kemar Bailey Cole who found his way to 9.97 this summer. The tall, slightly built sprinter is young, but in for years could add some power to that frame – and we know what Not did in less than four years.
All of which says that making the team for Rio could be a more difficult task than some might think. The London team was more difficult to make than Beijing, and Rio will add even more competition. Then there is the competition once in Rio. While that should be lead by the US contingent, the rest of the Caribbean is improving rapidly as is Jamaica with athletes like Keston Bledman (TRI, 9.85) leading the way. France’s Christophe Lemaitre (9.92/19.80) should be growinginto his frame by Rio and teammate Jimmy Vicaut will beginning to mature.
The US crew should be lead by Ryan Bailey (9.88) who completed very well in London and is just beginning to learn the sprints under coach John Smith and stable mate Walter Dix (9.88/19.53) who missed most of this session to injury. And we may have one more strong cycle left for Justin Gatlin (9.79) and Tyson Gay (9.69/19.56). That’s without the athletes that emerge between now and then.
So we will see how a 30 year old Bolt does against what undoubtedly will be the strongest sprint fields ever – we seem to say that every Games. That is what the sport gets to look forward to. The build up of which will begin next spring. Moscow and Beijing should give a clue at the half way point as to what we might be able to expect. At any rate, the sprints are already shaping up as a good time for Rio.