Usain Bolt and Mo Farah
Top athletes from around the world have started converging in London for the upcoming 2017 IAAF World Championships which gets underway on Friday at the London Stadium. The championships will last for 10 days with 42 finals, the first of them featuring multiple Olympic and world champion Mo Farah who will defending his 10,000 metres title. On the opening night, another legend Usain Bolt will take part in the first of the heats of 100 metres sprint, the final being billed for Sunday.
Naturally, all eyes will be glued on these two legendary athletes who will bring the curtains down on their glittering careers in global championships.
Usain Bolt, the world's greatest ever sprinter, would like to sign off on a winning note, although he has only been able to complete the 100 metres sprint under 10 seconds only once this year. That was in the last race he ran in Monaco, clocking 9.95 seconds. But, Usain Bolt is confident of going out on a high and says he is under no pressure. As he quipped in a press conference prior to the Championship, "You guys know if I show up for a race that means I'm 100 per cent confident."
The 30-year old Jamaican made his mark in the Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing in the 2008 Olympics where he broke his own world record in 100 metres, then demolished the 200 metres record before completing a hat-trick of gold medals by winning the 4x100 metres relay. He repeated the performance in style in 2012 in the London Olympics. And then, 3 more gold medals in Rio in 2016.
However, his gold in the 2008 Olympics had to be withdrawn when his Jamaican team-mate Nesta Carter tested positive for a banned substance. Bolt is also the holder of 11 World Championship titles and is the current defending champion for the 100m, 4x100m and 200m events at the World Championships - winning all three events in Beijing in 2015 - though he will not participate in the 200 metres event in London.
An icon of his sport, Usain Bolt, who has dominated the sport for nearly a decade, when asked how he would like to be remembered, just uttered one word, "Unbeatable." And who is to argue with that?Bolt will be wearing the purple and gold spikes that his parents presented him at press conference, purple representing 'his school' and gold, very aptly, 'for the golden boy.'
The other golden boy in these championships is without doubt, Mo Farah - real name, Mohammed Muktar Jamah Farah - UK's finest ever athlete. Like Usain Bolt, Mo Farah has also remained unbeatable. His achievements are definitely a far cry from his very modest beginning in Somalia, arriving in the United Kingdom from Mogadishu at the age of 8 and he spoke very little English.
But his talent and potential were soon discovered and he became one of the greatest British long-distance runners. In 2012, he became Britain's first ever gold medallist in 10,000 metres and then followed that up with a gold medal in the 5,000 metres.
This feat was repeated at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing. His double at the 2016 Rio Olympics was all the more remarkable given the fact that he was accidentally tipped, fell on the floor and then caught up with the others winning in one of the most dramatic finishes ever seen in 10,000 metres race. Mo Farah was knighted for his achievements in athletics after the Rio Olympoics.
It is true that Mo is aging; he is 34 now. His performance in 2015 was definitely better than that was in 2016, but he, like Usain Bolt. Shrugs off any suggestion of a failure, "I'm not quite in the shape I'd like to be at this stage, but I'm moving well so I hope it'll go well on the day." Mo Farah still remains the favourite.
Although this will be four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah's last appearance in a global championship, his last race on the track will be the Diamond League final in Zurich on 24 August and before that he will appear for the final time in Britain in the 3000 metres at the Birmingham Grand Prix on 20 August.
But what next when these two legends finally hang their boots? It is hoped that they will not leave the world of athletics totally. Bolt has already indicated that he would love to inspire youngsters, explain to them what he had to go through in his career and try to get more young people into the sport.
There is no doubt that the departure of Usain Bolt and Mo Farah will leave a gaping hole in the world of athletics but the joy and enjoyment that they have given to millions of sports enthusiasts over the years will be vivid in their memories for many more years.
And what a befitting legacy they would be leaving behind if they could inspire the next generation of athletes to follow in their footsteps.
But for now, on the eve of their swansong on the global athletics stage, our congratulations, best wishes and grateful thanks for all the phenomenal achievements and the many historic moments that these two icons Usain Bolt and Mo Farah gave us the honour and privilege to witness.
The writer is a senior journalist, political commentator and
-Uday Sankar Das
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