World Championships: Peerless Bolt on pace to finish his glorious career on a high

Usain Bolt: Was not happy with the blocks in last nights 100m heats.
Usain Bolt: Was not happy with the blocks in last nights 100m heats.
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Forget the usual Saturday evening routine, for anyone remotely interested in sport, there is only one thing to watch tonight.

Usain Bolt will run in an individual 100m for the final time at 9.50pm, bowing out as the greatest athlete in history – irrespective of the result.

Jamaica's Yohan Blake The Jamaican, running in the heats last night, is a danger to Bolt in London.

Jamaica's Yohan Blake The Jamaican, running in the heats last night, is a danger to Bolt in London.

In a world where one footballer is worth almost £200m, gold for the 31-year-old Bolt can restore faith in sport, in its purest, and simplest, form.

Sometimes a professional sportsman is more than just a price tag. Bolt’s importance to athletics over the past decade symbolises just that.

Few superlatives remain for a man with eight Olympic gold medals – his ninth taken away from him following a back-dated drugs ban to Jamaican team-mate Nesta Carter.

The medals have already secured Bolt’s immortal status in the sport.

In a world where one footballer is worth almost £200m, gold for the 31-year-old Bolt can restore faith in sport, in its purest, and simplest, form.

Ed White

But any great champion will know the importance of going out a winner to the adulation of a knowledgeable crowd – just ask Vladimir Klitchko.

Bolt moved a step closer to sealing his legacy last night as he breezed through his 100m heat in a run that provided an ominous sign for the rest of the field.

It was a performance that should have reassured a few grumbling doubters that have surfaced following Bolt’s mediocre, for him, times in 2017.

In truth, Bolt’s assurance of winning gold is not what it once was. This season, he has only dipped under 10 seconds once and his time of 9.95sec in Monaco two weeks ago is only the ninth fastest in the world this year.

American Christian Coleman holds the quickest time of 9.82, eight tenths ahead of Bolt’s Jamaica team-mate Yohan Blake.

Justin Gatlin’s controversial presence, even if the 35-year-old has not hit recent heights, adds concern however Canadian Andre De Grasse, seen as Bolt’s main challenger for gold, has been forced out through injury.

Perhaps Bolt will leave athletics with his own regrets having failed to lower his 100m and 200m world records since smashing them at the World Championships in Berlin eight years ago.

Yet as he departs, he has nothing left to prove. The Jamaican could have bowed out after securing legendary status in Rio 12 months ago but his desire to return to London has shown his understanding of his sport.

In a sad, tainted era of athletics, Bolt’s charisma has propped it up against collapse. 

Following the crippling revelations of Russian state-sponsored doping, had Bolt cut short his career after his Rio treble, even with the most ardent British crowd, may have left seats unfilled for this championships.

Instead, like five years ago, there is a swarm of enthusiasm around the London Olympic Stadium.

“There he is”, one young child said to his mum outside the stadium, pointing to a giant mural of the champion.

As such, Bolt’s continued importance cannot be understated.