Tokyo 2020 Five days to go

Tough for Jamaican men in Tokyo: Bolt

Jamaica's Yohan Blake is now his country's standard bearer in the men's sprints. But he will need to improve on his season-best 9.95sec in the 100m to challenge for a medal in Tokyo. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Jamaica's Yohan Blake is now his country's standard bearer in the men's sprints. But he will need to improve on his season-best 9.95sec in the 100m to challenge for a medal in Tokyo. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KINGSTON • Usain Bolt is disappointed with how Jamaican men's sprinting has developed since he retired in 2017 and predicts his compatriots will struggle in Tokyo after his glorious domination of the last three Olympics.

With Bolt leading the way, Jamaica won all nine men's track sprint finals in Beijing, London and Rio - although they later lost their 2008 4x100m gold medal after Nesta Carter failed a dope test.

While Jamaica's women look very strong going into their Tokyo campaign, three-time 100m and 200m Olympic champion Bolt thinks the men will struggle.

"I felt like we had a good crop of (male) athletes for the last couple of Olympics, so it really bothers me to know that this is where we are right now, where most of the world is ahead of us," he said.

"Going into the men's, it's going to be tough... I'm just disappointed because I think we do have the talent, it's just to harvest it and people to take the training seriously."

Bolt not only inspired Jamaica's Olympic sweep but also their monopoly of the men's sprint world titles from 2009 till 2015, his training partner Yohan Blake stepping up to claim the 100m gold in 2011 when Bolt was disqualified.

Blake, 31, is now Jamaica's standard bearer in the men's sprints. But he will need to improve massively on his season-best 9.95 seconds to even challenge for a medal in the 100m in Tokyo.

Ato Boldon, who won four sprint medals for Trinidad & Tobago at two Olympics, concurred with Bolt's analysis.

"It's going to be a little bit of famine now, I know Blake says he's not leaving Tokyo without a medal but I don't have Blake medalling," the 47-year-old said.

"At least Jamaica has some prospects on the horizon, but I do not see any medals for Jamaica in the men's 100, 200 or 400m."

The main beneficiaries of Jamaica's slump, Boldon thinks, will be the United States, whose long dominance of the Olympic sprints was rudely interrupted when Bolt hit his long stride in Beijing.

The Americans have not won the Olympic 100m title since 2004 but national champion Trayvon Bromell leads the world this year with his run of 9.77sec.

Only South African Akani Simbine, whose best run this season was 9.84, looks in a position to stop an American sweep with Ronnie Baker (9.85) and Fred Kerley (9.86) also in strong form.

"The Americans are capable of taking two of the three medals in Tokyo," Boldon added. "I have (Ronnie) and Trayvon Bromell in the podium in two of those spots."

The American men also look set to dominate the 200m.

Noah Lyles, the 2019 world champion, leads the world with the 19.74sec that won him the US trials last month. Kenny Bednarek, who has laid down a career-best 19.78, and newly minted Under-20 world record holder Erriyon Knighton with 19.84, will join Lyles in the US team.

Bolt had held that U-20 record since 2004 and singled out Knighton as one of the youngsters to watch in Tokyo and beyond.

"The 17-year-old has really impressed me in the US trials, so let's see in the near future what he will do," Bolt, 34, said.

Swedish pole vaulter Armand Duplantis, meanwhile, will be looking to cement his status as the best in the discipline. The world silver medallist, 21, already holds the world record after clearing 6.17 metres at a World Athletics Indoor Tour meet in Torun, Poland, in February last year and improved on it by 1cm in Glasgow the same month.

He also boasts the highest outdoor pole vault, soaring to 6.15m for the gold at the Rome Diamond League meet last September.

"Winning is the only goal," he said. "In a dream world, I'd like to go and break the world record and do something very legendary at the Games. But it's my first Games and I just want to win, that's really the only thing that's on my mind."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 18, 2021, with the headline 'Tough for Jamaican men in Tokyo: Bolt'. Subscribe