There have been rumblings about the retirement of world record-holder Usain Bolt. Except for his false start in the 100m finals at the 2011 Daegu World Championship, Bolt, the 6’5” Jamaican, has captured every global sprint titles (100m and 200m) since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Bolt currently holds the world record in both the 100m (9.58) and 200m (19.19) and has set the bar so high that he has already cemented his legacy as the best sprinter ever. Bolt, who is approaching the age of 30, has discussed possibly retiring after the 2017 London World Championship. The question now becomes: Who will replace Bolt as Jamaica’s top sprinter when he retires? The likely candidates are Yohan “The Beast” Blake, Warren Weir, Kemar Bailey Cole, Asafa Powell and as well as Julian Forte and Rasheed Dwyer.
Yohan “The Beast” Blake
A few years ago, prior to his injury, Yohan was heralded as the heir-apparent to Usain Bolt. The 26 year-old St Jago High School graduate has an individual global title in the 2011 Daegu 100m and has always played bridesmaid to Bolt at major competitions. Blake has a personal best times 9.78 (100m) and 19.26 (200m) and is coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season in which he failed to find his form in time which thus prevented him from making the Jamaican World Championship team. Blake is a hard worker and is hungry for more success. If Blake can return to his pre-injury form, then he should be a lock to replace Bolt as Jamaica’s top sprinter.
Twenty-six year-old Warren Weir should also be in the discussion. Weir is trained by Glen Mills at Racers Track Club, and is training partners with Bolt and Blake. With a personal best of 19.69 seconds in the 200m which he set back in 2013, Weir has become somewhat of a 200m specialist and is a consistent sub-20 seconds performer. He, along with Blake, is perhaps the best 200m male-runner that Jamaica has to offer at the moment. Despite his exploits in the 200m, Weir has not joined the sub-10 seconds club in the 100m, establishing a personal best time of 10.02 seconds in the distance in Kingston in June 2013. Injury has hampered Weir’s 2015 season and he could only manage a season best of 20.24 seconds at the Beijing World Championship, thus failing to make the 200m Finals. 2016 could see Weir improving on both his 100m and 200m lifetime bests, which would put him in contention to be considered as a replacement for Usain Bolt.
Kemar Bailey-Cole, who also trains at Racer Track Club under the guidance of Glen Mills, has the potential to rise to the occasion. At only 23 years old, Bailey-Cole stock is on the rise since he joined the sub-10 seconds back in 2012 when he ran 9.97 seconds in Bruxelles (Brussels). After running his personal best of 9.92 seconds in London in July 2015, Bailey-Cole was unable to perform at his best later, failing to compete at the 2015 Beijing World Championship. Bailey-Cole, the 2014 Commonwealth Games 100m champion, is poised to do great things in the future. With a personal best time of 20.66 seconds in the 200m, Bailey-Cole may need to do more 200m work (strength) so as to improve on finishing strong in the 100m. At age 23, Bailey-Cole should be in discussion to replace Bolt as Jamaica’s to sprinter. However, his continuous improvement is paramount if he is to succeed.
Before there was Usain Bolt, there was Asafa Powell. Powell, who dominated the sprinting world before the emergence of Bolt in 2008, has experienced a renaissance of sorts in 2015. 2015 saw Powell, “the sub-10 King”, rejuvenated. In 2014, Powell left MVP Track Club and coach Stephen Francis to be coached by his brother and former Jamaican Olympian Donovan Powell. Despite running sub-10 seconds in the 100m over 100 times in his career, Powell has failed to win individual gold medal at the Olympics and World Championship.
At age 33, it would appear that Powell is approaching the twilight of his career. However, Powell has been performing well of late. An individual medal in the 100m at the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil could possible put Powell in good standing to replace Bolt as Jamaica’s top sprinter. However, this is dependent on Powell staying health and overcoming his mental barriers which in the past have prevented him from realizing his full potential in major competition.
Other contenders are Julian Forte and Rasheed Dwyer. Forte and Dwyer are equally talented and have great potential to rise to the occasion, but are unlikely to replace Bolt. Jamaica is known as the sprint factory for a reason and there are numerous junior athletes, who could rise to the occasion. The 2016 Boys and Girls Championship (“Champs”) should also provide us with a preview of Bolt’s long-term replacement as Jamaica’s top sprinter.
As it stands at the end of 2015, Yohan “The Beast” Blake can be considered the best bet to replace Bolt as Jamaica’s top sprinter. The Beast is the closest thing to Bolt with his exploits and versatility to compete at a very high level in both the 100m and 200m.
Written by O’Neil A. Reid (edited by Raymond Byfield). O’Neil is the author of the book “Banned for Life, The Steve Mullings Story”. O’Neil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org