Sport Comment: It’s worth walking to Glasgow for glimpse of a sprint superstar

John Inverdale
GIVEN events at Emirates Stadium on Saturday, and my prediction last Monday that Arsenal would win the Premier League this season, you may be inclined to give this column a miss this week on the grounds that the writer clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It is a marathon not a sprint, remember; still 111 points at stake. Let’s revisit the subject at a later date. Maybe.

But talking of sprints, what else can be said about Usain Bolt, who yesterday claimed an eighth World Championship gold in the 4x100m relay? Eighteen months ago, you could legitimately have engaged in a debate about the most famous sportsman on the planet, adding the names of perhaps Woods and Federer to the conversation, but after a fortnight in which Tiger again evaporated at a Major and Roger slipped to seventh in the world rankings, the Jamaican stands alone, not just as the fastest man on earth, but also the figure around whom an entire sport prospers.

The World Championships in Moscow have been an uneasy watch, not just because the swathes of empty seats have disfigured the event. It is a shame to accentuate the negative when from a British perspective Mo Farah and Christine Ohuruogu have been so inspirational, but the lingering spectre of cheating has hung over the entire 10 days.

Russia head the medals table, and yet 44 of their athletes have been banned for drugs offences this year. It’s been hard to see a Russian vest on the podium without asking yourself a few questions. And worst of all, every time Bolt sets foot on the track, the knowledge that some of his biggest rivals are absent on doping charges somehow diminishes his magnificence.

But try if you can to abandon all such cynicism, and just savour the knowledge that we are witnessing, many of us in the flesh at both the Olympics and the Anniversary Games, the most extraordinary sprinter of all time. A man who can pretend to be putting up an umbrella in a rain-sodden Moscow stadium barely 10 seconds before taking less than that to run the 100m, and whose good-natured showboating makes the world smile.

Nor should we take him for granted. His 200m victory was almost pedestrian and routine, and yet it was still the fastest time in the world this year. He may decide to compete at the Commonwealth Games next summer, and if he does – and you haven’t yet seen him in person – it’s worth walking to Glasgow just to witness one of the greatest ever sporting phenomena.