Usain Bolt pulls out of Paris and Lausanne Diamond League meets
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Paris will miss out on Usain Bolt on Saturday due to a leg injury that forced the self-styled "living legend" to withdraw from the Diamond League meet. More than 45,000 spectators will have the chance to cheer for other runners, for once.
In the summer of 2012 during the London Olympics the plaudits were being heaped upon Usain Bolt. The Jamaican had won the 100 metres title to become only the second man after Carl Lewis in 1984 and 1988 to defend such an Olympic title. The commentators were anointing him a legend. Not so fast, cautioned Bolt. He said he needed to retain his Beijing 200 metres crown before he could be so acclaimed.
In east London Bolt achieved what Lewis had failed to do: a back-to-back sprint double.
The Jamaican was happy to tell reporters after collecting his 200 metres title that he was now a living legend. No one in that packed room at the Olympic Stadium dared to argue.
Bolt's compatriots Yohan Blake and Warren Weir - second and third respectively - certainly concurred. But Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee didn't agree.
The Swiss thought such self-sanctification a mite uppity and suggested that Bolt should wait until the end of his career before conferring such kudos on his own wonderfulness.
Bolt refused to cower.
"What else do I need to do to prove myself as a legend?" he asked as he prepared for the 4x100 metres relay. "I've won the 100m and 200m events twice at the Olympics. I've won world championship gold medals. I've broken world records many times so I don't know what else to do really. When next time you see Rogge I think you should ask him what Usain needs to do because I don't know what else to do really."
As if to underline his point, on 11 August Bolt anchored the Jamaican relay team home. They set a world record of 36.84 seconds, smashing their own previous high of 37.04 seconds notched at the 2011 World Championships.
Rogge did eventually accept Bolt's way of thinking.
The facts were so salient that the dispute was curious. But the spat perhaps hinted at the fear within the corridors of power at the IOC that Bolt had become too big for the good of athletics.
His personality and charm had revolutionised perceptions but they were in danger of overwhelming other stars.
Laurent Boquillet, the director of the Paris Diamond League meeting, touched on the perils of life with and without Usain St Leo Bolt on Wednesday.
He was scheduled to appear in the 100m at the meeting on 6 July at the Stade de France but pulled out with a hip injury. The 28-year-old also withdrew from the Lausanne Diamond League event on Thursday where he was penned in for the 200m.
"I like Usain and I like to have him at the Paris meet but a meet is 16 events with many top athletes. I'm disappointed but it is not the end of the world. I'm more concerned with Usain's health and future than with my meet," said Boquillet
"I'm disappointed not to be able to compete in Paris and Lausanne," said Bolt. "I love running at these meetings but at the moment I am unable to compete at 100%. I look forward to getting back into full training as soon as possible."
It's the latest setback for Bolt, following his withdrawal last week from the 100 metres at the Jamaican national trials in Kingston.
His best time this year over 100 metres has been 10.12 seconds and he has clocked 20.13 seconds for 200m.
Bolt's rivals Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay have been in much better form. Gatlin, 33, ran 19.57 seconds in the 200m at the US trials for the world championships in Beijing in August. Gay, 32, saw off younger pretenders to claim the 100m trials in 9.87 seconds.
"There will be 45,000 spectators at the Stade de France on Saturday," said Boquillet. "And of course they would be happy to see Usain because he is such a big star but at the same time they will be happy to cheer for the French stars who will be there. It will be a chance not to be Bolt-dependent."
Boquillet told RFI that Bolt's popularity was a double edged sword. But the trepidation had subsided. "It was a concern a few years ago. Thanks to Usain a lot of athletes are trying to work on their image and being more accessible. There are a few coming that will show the impact he's had.
"Usain has brought people to track and field and it's the job of people in my position and the athletes to continue the show and to highlight the fact that it's not just Usain but track and field that is an excellent sport."
Bolt has six golds from his visits to Beijing and London Olympics: there was effectively a double triple of 100, 200 and 4x100m at the two games.
There have been eight gold medals from his trips to the world championships in Berlin, Daegu and Moscow. His hopes of defending his golds from Moscow has been thrown into doubt following these latest withdrawals.
"I'm sure he can do things that no one else can do like being ready in one month for a major meeting," comments Boquillet. "It will be difficult for Bolt but I think it would be impossible for any other athlete. Yet after what we've seen from Usain, why not?"
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