We have come to the end of one of the greatest athletic competitions in the world – the IAAF World Championships. The competition, taking place in London this weekend, is second only to the Olympics for elite athletes. This is their chance to take to the world stage and showcase their talent for all to see.
This year’s competition is particularly poignant as we’ll see the departure of who many are calling the G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time). Mr Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, has retired after the World Championships. His last ever race was the 4x100m relay on Saturday evening and certainly was not one to miss.
Unfortunately, his departure wasn’t the fairytale many had hoped, as he collected a bronze medal in the 100m behind the controversial American Justin Gatlin. His history of being banned from the sport has thrusted the IAAF’s doping debate around lifetime bans back into the limelight. It dominated the press at the beginning of the Championships and many had hoped that Bolt could sign off his last ever race in style on Saturday night with a gold for Jamaica in the relay.
It’s important we think about the future of the sport because Bolt’s retirement comes at a time when we’ve seen a stream of athletic heroes stepping away in one way or another. Jess Ennis-Hill retired from the sport last autumn, Greg Rutherford has been notably absent of late due to ongoing injuries and Sir Mo Farah is leaving the track for the road.
So, who will be there to fill these shoes, or spikes?
At a time when athletics has faced, and continues to face, its fair share of negative criticism, the sport needs role models to develop – and develop quickly. When I first started my career in athletics, aged just 13, I was inspired by athletic greats who were household names of the time. Women like Kathy Cooke gave me the inspiration I needed to push myself, to train harder so that one day I could emulate them.
Personally, I believe we can continue to expect big things from the likes of Belgian heptathlete Nafi Thiam, who has already seen success at the World Championships, names like Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Wayde van Niekerk have the future of the sport covered, even if Miller-Uibo failed to medal in the women’s400m due to an error, Van Neikerk picked up a gold and silver medal in his quest for a 200m/400m double. They are already ones to watch from their performances as the sport looks for a ‘ replacement’ for Bolt, who will leave a big void and is a very hard act to follow.
For Team GB specifically, we won four medals, including Sir Mo’s gold in the 10,000m. We have also had four 4th place finishes, showing the future and talent pool in the UK is ripe, including a wonderful performances from young Kyle Langford in the two-lap event.
Without the likes of Bolt, Ennis-Hill and Farah, athletics will of course continue to grow. The sport has been around for years before they exploded onto the scene and it will be around for years to come. However, we need the next generation of athletes to rise above the parapet.
But that’s what is great about world competitions; it’s not just a time to break world records and to set personal bests, it’s a time to inspire. I for one can’t wait to see what the rest of these World Championships have in store and who we’ll see rise to the top. It’s been an enthralling, unpredictable Championships, exactly what makes athletics exciting.
Katharine Merry – former 400m GB sprinter and Bronze Olympic medallist is running the 2017 Great North Run as Duracell Bunny pacer, helping others to go for longer. Follow her journey on Twitter at @KatharineMerry