MOSCOW (AP) — Make room, Carl Lewis. You too, Michael Johnson.
Usain Bolt could join your elite company by the time these 2013 world championships are finished.
The hard-charging, fun-seeking Jamaican will chase two more world titles this week that could give him eight in his career, tying him with Lewis and Johnson for most all-time.
These days, Bolt hardly takes a backseat to them, or anyone else. Plus, he’s in charge of rescuing a sport that’s been recently riddled with doping offenses. Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Sherone Simpson all tested positive weeks before the competition. Then, Trinidad and Tobago sprinter Kelly-Ann Baptiste withdrew from the 100 because she’s involved in a doping case, her federation said Monday.
Another doping cloud hovering over track.
“Every time drugs are brought up, it’s hurtful to the sport. I hate it,” said former sprinter Maurice Greene, who has won five world titles. “Track needs stars like Bolt. But he’s not the only person in this sport that’s a star. We have plenty of stars. But it’s good that he shows his personality. He’s able to have fun with the crowd. That’s why people gravitate to him. That’s why they love him.
“More than that, you need to have great races to overcome all of that (bad) news.”
Bolt’s rain-soaked performance Sunday night certainly qualifies as a memorable race.
Usually, Bolt provides the magnetism on the track. This time, Mother Nature took care of it with flashes of lightning off in the distance.
In stormy conditions, Bolt rallied after falling behind Justin Gatlin to recapture his 100 title. Sun, rain, heat, whatever, the conditions really don’t matter because the fastest man on the planet always seems in his element whenever he sets foot on the track.
“I continue to work on my aim to become a legend by collecting gold medals and athlete of year titles,” Bolt said.
He may already be there.
“For right now, yeah, you have to say he is the best,” said Greene, who stood at a booth and signed autographs for nearly an hour, just across from a giant cutout of Bolt that had fans lining up to take photos. “Look at his race last night. He showed why he’s a champion, because he’s able to overcome everything and come out with a win.”
The only thing standing in the way of Bolt and his quest for two more titles may be fatigue. He’s already feeling the strain, saying his legs were quite sore after the 100.
“I need some rest,” said Bolt, who won the 100 in 9.77 seconds. “I didn’t feel up to it. My body wasn’t there, but the win is always what I came in for and to regain my title. I did just that, so I am happy with myself.”
This also was a form of redemption, considering he false-started during the final in South Korea two years ago.
“I wanted to do a better time, but was not able to because of the weather,” Bolt said of Sunday’s race. “Not singing in the rain, but running in the rain.”
The race appeared in doubt as the storm moved through the area, complete with thunder and lightning, setting the stage for a duel in the downpour.
“They wanted an epic race in the rain and they got it,” Gatlin said.
Just another step closer to obtaining “legend” status for Bolt, who frequently talks about that topic. Bolt also has six Olympic titles to go with his world records in the 100 (9.58) and 200 (19.19).
As for those weary legs, he has some time to stretch them out and simply relax. Bolt will begin the first round of the 200 on Friday morning, with the final scheduled for the next night. To close out the competition on Sunday, Bolt will take part in the 4x100 relay, where he will try to help the Jamaicans win a third straight title.
Win those two events, and he will further secure his status.
“Look at all the things he’s done and he’s been able to accomplish a lot,” Greene said. “You have to put him in the names of the great ones before him.”
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.