By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published August 29, 2016
Several of Track and Field’s superstars delivered spellbinding feats, including world record performances, at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. For many sporting fans, their performances were the highlight of the Olympic Games.
Indisputably, track and field is the cornerstone of every summer Olympics and its megastars are the pillars of the Games. Truthfully, several track and field megastars – including world record holders and Olympic champions – were absent from Rio this year due to injury, doping suspensions and qualification failures. Nevertheless, the sport’s biggest stars in Rio shone brightly at this the biggest stage.
Usain St. Leo Bolt, the fastest man in the world, did not disappoint his cult-like fans and delivered another unprecedented triple gold medal performance to make it a triple-triple in three successive Olympics. Bolt won the 100m, 200m, and 4x10m relay events to cement his unsullied legacy as the greatest athlete of all time. Despite world record performances behind him, Bolt outdueled his nemesis Justin Gatlin over the 100m and young star Andre DeGrasse over the 200m. Seemingly, the outcomes were written in stone long before his birth as this stallion with elongated gallops consumed his opponents in pursuit of athletic gold and immortality.
WAYDE van NIEKERK
The South African gazelle, Wayde van Niekerk, shaped history over the 400m sprints in Rio. The 20-year old Olympic record, 43.49s, and the 17-year-old world record, 43.18s were obliterated by van Niekerk in one quick swoop on his charge to a new world record of 43.03s.
The former Olympic and world record holder Michael Johnson was congratulatory to van Niekerk and remarked, “Well done and deserved”. He further said, “Usain Bolt will be retiring soon, this (van Niekerk) could be the next star (of athletics).
Indeed, van Niekerk is special and not too far from now, breaking 43 seconds over the 400m should be his next target along with challenging Bolt’s record of 19.19s over 200m.
Jamaica’s Manchester Parish native, Elaine Thompson lived up to the hoopla of being the favourite to win the sprint double at the Rio Olympics. In Rio, she won the 100m and 200m events emphatically and was crowned “the fastest woman in the world”. In addition, she copped a silver medal in the 4x100m relay event. Undoubtedly, she is the future darling of world and Jamaica sprinting and her 10.71 in the 100m finals was a mere one-hundredth of a second off her personal best. In this blistering form, she should look to lower that mark to sub-10.7 seconds. In reality, she is arguably one of the most complete female sprinters we have seen since the likes of Merlene Ottey and has a real chance of inching closer to Flo Jo’s records over the 100m and 200m.
The reigning world champion and second fastest woman over the 5000m, Almaz Ayana, stepped up to the 10,000m this year and set ablaze the first morning of athletics at the 2016 Olympics. The Ethiopian Ayana obliterated her rivals and the world record by over 14 seconds in her second recorded run over the distance. Interestingly, 17 other women ran personal best or national records in that race. Seven days later, she won a bronze medal in the 5000m. However, it is her 10,000m performance and the margin of victory, which will be spoken of for years to come.
Like Usain Bolt, who did the triple-triple, British Mo Farah did the double-double by defending his Olympic titles in the 5,000m and 10,000m. The propagator of the ‘Mobot’ signature pose saw off unrelenting challenges from his rivals and even when he plunged to the ground midway during the 10,000m, his unconquerable spirit drove him to a stirring Olympic victory.
A week after the 10,000m victory, Farah won the 5000m and joined Finland’s Lasse Viren as the only men to win both long distance events in successive Olympics.
The queen of the hammer throw, Anita Wlodarczyk, won her first Olympic gold medal in world-record fashion, to go with two World Championship gold medals in the event. Unsurprisingly, this was her sixth time breaking the world record in the women’s hammer throw. This is the second Olympic gold medal Poland has won in the women’s hammer throw event, after Kamila Skolimowska at 2000 Olympic Games.
Interestingly, Wlodarczyk was wearing Skolimowska’s glove when she won the gold medal and broke the world record in Rio.
Controversially, Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas won the women’s 400m, beating the defending world champion Allyson Felix. With a tumbling dive at the end, Miller, who left it all out on the track, lost her form and stride pattern about five metres from the finish. She fell across the finish line, just seven-hundredths of a second ahead of Felix to win barely. This was Bahamas’ second gold medal in the women’s 400m dash behind Tonique Williams-Darling enthralling run at the 2004 Olympic Games. However, Miller winning fall will be duly remembered in Rio.
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
Zaheer E. Clarke is a freelance sportswriter and columnist.
This blog article was also published in the Western Mirror on August 29, 2016.