When Bolt announced 2017 would be his last ever season, the question many asked was who’s the next Usain Bolt. Well let me answer straight off the bat. There isn’t one. Bolt is that rare combination of talent, charisma and dedication that creates a sportsperson that truly transcends their sport. There was no next Muhammad Ali. No next Pele. No next Nadia Comenaci. These individuals are unique, special. What this article’s about is who quite literally succeed Bolt not as athletics saviour and first truly global superstar. But as the dominant force in the men’s 100m. There was no next Muhammad Ali but there was Larry Holmes (then Tyson). There was no next Pele but there was Maradona. There was no next Nadia Comenaci but there was Elena Davydova (hey I never said you’d of heard of them). Someone will succeed Bolt as preeminent sprinter. Someone else will stand on the Men’s 100m rostrum in 2019 and Tokyo 2020. But whom?
Now I’m not going to lie to you, when I first planned this series in early 2017 the guy I was going to feature as the “successor” to Bolt, was Andre DeGrasse, Olympic silver and bronze medalist behind Bolt in Rio. So it makes sense to start with him before assessing some of the perhaps surprising names that have ran “fast” this season.
Andre De Grasse (Can)
Over the last 2 seasons De Grasse has medalled behind Bolt in both the Worlds and Olympics but before this season he had yet to make any imprint on the circuit, perhaps because of his collegiate career. This season however after a sluggish start (if you pardon the pun) the Olympic 200m silver medallist has chalked up 2 Diamond League wins in a row. Including a dominant wind-assisted 9.69 in Oslo. De Grasse has the confidence and talent to take on the sprint king mantle. But questions remain: 1) Does he have the raw speed in the 100m? Yes he has that 9.6 clocking but that was with a massive +4 wind behind him. His actual pb is a modest 9.9 . That may not be quick enough to beat others on this list; 2) Is he a winner? Sprinting is characterised by two types. Those that can blaze the Diamond Leagues but can’t produce it at champs and those that produce the goods at champs. More often than not those in the latter are pretty good at the one off races too but those in the former are very well known. We’re yet to discover if De Grasse is in that latter category. I think he is but we’ll see.
Yohan Blake (Jam)
The only man not named Usain to win a world 100m title since 2008, Blake has been considered to be Bolt’s successor ever since he first emerged. After he beat Bolt in both the 100 and 200 trials for the London Olympics. The Olympic 1 and 200 finals were billed (wrongly) as a head to head showdown between the 2 Jamaicans. Enhancing his credentials further. He is the most successful sprinter behind Bolt and drug cheat Gatlin currently running, with his world title and 2 Olympic silvers and he is the 2nd fastest man in history over both sprints. However before this year all this would of had a massive caveat. Blake’s career has been decimated by injury. He lost about 3 seasons from the sport and in 2016 it looked like those injuries had ruined him as a contender, finishing 4th in 100m and not qualifying for the 200m final. This season however it seems The Beast is back! He is again the Jamaican champion with a hugely impressive 9.90 where he looked supreme. He’s not only in the shape to take on Bolt’s mantle but he could (whisper it) challenge him in London. I know we want Bolt to go out a champion but sport has a habit of kicking greats in the teeth.
Christian Coleman (USA)
I’ve lost count of how many young new Americans have popped up from the collegiate seasons with super fast times only to not show anything on the world stage at all. There was Ryan Bailey Olympic bronze medallist in London (wearing a bizarre Cathy Freeman homage full bodysuit) he once gestured that he would execute Bolt before failing to even get through the US trials. There was Trayvon Bromell. The Americans rated him very highly. He became the first junior to run 9.8. Got a joint bronze at the 2015 Worlds. But seems to have disappeared now after coming last in the Rio final. So Coleman is the latest. But he also holds the world lead of 9.82. 8 hundredths faster than anyone else. Not to be sniffed at. However it was in a race with nobodies. Literally. It was a collegiate race. He won by a mile to the point that it was him v the clock. The US Trials was his first test against world class opposition and he tightened up as Gatlin came on his shoulder. The boy clearly needs to learn to race but he’s young enough that he could come through later. For now though vs Bolt I feel the race will be lost on the start line for him. Also he’s raced over 50x this season. Like with so many young American sprinters he’s stupidly overraced.
CJ Ujah (GBR)
Not going to lie this is perhaps wishful thinking on my part. CJ’s pb is 9.93 and he’s never ran in a major world final but his recent Diamond League win produced some good scalps and would give him confidence.
Usain Bolt (Jam)
Maybe he’ll u-turn? Maybe after a spectacular win in London he’ll change his mind. But alas if athletics most famous son does retire. He’ll leave an unfillable void and a lot of tears will be shed.
Overall, I’ll stay with my original pick of De Grasse for now. He has something about him but as with any long term prediction there’s always the opportunity for someone to come out of nowhere and shock the world. So don’t be too surprised if that happens too.