LONDON — Usain Bolt, whose winning ways and winning manner have translated to the masses in the track and field like few athletes in any sport.
Track and Field which was once the most universal of sports in reach and resonance, is now a niche diversion, outpaced long ago by the likes of soccer, basketball and tennis. But there has been nothing niche about Usain Bolt, whose winning ways and manner have appealed to the masses like few athletes in any sport.
So it has gone for nearly a decade: track and field struggles with doping, corruption and relevance while Bolt soars high above the scorched earth with a grin on his face.
His ability to suspend disbelief in this rightfully skeptical era, if only in very short bursts of force-of-nature speed, has been one of the great balancing acts. But the show, Bolt insists, will come to a close in London at the world championships. They began Friday night with Bolt qualifying for the 100-meter semifinals by winning his heat after a shaky start and a lot of love from the crowd in the same stadium where he won three Olympic gold medals in 2012.
“He has really been a game-changer for the sport,” said Christian Taylor, the reigning world and Olympic champion in the triple jump. “He deserves this moment in this stadium with 60,000 people roaring.”
Other great athletes are pushing on, too: Roger Federer just won Wimbledon again at age 35; Tom Brady, who just turned 40, led the New England Patriots to yet another Super Bowl victory in February.