Dame Kelly Holmes has hailed Usain Bolt as the saviour of athletics and said fans will be sad to see him go when he does decide to retire.
Bolt has been mulling retirement for the past couple of seasons and has declared that the Games in Rio this summer, his fourth, will most likely be his last.
Bolt rocketed to international stardom in 2008 at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China, where he set world records in both 100 and 200 metres and was a member of Jamaica’s team that set a new world record (37.04) in the 4×100-metre relay. It was the first time a male sprinter was able to win three gold medals, all in world record times at an Olympic Games.
Holmes, who won gold medals in the 800m and 1500m in Athens in 2004, said it will be a sad day when Bolt finally hangs up his spikes.
“Usain Bolt is Mr Athletics. He has saved athletics. He is the person who has given that inspiration and drive to keep watching the sport,” she said during an interview with Yahoo Sports.
“You always need a character like that and it will be such a shame when he retires because when anyone says ‘Usain Bolt is going to be there’, the stadiums are going to be full.”
A nine-time world champion, Bolt won another three gold medals at the Olympics in London in 2012. In the 100m he ran 9.63s which broke his own Olympic record of 9.69 set in Beijing; 19.32s in the 200 metres, and anchored Jamaica to a new world record of 36.84s in the sprint relay. It was the first time a sprint relay team ran faster than 37 seconds.
Bolt’s accomplishments and personality have transcended his sport and attracted more fans, even in the face of an increasing number of doping scandals that have rocked it, causing people to question the legitimacy of performances.
However, for Rio, Bolt said he plans to break his own world record (19.19s) in the 200 metres and become the first man to go below the 19-second mark.
After that, Bolt could compete at the World Championships in London before walking away from an illustrious, iconic career.
Holmes, who also won Commonwealth 1500-metre gold in 1994 and 2002, said every sport needs a character like Bolt.
“Over the years it has always happened. You have some incredible people, you don’t want them to retire but everything comes to an end, unfortunately,” she said.
“There will be a next kid on the block soon and that kid will be the next superstar we will be vying for.”