World Athletics governing body president Sebastian Coe underlined the void that will be left when Usain Bolt runs his last race today at the World Championships in London and insisted that the IAAF’s relationship with the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) remains strong despite their recent differences around Russian athletics’ return to the fold.
Bolt will feature in the 4x100m heats this morning, and all things being equal, will return later to compete in the final in what will be his final race after a career that saw him become the most dominant sprinter in history and the face of the sport.
Coe, had his last conversation with Bolt ahead of the 100m medal ceremony on Sunday, sharing that he is looking forward to working with the athlete to push the sport forward.
“Let me tell you how I capture that. When I went to the medal ceremony, I stood with him before anybody else had arrived and he looked to me and laughed and asked ‘So what do you want me to do now, boss?’ and I went ‘Anything you want to do, boss.” said Coe during an interview with The Gleaner yesterday.
“He (Bolt) has been an anchor in our sport for a decade and he has had an extraordinary influence. He has had an influence in Jamaica, he has had an influence here, he fills a room, he fills a stadium. We are going to miss him. There will be great athletes coming along and Jamaica will have great athletes coming along but you don’t replace people like Usain,” Coe added.
Last week at the IAAF Congress, Jamaica was among 21 countries which voted in support of Russia’s athletics ban being lifted.
This comes eight months after the JAAA abstained from a vote on a number of reform issues which included several anti-doping elements geared at lifting athletics from a series of major corruption and credibility scandals, which deeply involved evidence of State-sponsored doping by Russian athletes.
Coe, however, underlined that there are no hard feelings towards the Jamaican administrators and that he looks forward to continuing their rich relationship.
“As long as I am president the relationship with the Jamaican athletics federation will be very strong and it’s cemented in affection. I work closely with them, I have worked closely with them in the past and will continue to do so.”
“They (JAAA) now have to figure out life without Usain, so have we, and if we figure it out together, we can be very helpful to one another. My relationship with Warren (Blake) and the JAAA is really very strong,” Coe added.
He added that his administration will be focusing on making track and field more attracting to a wider audience and growing the sport in new markets.
“The first two years of my term in office have been about protecting the house and making it safe again, trying to regain credibility and lost trust. The next phase of this journey is about focusing on what the product looks like, what the sport looks like, on what the one day meetings look like, what the next leg of Diamond League looks like, and on creating a calendar that is coordinated.
Coe added that he will be looking into the transfer of allegiance issues and will be pushing to bring new sponsors into the sport.