Usain Bolt is without question the greatest ever track athlete and the Jamaican’s involvement in athletics after his retirement will be paramount to ensure its relevance to a younger generation, according to Sebastian Coe.
The IAAF president watched Bolt cruise to victory in the 100 metres at the national stadium in Kingston on Saturday, the 30-year-old bidding farewell to more than 30,000 spectators at his last meeting on home soil.
Coe, who won back-to-back 1,500 metres golds among four Olympic medals, said no other sprinter could compare to the eight-times Olympic champion, who will bow out at the world championships in London.
“When you’re sitting in the pub and you’re having the discussion: who is the greatest footballer? Nobody will agree on that,” Coe told Reuters in an interview. “If you have the same discussion around golf or tennis, everybody will have different views. It’s a slam dunk. (Bolt) is the greatest sprinter the world has ever seen.
“If you look at the records he set, if you look at the Olympic championships he’s had — three in a row — I’m not sure I’m ever going to see that in my lifetime. So it’s a massive legacy and the most important legacy is that he has connected our sport to people who weren’t traditional track and field fans, that’s the measure of the man.”
Coe said the 100 and 200 metres world record holder would have a bigger challenge in life after competition. “The second leg of his journey, the biggest challenge athletics has, the biggest challenge the Olympic movement has, is for young people to feel what we offer is relevant to their lives,” the 60-year-old Briton said.
“He connects with all ages, he connects with all denominations, all cultures, all creeds, all politics and that’s a very unique breed and we need to maintain his involvement,” the IOC vice president said.
“I’m delighted that he has agreed to help us grow the sport and to help our sport remain relevant to young people.” Coe was thrilled to see Bolt make his last run on home soil.
“There’s nowhere else on this planet that I would rather be tonight, than here, this was the must see moment and I’m not just saying that as the president of the world sport, I’m saying this as a fan,” he added.
“This guy has transformed our sport, he’s connected with young people, he’s connected with people that didn’t even think they liked track and field, he’s turned them into lifelong fans and every single plaudit that he receives tonight, he’s deserving of every syllable of it.”