Usain Bolt looks increasingly likely to achieve the perfect send-off to his athletics career at the World Championships in London after his main rival for 100m gold, Andre de Grasse, was forced to withdraw through injury.
The Canadian was expected to be the main challenger to the defending champion in his final race over the distance but a hamstring tear in the lead up to the meet has derailed his hopes.
De Grasse is considered by many to be the heir to Bolt’s throne having won three sprint medals at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, including bronze in the 100m as his Jamaican rival strolled to victory.
The 22-year-old had been installed as the favourite for the 200m, an event Bolt is skipping in his final competition before retirement, but ambitions of landing a first major title are now in tatters.
“Injuries are a part of the sport, and the timing of this one is especially unfortunate,” De Grasse wrote on his Facebook page. “While I’m in the best shape of my life and extremely disappointed that I will not have the chance to compete for my country in London, I can’t forget or be ungrateful for the successes that I’ve been blessed with up to this point in my career.”
The Ontario-born sprinter had run the fastest wind-assisted 100m of the year, a time of 9.69 seconds, in Stockholm in June. Despite many tipping De Grasse to succeed Bolt as the king of men’s sprinting, the pair have had several run-ins including during the 200m semi-finals in Rio when the young pretender refused to ease off during the closing stages of the race.
“He was supposed to slow down,” Bolt said after the race. “I said, ‘What are you doing? It’s a semifinal.’ But I think he wanted to push me.”
Stuart McMillan, De Grasse’s coach, then alleged earlier this year that Bolt had “booted out” his rival from a Diamond League meeting in Monaco – an allegation the eight-time Olympic champion refutes.
“We were in the [100m] race. We got booted out. That’s all on Bolt,” McMillan said. “Let’s just say he wanted not such an elite field against him. The fastest guy in the world gets to choose the field. But I don’t blame him at all. This is his last year, he’s only raced twice. I totally understand that he doesn’t want to increase the pressure prior to Worlds by going in with a potential loss. If anyone deserves the right to choose the field, it’s Bolt.”
Athletics has been denied the last chance to see Bolt and De Grasse square off, with the former hanging up his spikes after the event in London. After Bolt competes in the 100m, the final of which is scheduled for Saturday [5 August] night, he will be part of the Jamaica team for the 4x100m relay, which is due to climax on the penultimate evening of competition on 12 August.