Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Olympics

Rio Olympics: Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah will leave huge void on world stage

By Guy Aspin

The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio signalled the end of an era in world, and British, athletics.

Usain Bolt, the man who has carried the sport amid a hurricane of corruption and doping scandals, paid an emotional farewell to its biggest stage, leaving with three more gold medals over 100, 200 and the 4x100 metres relay to take his haul to nine.

Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis-Hill also appeared on the track for the final time at a Games.

Farah, who is set to move over to the road after next year's World Championships in London, wrote his name into history with another two gold medals as he defended his 5,000m and 10,000m crowns, the second man to do so after Lasse Viren. Four Olympic titles in total is twice more than any other British track and field athlete in history.

Ennis-Hill, the heptathlete, mother, role model and inspiration to young women, won silver, two years after the birth of her son Reggie and afterwards all but announced the end of her glittering career.

It is a worrying time for world athletics. The dilemma of how to replace Bolt - the speed merchant, showman, superstar, who rolled into Rio dancing with scantily-clad samba dancers and left it with his 'triple triple' ambitions fulfilled - is one of the biggest problems facing the sport.

But there are concerns too for Britain.

The reliance on the 'big three' who won gold on 'Super Saturday' at London 2012 and were responsible for four medals again here - Farah, Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford, who took long jump bronze - remains as strong as ever.

The prospect of a British team with no Farah on the track, and no Ennis-Hill at all, after London next summer is not one that will fill those people obsessed with medal targets with confidence.

Britain came home with seven medals - two gold, one silver and four bronze - to meet the minimum UK Sport target. It was one more than London 2012, but two fewer golds than four years ago.

There has been plenty of talk about the up-and-coming generation of athletes - and it has not been unjustified.

The likes of Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Laura Muir, Lynsey Sharp, Dina Asher-Smith and Adam Gemili have bags of potential and time on their side, but there are big names, and personalities, to replace.

And while those last four can look back at Rio with few regrets, for Johnson-Thompson it was another case of what might have been. The heir to Ennis-Hill's multi-eventing throne saw Belgian Nafissatou Thiam, younger than her at 22, take gold in Rio. She was left with sixth place and plenty of tears.

The relays, in which Britain invest so much time, effort and money, delivered bronzes for the women's 4x100m and 4x400m.

Coming after London 2012, which saw packed houses for every morning and evening session, Rio was on a hiding to nothing.

They turned up for Bolt, of course. They always do.

The Jamaican knelt down to kiss the finish line following his 200m gold, his last individual race at an Olympics.

Athletics, and the Olympics, are going to miss him.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph