As the curtain comes down on the mighty Usain Bolt’s career, athletics hopes that it can use the 2017 World Championships in London as a chance to take the next step. Here’s the five things to know.
1. The last Bolt
One of the greatest athletes in history will say goodbye to the track at the London World Championships. Bolt is the face of athletics and has made such a difference to the sport that his absence is beyond comprehension. A man with eight Olympic gold medals, 11 world titles and the untouched world-record times of 9.58 seconds (100 meters) and 19.19 (200 meters) is a character whose speed and smile sports fans will be able to savor one last time. The Jamaican hasn’t been at his best of late, but given that it’s his final individual race and he’s only running the 100 meters and the relay the crowd can be sure Bolt finishes with a bang. Any doubts that he will win (barring something unforeseen) were removed when his main rival, Canada’s Andre de Grasse, was forced to pull out of the worlds due to a torn hamstring. A week after his final individual race, the fans will get to see Bolt for the very last time – in the 4×100 relay.
2. Wayde’s world?
South African sprinter Wayde van Niekerk fancies himself the successor to Bolt’s charasmatic crown in athletics. He is aiming for back-to-back 400-meter world titles and is also running in the 200 meters – without Bolt. The Jamaican believes van Niekerk can become the new face of athletics once he and Britain’s Mo Farah have retired. An impressive outing on the track in London could well confirm his new role ahead of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
3. Germans throwing things
Robert Harting is famous around the world for his shirt-ripping celebrations and the discus thrower is hopeful he will be able to show off his muscles again in London. Harting returns to the site of his 2012 Olympic glory in the hope that he can claim his fourth world title. In the men’s javelin, Johannes Vetter and Thomas Röhler lead the field by quite some distance. Vetter’s best is 94.44 meters, while Olympic champion Röhler has managed 93.90 meters. If Andreas Hofmann can perform, Germany might end up with all three medals in the javelin.
4. Mascots to be remembered
Hero the hedgehog and Whizbee the Bee are the two official mascots for the World Championships. The pair were also the mascots for the World Para Athletics Championships in July and were designed by a nine-year-old from the West Midlands. The idea is to promote the importance of bees around the world and the determination of hedgehogs. Certainly sounds like a message the athletes can get on board with, doesn’t it?
5. Records all around
In all, 2,034 athletes from more than 200 countries have been entered, which looks set to beat any previous numbers of contesting athletes. Combined with the World Para Athletics Championships in July, more than 3,000 athletes have been in London this summer – the first time both championships have been held in the same city. With 700,000 tickets sold and 50,000 fans attending each session, it is fair to say athletics hasn’t lost its popularity despite image setbacks due to doping allegations. The hope is that with the likes of Bolt and co. retiring, the sport can stay clean and healthy in the years to come.