Athletics

Coe likens 'genius' Usain Bolt to legendary boxer Muhammad Ali

IAAF president says retiring Jamaican's impact on athletics is the same as Ali's on boxing

Sprint superstar Usain Bolt will seek a final golden hurrah when he takes to the track at the IAAF World Championships in London this week.

The 30-year-old has dominated sprinting since taking an individual golden double at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, going on to win six more Olympic golds and 11 world titles.

The Jamaican superstar will hang up his spikes after the world championships and IAAF president Sebastian Coe paid tribute to him, calling him a "genius".

The athletics chief also likened Bolt to former world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, one of the most iconic figures in boxing.

"He is the best sprinter of all time," Coe told the BBC Sport.

"Usain Bolt is a genius. I can't think, other than Muhammad Ali, of anybody who has so had an impact inside or beyond their sport.

"You can have the Friday-night-in-the-pub conversations about who is the best footballer or tennis player, but there is no argument about this guy in sprinting."

Bolt won the 100m, 200m and 4x100m gold at the past three Olympic Games - Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.

However, his unprecedented "triple triple" of nine gold medals was downgraded to eight after Jamaican teammate Nesta Carter, part of the quartet who won the 4x100m in Beijing, tested positive for a banned substance. Carter has appealed against the decision.

Bolt also holds the world record in the 100m (9.58sec) and 200m (19.19sec).

“What we will miss is the personality... It’s nice to have someone who has a view and fills the room and fills a stadium.”IAAF Chief Sebastian Coe, on Usain Bolt

"We shouldn't be sitting there saying you are suddenly going to find another Usain Bolt, any more than just boxing suddenly found another Muhammad Ali," said Coe.

"What we will miss is the personality. We do want athletes with personality.

"It's nice to have someone who has a view and fills the room and fills a stadium.

"We are not going to replace Usain Bolt - not because you are not going to have a trophy cabinet full of three back-to-back Olympic doubles and relays and World Championships - you are just not going to replace him because his personality dominated not just our sport but pretty much every sport out there."

Bolt is the main storyline at these world championships, but there are also other interesting side plots.

South Afican Caster Semenya is the runaway favourite for the 800m, where she seeks a third world title to add to the Olympic gold she won in Rio de Janeiro last year, and is taking on the 1,500m for the first time at a major international meeting.

The powerful 26-year-old, though, will come under close scrutiny in London as many feel high testosterone levels give her an unfair advantage.

Anticipating a storm, Semenya granted a rare interview to South Africa's SuperSport TV channel this month, expressing her frustration at continually having her gender questioned.

"I don't understand when you say I have an advantage because I am a woman," she said.

"When I pee, I pee like a woman. I don't understand when you say I'm a man or I have a deep voice.

"I know I'm a female so there's no question for me.

"I have to find a way to deflect (the questioning of her gender), so instead of allowing it to all be negative, I turn it into a positive. My family's support system is fantastic."

Meanwhile, David Rudisha, the world-record holder in the 800m, has pulled out of the world championships due to a muscle strain, the Kenyan said on Twitter on Monday. - WIRE SERVICES

athleticsUsain BoltSebastian Coe