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Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

Don’t know if Sebastian Coe is trying to Kill athletics: Yohan Blake

The Jamaican sprinter was in the city to promote the ‘Road Safety World Series’, a T20 series, which will be held in February next year.

other-sports Updated: Dec 02, 2019 23:06 IST
Rutvick Mehta
Rutvick Mehta
Jamaica's Yohan Blake during the 2019 World Athletics Championships.
Jamaica's Yohan Blake during the 2019 World Athletics Championships.(REUTERS)

Like most Jamaicans, Yohan Blake is no man to mince his words. Be it while talking up his own chances at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics—“I’m always the favourite,” he says—or taking on World Athletics president Sebastian Coe head-on.

The two-time gold medallist sprinter at the Olympics and World Championships accused Coe of “killing” the sport after the former British athlete announced plans to remove a few key disciplines from next year’s Diamond League. It includes triple jump, discus throw, steeplechase and the 200m, where Blake is only slower than a certain Usain Bolt in the all-time record.

“It is just madness,” Blake said of Coe. “I believe 200m is where people make careers and money. That’s where I broke the Diamond League record. You cannot do that. Everybody hates him. We have to take a stand.

“Track and field is dying a little. If he (Coe) can take away the 200m and triple jump, I don’t know if he is trying to build it or trying to kill athletics. It’s a stupid move. He must enhance the sports, but he is killing it,” Blake, who is in the city to promote the Road Safety World Series that will be held next year to create awareness towards road safety in India, said.

Throughout his career, the 29-year-old has lived in the shadow of Bolt, his fellow Jamaican, greatest rival as well as his greatest team-mate.

That Blake settled for the 100m and 200m silver—and not gold—at the 2012 London Games is because he had to battle with the fastest man of the planet. That Blake won the 2011 World Championships gold is because Bolt was disqualified in the final. That Blake lay his hands on two Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016 is because he was part of a Jamaican 4x100m relay team that ruled the sprint world during that period as if it was nobody else’s business.

“If you take Usain out of the picture, I’d be the fastest man in the world. I feel I was born in the wrong time,” Blake said with a wry smile. “But I am still proud of what I have achieved. It was Usain’s time, I was competing against a giant,” he added.

And by the time Bolt was done—at the 2017 World Championships—Blake’s own performances had started to dip. Out of the 20 100m races that he ran in 2018, Blake managed just four sub-10s timings. At the Doha World Championships in September this year, he finished fifth in the 100m final with a timing of 9.97s, while in the 200m, he could not even make it to the final.

Yet, Blake considers himself the man to beat at the 2020 Tokyo Games, which will be his final shot at an individual Olympic gold.

“I’m always the favourite, the second fastest man in the universe. Everyone has to look up to me,” Blake said. “It is going to be my last Olympics and I am going for the gold. I have got so many medals in the past, and this (a gold) will put the icing on the cake.

“Definitely, there are some good guys coming, I’ll be looking forward to the challenge. I think it is going to be epic. Olympics is the greatest show on earth and everyone is looking for that blue-carpet event, which is the 100m,” he added.

After the Olympics, Blake plans to come to India and start an athletics program in the hope of churning out the hidden talent from across the country.

“I met some of them (Indian athletes) in Doha. There is a lot of talent in India, and if I, as an outsider, can come and show them what it takes to go to the different level, that is going to be easy,” he said.

Blake believes rising Indian sprinter Hima Das will only come back stronger after her injury setback this year, but added that the current Indian athletes need a bigger dose of self-belief.

“I met Hima Das in Australia at the (2018) Commonwealth Games. I spoke to her, she is a very good person, and I know that she will come back stronger. I feel they should believe in themselves more and work harder. They have to work day and night. That’s what Hima Das asked me. That’s what I will do in India,” Blake said.