By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) – Sebastian Coe said he felt huge sympathy for Usain Bolt after the Jamaican pulled up with a hamstring problem during his final event on Saturday, but believes the great sprinter’s departure will open the door for new talent to shine.
“It’s a devastating moment if you are mid-race and that happens, it’s horrible,” the IAAF president told a news conference ahead of the last night’s action at the World Athletics Championships on Sunday.
Bolt pulled up while running the anchor leg for Jamaica in the 4×100 relay, his final race before retiring. He will do a farewell lap of honor in the London Stadium on Sunday evening before heading into retirement.
“I do think this gives us an opportunity to cast a light on the young talent that’s out there,” Coe said.
“I can’t remember a time when the competition has been so competitive and the stories around them so compelling,” he added.
“We have had some of the youngest-ever medalists and the emergence of such extraordinary young talent is what many people will remember this event for,” Coe said.
“This is a really comforting place to be in at a time when we are asking what the sport looks like after Mo (Farah) and Bolt and for example with the emergence of (American 100 meters silver medalist) Christian Coleman we may be looking at the future face of sprinting for the next five years.”
Coleman was beaten by compatriot Justin Gatlin and large numbers of the 60,000 crowd that packed the stadium each evening loudly booed the man who has served two drug suspensions.
Ed Warner, co-chairman of the London 2017 organizing committee, was surprised by the extent of the booing but understood the reasons.
“My view as the organizer is the fans have the right to come and express their views about doping in our sport and people feel very passionate about it,” he said.
Coe said he did not like to hear jeering but accepted that fans felt strongly about the issue.
“I would rather not see athletes who have tested positive winning some of the biggest titles in our sport but he is entitled to be here,” he said.
“I don’t think the IAAF has singled Gatlin out but we’re not here to choreograph public opinion.
“I thought in a way the athletes took the lead in a dignified way that Usain dealt with he situation took some of the tension out of the response by the time we get to the medal ceremony.”
After two years during which the sport has been battered by doping and corruption issues Coe said he felt the last 10 days had helped the process of recovery.
“I’m speaking to federations, coaches and athletes more than ever before and my instinct is that there is a confidence and people are proud to be involved and seen to be involved in athletics,” he said.
Coe believes the sport needed to learn lessons from the success of London and apply them to the Diamond League and other events and create a calendar that everybody can understand.
“If we don don’t get those things right then everything we’ve achieved here will be a happy memory but won’t be a springboard,” he said.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)