This is an opinion piece on Yohan Blake, who has had an incredible career, and who is battling a total new generation of sprinters as he looks to compete at the WC Budapest 2023.
Yohan Blake: Is it Time to Call It Quits?
“The second fastest man in history”. It’s a phrase that has become popular in the track world since the great Usain Bolt transcended the sport to heights unimaginable. The Jamaican was so good they had to invent new phrases for the rest of the pack. And for a sprinter like Yohan Blake, he played second fiddle to his countryman for most of his career. A once big fish that used to play in the major league is now in a watershed moment in his career.
Throughout his illustrious career, Blake has been one of the most captivating figures in the world of athletics. The Jamaican has achieved remarkable success, earning numerous accolades and captivating fans worldwide with his explosive speed. However, as age catches up with him, questions arise: Is it time for Yohan Blake to consider retirement?
For a man who once made running 9.8s and 9.7s a breeze, he has recently struggled to replicate such performance. Left without a sponsor and a distinct chance of not making Jamaica’s team to the world championships this summer, maybe it’s high time to answer nature’s call.
The Rise of a Sprinting Phenomenon:
Yohan Blake burst onto the international scene in 2007, winning gold in the 100m and 200m races at the CARIFTA Games. From there, his career took off as he established himself as one of the fastest sprinters in the world. Blake’s most notable accomplishment came at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, where he clinched gold in the 100m, a race in which Bolt false-started. The name “Beast” stuck afterward.
Unforgettable Battles with Usain Bolt:
Blake’s journey as an athlete is closely intertwined with his rivalry with Bolt. The two Jamaican sprinters pushed each other to new heights, creating moments of athletic brilliance and unforgettable showdowns on the track. While Bolt often emerged as the victor, Blake’s performances were never to be underestimated. Their rivalry added intrigue and excitement to the sport, captivating fans around the world.
After Blake became the world champion in 2011, many felt he was the heir-apparent to Bolt. His performances in 2012 speak volumes of how good he was after he defeated Bolt at the Jamaican trials. Despite the win, he could only settle for Silver behind Bolt. At the same tournament, he earned the silver medal in the 200-m race in 19.44 seconds, which is the fastest non-winning time in history, with Usain Bolt being the fastest.
Less than a month later, Blake ran the second-fastest-ever 200m, clocking a time of 19.26s. To date, many believe if he had put up a good start, the world record of 19.19s Bolt set in 2009 would have fallen.
The Struggles and Injuries:
While Yohan Blake achieved incredible feats on the track, his career has been marred by injuries. The most notable setback occurred in 2013 when he suffered a severe hamstring injury that sidelined him for several months. Blake’s recovery was grueling, and although he made a commendable comeback, he was never quite the same. Injuries continued to haunt him, hindering his performances and raising concerns about his long-term durability in the sport.
The Aftermath of the Injury has had a lasting effect on his career, and it was only in 2022 that he ran his first sub-9.9s after almost six years.
Maintaining Relevance in a Competitive Field:
The Summer Olympics Tokyo 2021 was disappointing for Blake. By placing sixth in his semi-final heat with a time of 10:14, he was unable to advance to the 100m final. He admitted that his leg had been bothering him. It had not happened since the Summer Olympics of 2000 that no Jamaican man had advanced to the Final round. In the 4x100m relay, he and his teammates from Jamaica finished fifth. Meanwhile, he stayed out of the 200m. He also finished fourth and fifth over the 100m at the 2017 and 2019 world championships.
As the world of sprinting evolves, younger and faster athletes emerge on the scene, intensifying the competition. The rise of American sprinter Noah Lyles, the dominance of Fred Kerley, and the emergence of promising young Jamaican talents like Oblique Seville and Ackeem Blake create a challenging landscape for Blake to navigate. At 33 years old, he faces the pressing question of whether he can continue to compete at the highest level or if it’s time to make way for the new generation.
Life Beyond Athletics
While Blake has dedicated his life to athletics, he has also expressed interests outside of the track. He is known for his passion for cricket and has even hinted at exploring opportunities in that sport. Additionally, his philanthropic efforts, including the YB Afraid Foundation, which focuses on providing educational support to underprivileged children in Jamaica, demonstrate his commitment to making a positive impact off the field. These factors may play a significant role in his decision-making process as he contemplates life beyond athletics.
Regardless of the outcome, Yohan Blake’s legacy in track and field is secure. He will always be remembered as a fierce competitor, a talented sprinter, and one of the few who challenged the supremacy of Usain Bolt. His influence extends beyond the track, inspiring aspiring athletes in Jamaica and around the world to pursue their dreams relentlessly.
This is a short interview with Yohan Blake from our archives at the 2016 adidas Boost Boston Games, video by The Shoe Addicts: