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A year of Usain-ity in track world

Updated: 2014-01-02 08:11
By Agence France-Presse in Paris ( China Daily)

Bolt's dominance diverted attention from the ongoing doping scandals that turned athletics into a global sideshow

What would a year of track and field be without mention of the indomitable Usain Bolt at its fore, dragging the doping-mired sport out of the doldrums?

The 2013 season was no different, with the towering Jamaican again dominating the sprints and underlining his formidable track prowess by claiming double individual gold in the 100 and 200m at the Moscow World Athletics Championships, respectively his second and third titles in the events.

Apart from his false-start blip at the Daegu worlds 100m, Bolt has won every global sprint title available since the 2008 Beijing Olympics - an astonishing feat he aims to carry through until the 2016 Games in Rio.

The six-time Olympic gold medalist's world medal haul now stands at eight gold medals, tying him with American women's 200m specialist Allyson Felix and retired US track stars Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson.

Bolt's Moscow performances were the perfect tonic for track and field after pre-championship positive doping tests for, among many others, top sprinters Tyson Gay of the US and the Jamaican duo Asafa Powell and Veronica Campbell-Brown.

Turkey also banned 36 athletes for doping offenses, including women's Olympic 1,500m champion, Asli Cakir Alptekin.

International track and field was given a further boost in Moscow by the confirmation of Mo Farah as one of the best distance runners in the world.

Farah emulated Ethiopian long-distance king Kenenisa Bekele by adding double world 5,000-10,000m gold to similar exploits at the 2012 London Olympics.

Like Bolt, the Somali-born Briton dominated both races, controlling the pace with aplomb and each time producing his now-trademark kick to burn off any opponents in the home stretch.

But he will likely leave his fans disappointed next year as he has opted to compete in the lucrative London Marathon rather than the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Russian athletes topped the medals table for the first time since 2001 with seven gold medals, one more than the US, boosted by a "super Saturday" where the team enjoyed stunning victories in the women's high jump and 4x400m relay.

Another standout performance at Moscow's iconic Luzhniki Stadium featured Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva.

The 31-year-old, who will now take an 18-month break to start a family before contemplating a return at the 2016 Rio Olympics, brought the house down when she won her third world title, her first global championship victory since her triumph at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The victory made up in part for her comments seemingly backing a controversial new law in Russia that outlaws dissemination of information about homosexuality to minors.

Pro-gay rights activists argue the law could be used for a broad crackdown against homosexuals, and such was the backlash to Isinbayeva's comments that the Russian was forced into issuing a statement saying she had been misunderstood.

The International Association of Athletics Federations awarded its male and female athletes of the year to Bolt and his Jamaican teammate, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who also claimed double sprint gold medals.

Notably, there was for the first time an African presence on the podium in both the women's 100 and 200m with US-based Ivorian Murielle Ahoure claiming two silvers and Nigerian Blessing Okagbare taking the 200m bronze.

The shadow of doping remains, however, with 2014 likely to see further moves from the World Anti-Doping Agency to regulate testing, particularly from national bodies.

WADA audited the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission after seven high-profile Jamaican athletes tested positive in 2013.

WADA president John Fahey accused the body of "dropping the ball".

Kenya also came under WADA's spotlight amid accusations of years of inaction from the African running powerhouse.

The most impressive world record of the year went to Kenyan Wilson Kipsang, who shaved 15 seconds off the marathon mark by storming home in 2 hr, 3.23 min in Berlin.

It was a far more serious story at the Boston Marathon in April, where two explosions killed three people and wounded 260, with a police officer later killed by the bombing suspects.

 A year of Usain-ity in track world

Usain Bolt poses with an AFP picture by photographer Olivier Morin after the men's 200m semifinal at the 2013 IAAF World Championships at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Aug 16. Loic Venance / Agence France-Presse

 A year of Usain-ity in track world

Britain's Mo Farah does his trademark 'Mobot' gesture after finishing second in the Great North Run half marathon near Newcastle, England, on Sept 15. Ian Macnicol / Agence France-Presse