Athletics in 2021: Who will be Bolt’s successor? Asher-Smith to shine

But a supposed Christmas shopping trip means instead he will be watching his rivals sprint for 100metre glory in Tokyo from the comfort of his home, by then halfway through a two-year anti-doping ban for whereabouts failures. 

In his absence, Michael Norman was the world’s fastest man in 2020 with a time of 9.86seconds, closely followed by fellow American Trayvon Bromell, with Canada’s Andre de Grasse, bronze to Bolt’s Rio gold, returning to form. 

In the women’s, Dina Asher-Smith has the opportunity to cement her place as one of Britain’s most celebrated athletes of all time if she can back up her triple medals at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, including gold in the 200m. 

Gauging the 25-year-old’s form is nigh-on impossible having effectively taken the coronavirus-affected season off bar a quartet of runs in Bromley across August and September. 

For Asher-Smith, it looks likely to be a dual Jamaican threat across her individual two sprint distances, between them boasting all but one of the sprint titles at the past two Olympic Games. 

Asher-Smith looks likeliest to be Britain’s star athletics turn alongside Katarina Johnson-Thompson, the other British gold medallist from Doha. 

The Liverpudlian may have been denied the opportunity to compete in a heptathlon since Qatar because of Covid-19 restrictions but has still tested herself of the 200m, 100m hurdles, high jump and long jump in a litany of different competitions.

( Getty Images )

From a British perspective, the other leading hopes come in middle-distance running. Laura Muir was the fastest woman in the world over 1500m last year by nearly two seconds while her and training partner Jemma Reekie mixed it among the world’s elite over the shorter 800m and broke a trio of British records indoors in the space of a fortnight. 

In the men’s, Daniel Rowden over 800m and Jake Wightman over 1500m in particular appear to be paving the way for a new golden era of middle distance athletic prowess among the British men. 

There remains a question mark over Mo Farah, who has shifted his attention from the marathon to the 10,000metres and having recently done with I’m a Celebrity.

At 38 by the time of the Games, a fifth Olympic gold would be a big ask particularly with the 2020 form of the Ugandan world record holder for the distance, Joshua Cheptegei. 

The focal point for athletics is predictably those delayed Olympics, with other star turns expected to shine.  Mondo Duplantis is fully expected to raise the bar on his own pole vault world record, while Karsten Warholm will surely finally better Kevin Young’s longstanding 400m hurdles world record.

Meanwhile, in the women’s Yulimar Rojas is edging ever nearer Inessa Kravets’ triple jump world record, which has stood for a quarter of a century. 

And back to the sprints, a new fastest man will be crowned in Japan but Bolt can be rest assured his times will remain intact. 

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