Novak’s Slump Looks Over

Novak Djokovic is the best player in the world right now, undoubtedly. Since his victory in Paris though the Serb has endured a slump.

His loss in the first week of Wimbledon to Sam Querrey then losing in the round of 64 in Rio de Janeiro to Juan Martin Del Potro looked to possibly turn sour what had been a wonderful year for the world number one.

His victory over France’s Jo-Wilfred Tsonga takes him into a semi-final meeting with Gael Monfils later this week.

NOVAK.jpg

Djokovic is playing well.

Djokovic is by no means guaranteed to win that match as Wimbledon at the Olympic Games proved he is not the invincible player we thought we witnessed at Roland Garros as he took apart Andy Murray with ease.

This US Open has already provided us with what looks to be the end for former world number one Rafael Nadal and one of the most iconic players of a generation, one of the most exciting players of the modern era.

Djokovic will hope to not fade like the Spaniard as he pushes for his 13th Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows.

His emphatic quarter-final win shows us just how good he can be, form is temporary, class is permanent. And Djokovic has proved just how classy he can be.

Advertisements

Five to Replace Bolt

Usain Bolt’s Olympic career is over and he has completed the triple treble winning nine gold medals over three games. Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro have witnessed the greatest track star of all time.

He is irreplaceable nobody brings the dazzling pace of the Jamaican or the entertainment value of the fastest man alive. These five are the closest we currently have to the unbelievable, unforgettable Usain Bolt.

bolt

Bolt has become the greatest track athlete of all time.

  1. Yohan Blake (Jamaica)

Blake is the oldest of the athletes mentioned at 26 and he has plenty of experience behind him not least the fact he beat Usain Bolt four years ago at the Olympic trials clocking an impressive 9.69 time faster than Bolt’s winning time this year.

Blake has been plagued by injury over the last four years. In London he won silver twice behind Bolt and was part of the relay team. He dropped to fourth this year (in the 100 metres) as Gatlin and De Grasse claimed medals and could only manage a time of 9.93 but he is some way off his best.

2. Andre De Grasse (Canada)

Very much the up and coming star of athletics at just 21 he has time on his side. De Grasse claimed two medals in Rio bronze in the 100 metres (9.91) and silver in the 200 metres (20.02).

His personal best in both distances came in Rio his 9.91 100 metre time and his semi-final 19.8 time were the best he has ever run. The best is yet to come from the Canadian.

3. Adam Gemili (Great Britain)

The 22 year old was unlucky to finish the 200 metres without a medal as Frenchman Le Maitre bagged third three thousandths of a second ahead of Gemili. He was just off his best at Rio but 4th is an improvement on 5th at the World Championships in Moscow.

GEMILI.jpg

Gemili devastated after narrowly missing out on a medal in Rio.

The 200 metre is certainly his better discipline despite setting a time of 9.97 for the 100 metres in Birmingham last year.

4. Trayvon Bromell (United States of America)

Bromell is also still young at the age of 21 and he is surely destined for big things. The sprinter won the IAAF Indoor Championships 60 meters earlier this year and is consistently clocking sub-10 in the 100 metres.

Running 10.06 in the Olympics was some way off his 9.74 best that he ran in Oregon in July with his best 200 metres time of 20.03 which had he run that in the Olympics it would have won him a bronze medal.

5. Wayde van Niekerk (South Africa)

Announced himself on the world athletics scene dramatically at the Olympics. Being more of a 400 metre runner the South African has now won both the Olympics (43.03) and the World Championships (43.38).

However Van Niekerk could turn his attentions to shorter races in future with impressive times in the 100 metres his personal best being 9.98 which came in Bloemfontein in March. He also has clocked 19.94 in the 200 metres last year which had he run that in the Olympic final would have seen him get the silver medal.

All these athletes are outstanding talents and look set to dominate the athletics stage over the coming years as Usain Bolt and the older generation begin to retire but it is clear nobody will easily match the accomplishments of the great Usain Bolt.

Barclays Premier League Previews (WE)

Barclays Premier League Preview: West Bromwich Albion

Manager: Tony Pulis

Stadium: The Hawthorns (Capacity: 26,852)

Captain: Darren Fletcher

Top Scorer: James Morrison (3)

Biggest Signing: Matt Phillips (£5.5 million)

Last Season: 14th

Prediction: Mid-Table

West Bromwich Albion played an effective brand of football last term and although they were not the most exciting of clubs to watch there was no fear that they would go down.

The squad is jam packed with players that have either had their day or promising youngsters whilst the club do not possess any real superstar just proved by the fact their top scorer last season could only amass three goals.

FOSTER

Ben Foster is key man for Pulis’ team.

Pulis is clever manager and he built Stoke into a club that was difficult to beat and took the Potters to an FA Cup semi-final something that a club such as West Brom should be aspiring to.

The Baggies should be strong at home but the games that separate the average teams from the good ones are the clashes away from home, West Brom are still in the building process but they should not be troubled with a relegation battle this season.

They have brought in one player and it’s not exactly making waves, they have cut the deadwood effectively and if they can secure one or two more players in key positions they will have a competitive squad.

IN

Matt Phillips (Queens Park Rangers, £5.5 million)

OUT

Shaun Donnellan (Stevenage, Loan)

Victor Anichebe (Released)

Stephane Sessegnon (Released)

Anders Lindergaard (Released)

PHILLIPS

Matt Phillips is a big signing.

Saido Berahino remains a “problem player” for Pulis but he could soon be seeing the exit doors if not this summer then January could see him head for pastures new Crystal Palace looking a likely destination. Watford’s Odion Ighalo could be on the way to the club although that seems unlikely but could happen due to negotiations with Sakho (West Ham) falling through.

My West Bromwich Albion XI (4-2-3-1): 1 B.Foster; 16 C.Gamboa, 3 J.Olsson, 25 C.Dawson, 15 S.Poncognoli; 24 D.Fletcher, 8 C.Gardner; 10 M.Phillips, 7 J.Morrison, 11 C.Brunt; 9 S.Rondon

Barclays Premier League Preview: West Ham United

Manager: Slaven Bilic

Stadium: Olympic Stadium (Capacity: 60,010)

Captain: Mark Noble

Top Scorer: Dimitri Payet, Andy Carroll (9)

Biggest Signing: Manuel Lanzini (£9.4 million)

Last Season: 7th

Prediction: Mid-Table

West Ham have performed above and beyond over the course of the last couple of seasons and they have an unbelievable manager at the helm who will only push the London club onto bigger and better things given the resources.

With players like Mark Noble, Aaron Cresswell and Winston Reid all solid without being remarkable. Add into that remarkably talented players such as Frenchman Payet and new signing Sofiane Feghouli this deadly cocktail of players makes them an interesting prospect.

PAYET

Payed was one of the best players last season.

Bilic will have his team extremely well drilled and fine tuned to each opposition throughout a long and arduous season in the Premier League.

West Ham’s new home is among the biggest stadiums in European club football, it remains to be seen if the squad is deep enough to compete on more than one front. The Hammers will hope they can make the Olympic Stadium as much of a fortress as the Boleyn Ground.

West Ham have signed some really exciting players strengthening the depth in the midfield and signing some really exciting talent both up front and at the back.

IN

Manuel Lanzini (Unattached, £9.4 million)

Andre Ayew (Swansea City, Undisclosed)

Harvard Nordveit (Borussia Monchengladbach, Undisclosed)

Arthur Masuaku (Olympiakos Piraeus, Undisclosed)

Sofiane Feghouli (Valencia FC, Free)

Ashley Fletcher (Barnsley, Free)

OUT

James Tomkins (Crystal Palace, £10 million)

Elliott Lee (Released)

Joey O’Brien (Released)

This looks as though it may be it for West Ham after they have cooled their interest in Milan forward Carlos Bacca and Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette.

FEGHOULI.jpg

Feghouli celebrates a goal for former club Valencia.

My West Ham United XI (4-3-1-2): 13 Adrian; 22 S.Byram, 2 W.Reid, 21 A.Ogbonna, 3 A.Cresswell; 7 S.Feghouli, 16 M.Noble (Captain), 10 M.Lanzini; 27 D.Payet; 9 A.Carroll, 20 A.Ayew

Blistering Bolt Gunning for Number Nine

If there is one man that epitomises the sport itself it is the Jamaican.

Usain Bolt is a once in a generation athlete, his talent is undeniable and his athletic ability makes him an anomaly.

Couple the talent with the brash showmanship of the sprinter and you have the most entertaining elite athlete ever. Beijing and London were conquered and he is two thirds of the way there in Brazil.BOLT

The fact that people all over the world recognise the man when he steps out on track shows that he is the face of sport, the poster boy of athletics.

The 100 metres and 200 metres were slow but even then watching Bolt was a joy, his distinctive running style and his ability to overcome what is considered a slow start is something even more unique about the Jamaican runner.

The ninth gold medal beckons for Bolt and his reign as Olympic champion can be confirmed.

I fail to see Bolt being matched for sheer dominance in one sport and no matter what happens tonight in the relay, Bolt has achieved sporting immortality.

Bolt Sends Warning to Olympic Rivals

Olympic champion Usain Bolt recorded the second fastest time this year despite stumbling at the start of the race.

Bolt is known for having poor starts in his races and this stumble obviously was not a problem for Bolt as he overtook Blake, Ashmeade and Powell to finish the race in Kingston in just 9.88 seconds.

bolt

Bolt managed to claim gold despite a stumble coming out of the blocks.

Only one man has run faster this year and it’s Vicaut (9.86 seconds) who is not expected to be a major challenger come the races in Rio de Janeiro over the summer.

The fact that Bolt can still record such an excellent time despite the tricky start sounds a distinct warning to his rivals that he is very much still the man to beat.

There has been a significant shift in publicity over the past year towards two time drug cheat Justin Gatlin who has had been recording consistently strong times and winning races in a number of Diamond League meetings.

Gatlin will be aware of just how fast Bolt is running and with the likes of Blake returning to fitness and of course Vicaut having a good season the Olympics is shaping up to be one of the best 100 metre finals of recent years.

With Nickel Ashmeade finishing ahead of Powell and Blake there could be a very strong Jamaican contingent joining Bolt in Brazil for the relay and other short distance races.

Why the Olympics Can Save Athletics

Athletics has experienced a very turbulent time over the last few years with some of the sports biggest stars being embroiled in scandal and institutionalised doping has also become an issue.

Mo Farah is one of these such stars, the well renowned Nike Oregon Project run by Alberto Salazar came in for criticism regarding doping especially due to Farah’s good track record since he won two gold medals at the London Olympics.

olympicrings

The Olympic Rings.

Russian athletics has been at the centre of the doping scandal, many athletes had been involved in what could be described as the biggest doping scandal of all time.

This summer in Rio de Janeiro, the Olympics has the chance to have a hugely positive impact on the sport.

The IAAF thus far has acted very poorly in dealing with the doping scandal, even since Lord Coe has taken over a number of poor decisions have been made including Coe himself staying as an ambassador for Nike despite the clothing brand continuing to sponsor disgraced two time cheat Justin Gatlin.

Usain Bolt is a very important piece of the puzzle if the Olympics is to save the sport, Bolt so far has been found to be clean of any performance enhancing drugs.

Should Bolt win his events, the 100 metres and 200 metres two events which bring in a high number of spectators and a large sum of money. Bolt has to defeat the likes of Powell, Gay and of course the arch villain Gatlin.

bolt

Usain Bolt has never been found guilty of doping.

If Bolt was found to have taken any such drugs the sport could go to a very dark place. So far clean athletes have been a part of the athletics finals which has kept the sport afloat so far.

The stars of the games have to perform in order for the sport to save some face in Brazil and possibly take one step along what is becoming the ever longer road to redemption for athletics.

Little Time, Big Problem

With the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games due to happen later this year, athletics finds itself embroiled in it’s biggest scandal possibly ever. The drugs scandal which has found itself aimed at even some British stars such as Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe.

Mo Farah

Mo Farah following one of his victories at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The Russian doping scandal which revealed the extent of the drug problem among Russian athletes is possibly the biggest doping scandal of all time. The notion that the state could be involved in doping was a mind blowing revelation.

This just added to previous scandals including the Justin Gatlin saga which still angers me the way the drugs cheat is allowed to race. Then there were the other high profile sprinters including former Olympic champion Tyson Gay and Jamaican Asafa Powell.

This toxic problem in the sport is not helped by the fact that the IAAF have not enforced bans or sanctions on the individual athletes or unions involved in doping either directly or indirectly.

The allegations thrown at Alberto Salazar regarding his Nike Oregon Project. The athletes that trained there have all seen their training scrutinised and their career possibly jeopardised.

alberto_salazar_315x315

Alberto Salazar has been accused of doping many of his athletes.

This string of doping revelations that have been brought about over the past few years have thrown the world of sport into disrepute.

With the 2016 Olympics looming and the recent arrest of former IAAF chief Lamine Diack is hugely worryingly for not only athletics fans but sports fans all over the world.

Drastic Measures Are Needed to Stop Drug Culture

The current World Championships in Beijing have been marred by talk of drugs such as the two Kenyans which were found to have been doping. The cheats have of course been kicked out of any races they were due to run in the Chinese capital.

The big drugs story from Beijing was of course that of American two time drug cheat Justin Gatlin against clean, unbelievable Usain Bolt in what the media billed as a hero versus villain encounter, as Bolt won the 100 metres final with the 200 metres happening on Thursday.

The IAAF, run by former Team GB athlete Lord Coe has failed to take enough measures to ban high profile athletes like Gatlin, Gay, Powell etc. The fact that sportswear brand Nike have continued their sponsorship of Gatlin makes me feel sick. Lord Coe who holds an ambassadorial role with Nike has refused to give up his six figure salary there even though they continue to sponsor the cheating Gatlin.

Justin Gatlin at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Justin Gatlin at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Four of the eight runners in the 100 metres final ran on Sunday had been accused of doping including Gatlin and former world record holder and fellow American Tyson Gay. This is wrong how is it that the IAAF are letting four cheats run in the second most prestigious championship in athletics?

Former British athlete Dai Greene has said that he “can’t stand” seeing Gatlin on the start line. I am with Dai Greene seeing him on the start line makes me feel sick to my stomach. His disgusting and awful actions have marred the sport forever and his name and as Michael Johnson said he is not the problem, the doping is the problem, Gatlin acts as an agent to the problem.

Gatlin is an example of the spineless nature of the former chief of the IAAF before Seb Coe took charge of one of the most important sporting bodies the world.

Bolt must win on Thursday and that hopefully will kickstart his run into a glorious gold in Rio de Janeiro. If Gatlin wins on Thursday or even worse next year what is to stop him becoming a role model?

Usain Bolt held off the challenge of Gatlin to claim gold in Beijing 7 years after smashing the world record there.

Usain Bolt held off the challenge of Gatlin to claim gold in Beijing 7 years after smashing the world record there.

This toxic drug culture has to be stopped and the only way to do that is for the IAAF to start with lifetime bans for all of the cheating, doping athletes. These athletes do not deserve to represent their countries and compete in these amazing cities like Beijing or Daegu. Lifetime bans are the only way to stop these people ruining sport.

Bolt’s Beijing Triumph Shows All Is Not Lost

Athletics has had a tough time with the publicity as of late with drug problems arising left. right and centre. This has always been a problem for the sport a few years ago a hoard of Jamaican athletes were caught out in a random drugs test then came the revelation that Tyson Gay was taking drugs which was followed by the recent Salazar fall out.

Alberto Salazar has been accused of doping many of his athletes including Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp.

Alberto Salazar has been accused of doping many of his athletes including Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp.

This week the World Championships took place in Beijing and two times drugs cheat Justin Gatlin came into the race as favourite and he dominated the heats as Olympic champion Bolt struggled. Tyson Gay was also among the front runners another cheat. Bolt however was unstoppable as he won gold in the final saving some face for the sport. He beat Gatlin to the gold medal by one hundredth of a second and the sport saved some face.

Usain Bolt held off the challenge of Gatlin to claim gold in Beijing 7 years after smashing the world record there.

Usain Bolt held off the challenge of Gatlin to claim gold in Beijing 7 years after smashing the world record there.

This win is huge and not just for the Jamaican runner. Two major drug cheats were in the final today a damning image for a sport that could well be argued to be in crisis. This win for Bolt gives the sport hope that it can recover had one of the American doping cheats Gay or Gatlin won the race the sport would have come under even greater scrutiny and the sport’s reputation brought into greater disrepute.

Another high profile doping cheat is Bolt’s Jamaican teammate Asafa Powell the 2008 World Champion after a championship in Stuggart. The Jamaican runner was tested positive for a banned substance but he vehemently denied having taken the drug knowingly or willingly and his suspension was lifted three months after his initial ban. This does not matter though another high profile runner to have been implicated in drugs abuse.

This win for the world record holder is massive, it gives the sport back some of it’s integrity, his influence on the sport is so profound that this win may be just one medal but with the Rio de Janeiro games only a year away and considering the fanbase of Bolt make this win a hugely positive result for the athlete and the sport in general terms.

The Rio de Janeiro Olympics is only a year away.

The Rio de Janeiro Olympics is only a year away.

The disgusting and frankly abhorrent actions of the doping cheats such as Gatlin and Gay cannot continue to be tolerated both have won multiple championships and become world class athletes. If the IAAF continues to tolerate the use of these not just banned but dangerous substances they could well see a huge drop in the attendance of fans to the major championships like the Olympics, World Championships and Diamond League.

If it were found the likes of Bolt were taking drugs the sport would be broken it would be a sport in crisis. Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake as in my opinion the 2 best sprinters in the world; in fact of all time must stay clean for the good of the sport.

I for one can never tolerate the actions of the doping, cheating athletes that have come to blacken the name of one of the most enthralling athletics events to watch. These doping cheats must be stamped out before drugs become a regular feature if any major athletics avert around the world.

Should Gatlin be Allowed to Race?

The 100 metres can be one of the most enthralling events in the world of athletics especially with the superstars of Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Justin Gatlin all incredible athletes in their own right. Gatlin has clocked the fastest times this year by some way running under 9.8 a number of times.

The question is should the two time doping cheat be allowed to run and compete in the sport’s biggest events such as the Beijing World Championships in August or the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games next summer. The American served his first ban in 2001 after testing positive for amphetamines which he claimed was from medication. The next ban came in 2006 when the sprinter failed a test by USADA as he was taking some sort of testosterone boosting drug.

Justin Gatlin at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Justin Gatlin at the 2012 Olympic Games.

These tests led to bans but Gatlin returned and only three years ago he claimed the bronze medal at the London Olympics. The fact that he has been able to compete at all after his second ban mystifies me. As does the return of Jamaican drug cheat Powell who has been another one of the form runners this season. Then there is former Olympic champion Tyson Gay who received a one year doping ban in 2013 for using a banned steroid.

Asafa Powell only received a 6 month ban for using a banned substance.

Asafa Powell only received a 6 month ban for using a banned substance.

How can it be that these athletes that have cheated can be allowed to race? Especially in the prestigious events such as the Diamond League meets, World Championships or Olympics the pinnacle of athletics.

Justin Gatlin is likely to beat Bolt and Blake to the gold medal in China next month and for the drug taking cheat to win a gold medal in such a big, prestigious event is a horrific damnation of the sport to rise up this cheat as an idol for young aspiring athletes to try to follow.

Justin Gatlin after winning a Diamond League event in Rome.

Justin Gatlin after winning a Diamond League event in Rome.

How sporting brand Nike can still sponsor the American sprinter is sickening. For such a well thought of and popular brand to sponsor the substance abusing liar of an athlete doesn’t sit right with me. How can the other athletes with ‘clean’ records be expected to watch opponents like Gatlin or Powell pick up these plaudits when they have in the past been using banned substances?

I hope that one day athletics governing body the IAAF can show a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on substance abuse and hand lifetime bans to these athletes ruining the competitive spirit and overshadowing the incredible achievements of these truly remarkable athletes.