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‘You don’t replace Muhammad Ali’ – Coe blasts Bolt ‘obsession’

Yohan Blake is Usain Bolt’s long-time understudy. © AFP / SAEED KHAN

GOLD COAST, Australia, Apr 8 – World athletics chief Sebastian Coe blasted the “obsession” with Usain Bolt as Yohan Blake kick-started track and field’s new era without the Jamaican sprint king at the Commonwealth Games on Sunday.

Coe insisted there was no shortage of talent at the Games, the first major competition since Bolt’s retirement last year left the sport with a gaping void to fill.

Blake, Bolt’s long-time understudy, qualified fastest for the men’s 100 metres final as the athletics programme got underway, closely followed by Adam Gemili of England.

“This obsession with…,” Coe said when asked about Bolt, before stopping himself and adding: “There are plenty of athletes around.

“Are we going to replace Usain Bolt? Probably not, because you don’t replace Muhammad Ali.

“But Marvin Hagler and Manny Pacquiao and (Julio Cesar) Chavez and the great boxers came through.”

Despite his retirement, eight-time Olympic champion Bolt will be the star attraction when he arrives in Gold Coast in an ambassador role.

The athletics competition is also missing world champion hurdler Sally Pearson, a local resident and the face of the Games, after she pulled out with an Achilles injury.

Blake, 28, revealed that he was inspired by a warning from Bolt as he clocked an unhurried 10.06sec to top the timesheets in the semi-finals, glancing across twice as Gemili closed in.

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“Usain told me, ‘Yohan, you’ve got to win or else you can’t go back home,” said former world champion Blake.

“There’s always a lot more in the tank,” added the two-time Olympic relay gold medallist. “I’ll speak to my coach, see what he says and tomorrow I’ll come and lay it down.”

England’s Asha Philip was fastest into the women’s 100m final with 11.21, followed by Christania Williams of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ahye.

Earlier, Australia’s Dane Bird-Smith won the men’s race walk, but Claire Tallent was left in tears after she was disqualified while leading the women’s race. Fellow Aussie Jemima Montag took gold.

Englishman Nick Miller hurled a Games-record 80.26m to win the hammer throw and Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei, the world silver medallist, won the men’s 5,000m in 13min 50.83sec.

Elsewhere in Gold Coast, Punam Yadav grabbed India’s fifth weightlifting title in the women’s 69kg class, while Indian shooter Manu Bhaker won the women’s 10m air pistol.

Olympic champion Max Whitlock of England stumbled to sixth in the men’s floor gymnastics competition, which was won by Marios Georgiou of Cyprus.

Australia’s Dane Sampson clinched victory in the 10m air rifle, just, despite producing his worst score on his final shot of the gold-medal shootout.

And Saina Nehwal beat Singapore’s Yeo Jia Min to clinch a 3-1 victory and put India into the mixed-teams badminton final.

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