Ato Boldon on Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin and the 2017 season

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Four-time Olympic medalist Ato Boldon, NBC’s lead track and field analyst, witnessed a memorable year for the sport.

35-year-old Justin Gatlin shocking Usain Bolt to win the 100m world championship.

Bolt falling to the track in the final race of his decorated career.

The best-ever performance for the U.S. at Worlds, led by sprinter Allyson Felix, who passed retired Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey for the most career world championship medals.

Boldon discussed the 2017 track and field season before the year’s final Diamond League meet, which will take place today at 2:00 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold.

What are your biggest takeaways from the 2017 track and field season?

My biggest takeaways are the new stars emerging. You need only look as far as the world championships in London and the number of first-time world champions to realize that there are some new faces that you better get familiar with, because chances are they are around to stay.

Justin Gatlin upset Usain Bolt to win the 100m world championship. At 35, how much longer can he be a top sprinter?

I thought Justin had lost a step after last year. The response to that was, ‘Well, how is he the world champion in 2017?’ Simple answer: 9.92 seconds was all it took to win Worlds, one of the slowest winning times ever. If the winning time at championships (including the USA Championships) is 9.9, Justin will remain competitive. If Christian Coleman, Andre De Grasse and younger sprint stars of the world make it 9.7, he will be forced out.

Now that Bolt is hanging up his spikes, who will become the face of track and field?

I think it will be Wayde van Niekerk, because I think he has the ability to dominate his event (400m) the way Bolt did. I was disappointed to hear him say he won’t double at a championship again. The sport needs that. He was a lean from pulling off something that had been done before only once, so I hope he’ll reconsider. He doesn’t have the same extrovert personality as Bolt, but it’s partly the media’s job to continue to make him appealing to the global audience.

As the 2017 season comes to a close, who will you be watching in 2018?

In 2018, I will be watching the youngsters who almost won this year to see if they improve or decline next year: Coleman (100m silver), Salwa Eid Naser (400m silver from Bahrain), Steven Gardiner (400m silver from Bahamas), and Marie-Josee Ta Lou (100m and 200m silver medals from Ivory Coast).

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