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Winner takes it all

ONE MAN BRAND: Usain Bolt signing copies of his autobiography released in 2010

IT IS the Olympic event to end all events: the men’s 100m sprint final which promises to race straight into the pages of history.

Up to four billion people are predicted to tune in on Sunday night to watch star sprinter Usain Bolt take to the track for the single most anticipated event of London 2012.

Many will be hoping to witness a repeat of the Jamaican athlete’s performance at Beijing where he jogged – shoe laces untied – across the finish line and still smashed the world record.

Things, however, are different this time around.

Bolt’s training partner and current world champion, Yohan Blake, will be doing his best to upset the status quo and claim an Olympic gold medal for himself. The young prodigy already proved he can beat Bolt at the Jamaica trials in June.

Their Jamaica team mate, Asafa Powell, is also a threat as are Americans Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin.

Jamaican High Commissioner Aloun Ndombet Assamba told The Voice: “I am glad we have a team that has created so much excitement for this Olympics. Every other advert features our athletes and our Jamaica colours – it makes me so proud. I have a feeling new heroes will be made.”

But victory comes with a price. If Bolt wins, the 25-year-old will cement his position as one of the all-time greats and, while there is no cash prize, his earning potential will be boosted.

The charismatic sprinter has already earned $20million in the past year, according to Forbes, thanks to endorsement deals with sports manufacturer Puma, energy drink company Gatorade and Swiss watch maker Hublot.

Marketable

But SportsPro magazine, which publishes an annual list of the world’s most marketable athletes, claims that if Blake – currently ranked 40 out of 50 – was to beat Bolt on Sunday, the 22-year-old known as ‘The Beast’ would be propelled “into an entirely different endorsement league.”


SHOW ME THE MONEY: Yohan Blake has carved a lucrative deal with Adidas

It would also be a huge ego blow to showman Bolt who said he won’t consider himself a legend unless he retains his Olympic title.

Editor David Cushnan added: “In many ways, Bolt’s popularity has peaked unless he continues to confound expectations, even those he has created for himself, in order to retain his current profile. Now, for the first time since Beijing, Bolt has a rival which adds a whole new dimension to things in terms of advertising."

Everyone loves a great rivalry like the one between Nadal and Federer so going head-to-head helps both sprinters and doesn’t do athletics any harm either. Bolt and Blake are very different characters, which will appeal to different advertisers.”

Blake already has a five-year deal with Adidas which he signed in 2009 while a junior champion despite the national team – and Bolt – being kitted out by bitter rival Puma. He also set up his own foundation YBAfraid last year.

Bookmakers Ladbrokes, however, said the big money was still on favourite Bolt to win.

Spokeswoman Jessica Bridge said: “Outside of Team GB, it really is all about Jamaica in terms of betting. We’ve already had a £10,000 bet laid on Usain Bolt to win the 100m.

“As we get closer to the big night, we expect high-value customers will start placing bets of up to £50,000 on Bolt. Blake has generated some interest, but the majority of our customers are backing Bolt – Bolt to win the final; Bolt to do the 100m/200m double; Bolt to break his own world record."

“If Blake did win, it would be a lot better for us!”

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