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Missing Bolt

A struggling sport lives or dies with every move of its one true star

Usain Bolt is not just the biggest star in track and field, he is also the only true international celebrity in a sport struggling to attract interest. Any meet that Bolt (below) runs is a spectacle; any meet that he skips seems irrelevant. The Olympics are no different. Without Bolt in London, track and field would slip into the morass of minor sports (except among Brits rooting for their own).

Thus when Bolt reportedly went to the doctor last week, the entire sport felt a little ill. The world-record holder and 2008 gold medalist in the 100 and 200 meters pulled out of the Feb. 11 Camperdown Classic in his native Jamaica and was said to have visited German physician Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt, who treated Bolt's season-ending back injury in '10. Bolt's coach and agent publicly denied that their man was ailing.

Bolt's invincibility has wavered lately, first with the injury and last year with mere-mortal times and a false-start DQ at the worlds. Training partner Yohan Blake looms as a real threat. There are grumblings among other athletes that Bolt takes up too much of the sport's stage. But the truth is, if Bolt is hurt, or slow, the sport will scarcely be on the stage at all.