Mon, Jun 12, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Bolt starts final season with home win

ST LEO:Running mates, politicians and religious leaders heaped praise on Bolt after his final race in Jamaica, with one politician saying Bolt has ‘taught the world a lesson’

The Guardian

Usain Bolt salutes the crowd on Saturday after running his final race in Jamaica during the Racers Grand Prix at the National Stadium in Kingston.

Photo: AFP

It was akin to a religious experience, a five-hour outpouring of love and noisy exaltation from 35,000 people to their nation’s greatest athlete, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt.

“We thank you God, for you have truly been good to Jamaica. You have blessed us with doctor, the honorable Usain St Leo Bolt, the embodiment of sportsmanship, who reminds us of the gumption and indomitable spirit of the Jamaican people. May the vibe in the stadium bring a world of justice and love and make your kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven. Amen,” a minister said.

Sporting events are not supposed to start with prayers from an ordained minister, but at Bolt’s final race in Jamaica it somehow felt right.

“A salute to a legend,” they called it, and salute they did.

As Bolt lined up at the start of his 100m race, he bathed in his home crowd’s affection for a last time. It was at the National Stadium in Jamacia 15 years ago that he first made his name — winning the world junior 200m title as a 15-year-old by beating athletes three years’ his senior.

And he was desperate to get the last victory he craved.

The crowd were treated to all his greatest hits. Before the race, Bolt shadow boxed like a prizefighter as the stadium announcer rattled through his achievements. And, when the gun went off, he also made his customary terrible start, like a man with a backache climbing out of his favorite easy chair.

However, at 50m he was ahead and suddenly and emphatically the race was over.

His time of 10.03 seconds was nothing special, but, having missed more than two weeks’ training due to the death of his close friend Germaine Mason, it was good enough.

Another Jamaican, Jevaughn Minzie, was second in 10.15 seconds.

As Bolt crossed the line he was mobbed by cheerleaders and photographers. The vuvuzelas blared. The fireworks blasted. The lap of honor was long and delirious. And then he climbed into the main stand to celebrate with his friends and family.

“It was really hard for me, I have had a lot of time off,” Bolt said. “The two weeks I missed was kind of rough. But the people of Jamaica really came out for me, thank you for showing me your support.”

Of course he was never going to lose. Not here in Kingston. And to make sure, the dice were loaded in his favor. Any athlete that could have conceivably beaten him was put into a tougher 100m earlier in the evening. That race was won by his compatriot and training partner Yohan Blake, the London 2012 Olympic silver medalist in 9.97 seconds, slowing down.

Afterward, Blake paid tribute to his friend, admitting: “I cry a little because the fact that we’ve been through so much and we train together. For his last year to be this year is sad.”

Could Blake fill his boots one day?

“He leaves a size 13 shoe to fit and it’s hard to fit,” he said. “I try to squeeze my foot in it,” Blake said.

Not everyone was quite as sentimental.

South African Akani Simbine, who finished second to Blake in 10.00 seconds, was asked whether he wanted to ruin Bolt’s retirement in London?

“That’s the plan,” he said.

Earlier Bolt was introduced to the crowd on an open-top car that slowly made its way around the velodrome that surrounded the track.

Then there was a hug from IAAF president Sebastian Coe, who shoveled praised on the 100m and 200m world-record holder.

“Our words, at best, can only be a small, modest contribution to the eulogies and tributes that this great man standing behind me has receive this evening,” Coe said. “But if our words are modest, our thanks are mountainous.”

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top