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Bolt’s Grand ‘Send-off Party’ in Kingston Emotional for Him
- Updated: 06/11/2017
Jamaica gave its sprint king, Usain Bolt, a grand send-off party, complete with speeches, dancehall music, and fireworks at the Racers Grand Prix in Kingston last night (June 10). The double world record holder was running his first individual race of the season and his last on his home soil before he retires from the sport after he competes at the IAAF World Championships in London this August.
As World defending champion of the 100m and 200m, Bolt has an automatic entry into both races and has, therefore, chosen to skip the Jamaica National Trials in two weeks, which is used to select the team to London.
Adding to the splendor of the occasion was the presence of a number of world-class athletes from as far as Australia and South Africa, who journeyed to the island to compete and honor the member of their track and field fraternity, whom some have made known they love, respect and thank for what he has brought to the sport.
Among the stars competing in Jamaica were Mo Farah, Britain’s Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion; Sally Pearson, Australia’s World and Olympic sprint hurdler champion; Wade van Niekerk, South Africa’s 400m world record holder; David Rudisha, Kenya’s 800m world record holder; and Allyson Felix, USA’s 200m-400m specialist and World and Olympic champion.
Running in the second 100m event – the finale of the night billed as ‘Salute to A Legend’ – in front of a 30,000+ capacity crowd at the National Stadium, Bolt bookended his 100m journey in Jamaica as an elite sprinter with 10.03secs (0.2m/s wind), the same time he ran in 2008 to convince his coach, Glen Mills, to let him run the 100m instead of just the 200m. In a post-race track-side interview, the 30-year-old superstar described his race as “one of my worst races possible,” and shared his prerace emotions: “I have never been so nervous before running a 100m.”
Those nerve-wracking moments were evident as he lined up in the blocks looking uncharacteristically solemn without even a faint smile. The usually animated sprinter soon waved to spectators on introduction, then finally did his shadow boxing relaxation ritual as the introductions continued and delivered his customary “to-the-word” sign just before kneeling in the blocks.
Bolt said after the race, that he knew the occasion was going to be big, but “I never expected this. The people came out and supported me and I really appreciate this.”
Reflecting on his execution, the superstar assessed his own performance: “My start was poor, as always, and I think in the last part I lost it a little bit,” he said, pointing out that he wasn’t expecting anything spectacular, as it was his first race since January after a 150m race in Australia at the Nitro meet.
He was thankful to be able to run, stay injury-free, and put on a show for the crowd. He thanked them profusely for having supported him over the years.
Bolt also spoke about how the death in April of his close friend, Olympic high jump silver medalist Germaine Mason, impacted him.
“After my friend’s death it was really hard for me. I have never been through something like this,” he said. “My coach gave me time off and let me take my time to get back focused. The two weeks was kinda rough, but I know what I had to do, as Germaine would not want me to miss my moment.”
After the gushing honors from his coach and other dignitaries led by Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness and International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Sebastian Coe, and after his warm-down session barely ended, a roster of dancehall artistes affectionately pulled the sweaty Bolt into demonstrating how current he was with his dance moves as they circled him.
According to a BBC report, a fruit vendor who came from where Bolt grew up was in Kingston to witness Bolt’s last race in Jamaica. He echoed the sentiment of many track and field enthusiasts: “I wish Usain Bolt could run for another 40 years. He is going to be missed.”