Sunday, 11 June 2017

Usain Bolt Wins Final 100m Race In Jamaica In Emotional Farewell

Usain Bolt could not lose – the 35,000 dancing, roaring, horn-blowing worshippers inside Kingston’s National Stadium would never have allowed it.

Not after the build-up. Not after an ordained minister led a prayer in his honour; not after a procession of dignitaries paid tribute to “the most famous Jamaican of all time”; not after his every gold medal-winning moment was greeted with deafening cheers as they were relived on the big screens; not after he was introduced to the crowd from an open-top car, before walking through a ceremonial brass band onto a red carpet that had been laid on the finishing straight for his feet only; and not after he had departed for his warm-up to the sound of Frank Sinatra’s My Way.

No, there was no way Bolt could lose. And he did not. Jamaica’s favourite son said farewell in his last ever race on home soil with yet another victory on Saturday night.

In honesty, the task was not a difficult one. Some significant massaging of the Racers Grand Prix entry lists had left Bolt facing a host of faded Jamaican sprinting talent in the “Salute To A Legend” 100m race, while the fastest men competing in Kingston – his training partner Yohan Blake and South Africa’s Akani Simbine – were left to their own private battle in the international 100m.
Usain Bolt Wins Final 100m Race In Jamaica In Emotional Farewell
Not that the crowd cared the slightest bit. Bolt’s victory in a pedestrian 10.03sec, after one of his trademark slow starts, was greeted with unbridled, chaotic joy. Fireworks erupted, the blare of horns was relentless and the party began as a stream of dancehall stars took to the field. It was sheer euphoria.

“The run, it was just OK. I must say it was OK,” said Bolt, as he was mobbed in the aftermath.

“I don't think I’ve ever been that nervous running a 100m. Just the atmosphere and the people, the support they came out and gave me, it was really nerve-racking.

“I never expected this. It’s big to see everybody that turned out. It was my honour to put the sport of track and field at the top.”

The atmosphere inside the sold-out stadium had been electric all evening with fans cramming in five hours before the headline event. Grandstand tickets had disappeared within a day of going on sale and Bolt had joked about being forced to turn his phone off to halt the incessant flow of people asking for freebies.

Every man, woman and child in Kingston wanted to be there to pay tribute to the eight-time Olympic champion – to say thank you and goodbye before he retires after the London World Championships in August.

The first person to do so was a man of the cloth, who took centre stage before the action had even begun.

“Pray God, you have been truly good to Jamaica,” he said.

“You have blessed us with Dr the Honourable 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 in heaven.”

The tone had been set and the love duly flowed. Seb Coe gave thanks to a man whose “contribution has been mammoth”, before Jamaican prime minister Andrew Holness – wearing a Puma tracksuit – called on those present to honour “a great man, a great athlete and a great Jamaican”.

A stellar line-up had been compiled for the occasion with Mo Farah, David Rudisha and Wayde van Niekerk among six individual Olympic champions to make the trip to Kingston for the special send-off.

Farah celebrated 3,000m victory with Bolt’s ‘To Di World’ pose as he crossed the line, before revelling in the adoration of the Jamaican crowd on a lap of honour.

“This atmosphere is well up there,” he said. “It was just about having fun and giving something back. It wasn’t about running fast and I’ve really enjoyed it.

“Usain is a good friend of mine. He’s a legend and what he’s done for the sport – yes I’m going to be biased, but if you take a step back it’s incredible.”

Wayde van Niekerk blitzed a strong 200m field to triumph in 19.84sec – the fastest time in the world this year – while there were also victories for Christian Taylor and Allyson Felix.

Cynics might note that the international 100m had been won earlier in the night in a faster time than that managed by Bolt, but it mattered not a jot to anyone inside the stadium.

Blake, whose career has coincided with Bolt’s, was the man to take the victory in 9.97sec, with Simbine close behind in 10.00sec.

Asked about saying goodbye to his training partner and friend, Blake said: “I cry a little because we’ve been through so much.

“For his last year to be this year is sad. He leaves a size 13 shoe to fill and it’s hard to fit. I’ll try to squeeze my foot in it.”

Bolt’s farewell tour contains just three more dates in the Czech Republic, Monaco and London, where he will bid to bow out by retaining his world 100m title. And then he will return to his Kingston home, where they will forever adore their hero.
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