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Mr Bolt and Racers deserve high praise

Friday, June 09, 2017

The eyes of the athletics world will be focussed on little Jamaica tomorrow for the second staging of the JN Racers Grand Prix which has been appropriately dubbed a salute to the legendary Mr Usain Bolt, the greatest sprinter yet to grace planet Earth.

A stellar line-up of some of the world's top athletes will compete in a range of events that will certainly provide great entertainment and joy to the thousands of spectators who, we expect, will turn up at the National Stadium in Kingston.

Racers Track Club, especially founder and head coach Mr Glen Mills, ought to be congratulated for conceptualising this event and taking on all the tough work of staging it.

Mr Bolt, who has said he will be competing in his final sprint event on Jamaican soil, will certainly be honoured by the spectators and indeed Jamaica. And even if he misses his target of a 9.7-second clocking over 100 metres tomorrow, no one who really appreciates all that Mr Bolt has done for world athletics and Jamaica will be disappointed.

No one can deny that Mr Bolt's achievements stretch far beyond his multiple gold medals and world records. For he has breathed new life into a sport that was struggling to shake off the stain of cheating and, in the process, has won the admiration of millions of people worldwide for his humility, generosity of spirit and obvious inclination to make friends, not foes — striving always to bring smiles to the faces of others.

As we have pointed out before in this space, such personality traits are not to be scoffed at in a world stricken with division, strife and hate.

When Mr Bolt finally retires from all competition at the IAAF World Championships in London two months from now, a giant hole will be left in global athletics. But the sporting fraternity will also know that his standards as exemplary competitor and human being will always be a beacon for younger ones coming through.

Proof of that is evident in the comments of Kenyan 800m world record holder Mr David Rudisha and Mr Wade Van Niekerk, the South African 400 metres Olympic and World Champion and world record holder, who both arrived in the island this week for tomorrow's event.

“Usain is a great athlete; he is our role model and ever since when I was getting into track and field as a young athlete, we used to see him and we admire him. He is very friendly and we all love him because of his achievements and what he does out there in track and field,” Mr Rudisha told this newspaper.

Mr Van Neikerk, who competed at last year's Racers Grand Prix, was just as glowing in his praise. “It's a massive privilege to be here and pay respect for what he has done for track and field and we are looking forward to see his final year and support him all the way for what he has done for us as athletes and the way he has inspired us. He has been massive,” Mr Van Niekerk said.

Mr Bolt is fully deserving of those compliments. Our hope is that after he retires he will maintain a strong presence in track and field, as the sport needs strong and positive role models.