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IAAF's Lord Coe here to thank Bolt

BY SHERDON COWAN
Observer staff reporter
cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, June 10, 2017

With triple World and Olympic champion Usain Bolt being highly regarded as the face of track and field globally, Lord Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is anticipating a close relationship with the legendary athlete after his retirement.

Coe, who arrived in the island yesterday to join in the celebration of Bolt at the second JN Racers Grand Prix dubbed Salute to a Legend, pointed to the importance of putting plans in place to keep the sport afloat after Bolt's exit.

Bolt, the world's fastest man over 100m and 200m, will run his final competitive race on home soil inside what is expected to be a packed National Stadium today.

The incomparable athlete will then officially hang up his spikes after the IAAF World Championships in London in August.

“One of the things we have to recognise is that the biggest challenge our sport faces is remaining relevant in the lives of young people…exciting and innovative. So some of the things that Usain Bolt has been doing around nitro, which has brought a young generation of athletes and spectators to our sport, are very important,” Coe told journalists shortly after arriving at the Norman Manley International Airport with his son, Harry Sebastian Coe.

They were greeted by Racers Track Club Head Coach Glen Mills, Minister of Sports Olivia Grange, Mike Fennel, president of the Jamaica Olympic Association, and president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association Dr Warren Blake.

“I am so pleased that Usain and you coach (Glen) Mills have agreed to help us grow the sport to be at the forefront of innovation, and his commitment to wanting to help us with that.

“Discussions will take place — not entirely now. We want him to focus on the remaining weeks of what has been an outstanding career, and I'm very comforted that he has agreed to want to play a role, going forward, in our sport,” Coe added.

The track and field boss described Bolt's retirement as the “beginning of another phase”, while expressing his delight at the exciting weekend ahead, which also includes a meeting with Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

“I am here just for a small and modest thank you to someone who has changed the face of our sport, and has encouraged so many young people to our sport, and the journey now has to continue.

“This is an extraordinary career that is coming to a close and we are very excited, of course, that that career will close fitting in a World Championships stadium. If you look at his record, everywhere and everything that he (Bolt) has done, he has always been the best,” Lord Coe noted, while addressing a small conference at the Pineapple Lounge.

He continued: “It's a great British past time to sit and talk about who is the greatest in a particular sport, but there is no debate when it comes to sprinting. The clock doesn't lie and neither does the trophy cabinet — this is somebody that has won World Championships at youth, junior and senior levels.

“This is somebody that has achieved the double-header on two occasions, with world records in an Olympic stadium. This is perfection. And so the debate in that space in track and field is closed and I am not sure it's going to be opened for a very long time — unless of course you unearth yet another talent in the next few years.”

But while all the excitement is built around Bolt, Coe took time out to acknowledge coach Mills, who has been instrumental in making not only Racers Track Club, but Jamaica at large the sprinting capital of the world.

“I know that there will be many wonderful and quite fitting things to say about Usain over the next few days, but let me just place on record my thanks to you, coach Mills. They say behind every great athlete is a great coach, and we are particularly proud, coach, that you have been a part of the IAAF family since 2006,” Coe ended.