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'It's very hard on me!'

Bolt admits difficultly coping with Mason's passing, shows up for grave-digging

Monday, May 15, 2017

LONG ROAD, Portland — Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt rolled up the proverbial sleeves to help with the grave-digging exercise for friend Germaine Mason at the latter's heartland in Long Road, Portland, on Saturday.

He was not alone as fellow Jamaican Olympian Michael Frater, and another close friend from another sport, former Reggae Boy Ricardo “Bibi” Gardner, were present to give a hand to family and local folk as they made preparations for the final farewell for Mason.

Mason, who switched allegiance to Britian from Jamaica and who peformed in the high jump under the British flag until his recent retirement, was killed in a motorcycle crash on the Norman Manley Highway in east Kingston in the wee hours of April 20.

The athlete reportedly lost control of the motorcycle which ran off the road, throwing him from it.

Bolt, who will retire from track competition after the London World Championships, was a picture of grief when he spoke with the Jamaica Observer on Saturday.

“Right now it is very hard on me as we have grown very close over the years from the World Juniors in 2002, and we have come up through the ranks together.

“We have both succeeded in our different events and for me I have to be strong for the parents and the family. I had to come here and do anything for the family in any way possible, and it is just an honour,” he said.

Bolt turned up at the grave-digging after training Saturday morning and dressed down and was in the thick of things by using a pick-axe and shovel in digging and removing dirt at the grave site which will be his friend's final resting place.

Mason, 34, a former student of the Wolmer's High School, is the national record holder in the high jump event and switched allegiance in 2006 to represent Great Britain where he went on to win silver at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

It was at these Games that Mason's friend and athletic contemporary, Bolt announced himself to the world, sensationally smashing both the 100m (9.69 seconds) and the 200m (19.30) records for his two individual gold medals.

Mason will be sent off next Sunday with a memorial service in Kingston and interment in Grange Hill, Portland.

— Everard Owen