Sport

All about Bolt

But Van Niekirk, Gaye, Mo Farah, Taylor sparkle in legend's salute

BY PAUL A REID
Observer writer
reidp@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, June 12, 2017



Legendary sprinter Usain Bolt won his final competitive 100m race on Jamaican soil on Saturday night at the National Stadium, winning the 'Salute to a Legend' race in his honour in front of a rapturous 30,000 plus crowd that crammed into the 50-odd year-old facility to witness history.

His 10.03 seconds (0.2m/s) winning time, 17th best in the world and fourth among Jamaican men, was modest by his own out-of-this-galaxy standards, a race he described as “one of my worst races possible”, but no one in the stadium led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Leader of the Opposition Peter Phillips, IAAF President Lord Sebastian Coe, and dozens of world-class athletes in their own rights will care what the clock said.

Ironically, it was the same time he ran at a meet at the G C Foster Sports College nine years ago in 2008, when he won a bet with coach Glen Mills to allow him to add the shorter sprint to his itinerary.

“That was one of my worst races possible,” a visibly emotional Bolt said in a post-race interview. “My start was poor, as always, and I think in the last part I lost it a little bit,” he added, before explaining that “this was my first race; wasn't expecting anything spectacular, my first race back since January after a 150m race in Australia at the Nitro meet, and so wasn't expecting anything spectacular — just to come out, stay injury-free, and put on a show for the crowd and to say thank you0”.

Bolt, who has conquered all in front of him and has raised the bar in male sprinting to astronomical levels with his 9.58 seconds and 19.19 seconds world records in the 100m and 200m, respectively, admitted that nerves got the better of him on Saturday night.

“The run was just OK; running in this atmosphere…was really nerve wracking. I never expected this. I knew it was going to be big, but the stadium was jam packed; the people came out and supported me and I really appreciate this.”

The death of his close friend, Olympic high jump silver medallist Germaine Mason in April, had a massive impact on him, forcing him to take time away from track to grieve, he said.

“After my friend's death it was really hard for me,” he said. “I have never been through something like this before. My coach gave me time off and he let me take my time to get back and to get back focused, so the two weeks was kinda rough. But I know what I had to do, as Germaine would not want me to miss my moment, and I just came out and executed.”

Bolt got off to a ragged start but caught the modest field midway through the race and won going away, as Jevaughn Minzie was second in 10.15 seconds and Nickel Ashmeade third in 10.18 seconds.

Bolt's farewell race almost overshadowed a world-leading and South African record 19.84 seconds (1.2m/s) run by Wayde Van Niekirk.

The South African World Record holder in the 400m, who will be attempting the 200m/400m double at the IAAF World Championships in London in August, was imperious in the half-lap race as he dragged Commonwealth Games champion Rasheed Dwyer in 20.11 seconds, and World and Olympic Games medallist Warren Weir in 20.18 seconds, two season's best performances.

Van Niekerk's time beat his previous best 19.94 seconds set in Luzern two years ago, and replaced the 19.85 seconds set by US NCAA champion Christian Coleman a month ago.

Demish Gaye continued his assault on the men's 400m, running yet another personal best and running away from the field to stop the clock at 44.73 seconds, tied for fifth in the world.

Two Trinidad and Tobago runners, Lelonde Gordon in 45.18 seconds and former World Junior champion Machel Cedeno in 45.57 seconds, were second and third, respectively.

American Allyson Felix, who is also expected to attempt the 200m/400m double in London, and who was competing in Kingston for the second time in a month, dominated the women's 400m, winning in a season's best 50.52 seconds, going out hard over the first 200m and then holding on to edge compatriot Courtney Okolo with 50.72 seconds, with Nigeria's Margaret Bamoose third in 51.79 seconds.

World Record holder David Rudisha was upset by his Kenyan compatriot Willy Tarbei in the 800m, passed on the inside just before they got to the finish line.

Tarbei ran 1 minute, 44.86 seconds with Rudisha a step behind in 1:44.90 minutes, and American Erik Sowinski third in 1:45.27 minutes.

World Championships and Olympic games gold medallist Mo Farah of Great Britain won the 3,000m in 7 minutes 41.20 seconds, sprinting to the line ahead of Australian Patrick Tierman in 7:41.62 minutes, with Kemoy Campbell lowering the Jamaican record for the second time in a week in third place in 7:41.87 minutes.

Americans Quincy Downing and Shamir Little won the men's and women's 400m hurdles, respectively.

Downing was booed by the fans for his wild celebrations after he won in 48.13 seconds, getting to the line ahead of two-time World Junior champion Jaheel Hyde in 48.82 seconds with another American, Johnny Dutch third in 49.00 seconds.

Little, the World Championships silver medallist in Beijing, China, in 2015 a year after winning the World Junior Championships, won her race in 54.21 seconds, well off her 53.44-second season's best.

Delilah Muhammed, also of the USA, was second in 54.59 seconds, with Jamaica's Ristananna Tracey third in 54.61 seconds.

American Jenna Prandini won the women's 200m in 22.57 seconds (0.3m/s), beating fellow American Kimberlyn Duncan in 22.61 seconds, and the Bahamian Antonique Strachan third in 22.84 seconds.

World and Olympic champion Christian Taylor easily won the men's triple jump with 17.20m (1.6m/s), with Donald Scott also of the USA taking second with 16.78m (0.1m/s), and Jamaica's Wilbert Walker third in 16.33m (1.0m/s).

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