Sports

Olympic stars gather to salute the legend – Usain Bolt

BY DWAYNE RICHARDS
OBSERVER WRITER

Friday, May 12, 2017

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Usain Bolt, who is undoubtedly the king of track and field and the most dominant male sprinter in the world since 2008, will hang up his spikes at the end of the season.While most people are urging the legend to continue, he has reiterated his intention to call it quits after the World Championships in London, England, in August. Speculation is rife as to who will ascend to Bolt's throne, but before that, Jamaica and the world will get to see him perform one last time on Jamaican soil.

The three-time Olympic sprint champion over 100m and 200m bids farewell to his Jamaican fans at the second staging of the JN/Racers Grand Prix on Saturday, June 10. Bolt will be joined by a number of local and international stars at this stellar event where a number of Olympic and world champions will also be on show.

When Bolt goes into the blocks around 9:30 pm Jamaica time, it is guaranteed that the entire track world, including those at the National Stadium, will be anticipating another glorious moment from the greatest sprinter of all time. Possibly challenging, the 'legend' lines up against sub-10 king Asafa Powell, Zharnel Hughes of Great Britain, Antigua and Barbuda sprint sensation Miguel Francis, and Trayvon Bromell of the USA, plus six other.

The women's 100m will also have a stellar line-up. Olympic double sprint champion from the Rio Games Elaine Thompson, who became the first Jamaican woman to win gold in both the 100m and 200m at the Olympics, will do battle with Nigerian Blessings Okagabare and American English Gardener

A legend in his own right, Britain's most successful Olympian, long distance star Mo Farah will grace the National Stadium in Kingston Jamaica for the very first time. Farah won the 5,000 and 10,000m at the 2012 Olympic Games and defended both titles in 2016.

There is a great deal of respect between Farah and Bolt, as was seen by the Farah-like celebrations performed by Bolt after anchoring Jamaica to gold in the 4x100m at the London Olympics in 2012.

Other international stars coming in for the event include Olympic and World 800m champion David Rudisha. The Kenyan won World Championships gold in Daegu in 2011 before winning Olympic Gold in London in 2012. He won gold at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing after failing to defend his title in 2013 and then went on to Brazil in fine form where he defended his Olympic title.

South African Wayde van Niekerk, the world and Olympic champion and also the world record holder over 400m, returns to Jamaica's shores after his stunning victory in Brazil where he set the record of 43.03s. Local hero Javon Francis, along with the likes of the upcoming Demish Gaye, will run against van Niekerk.

Puerto Rican Javier Culson, who has won medals at the Olympic Games and World championships, is no stranger to running in Jamaica and he will have his hands full with local stars Annsert Whyte and World Youth Champion Jaheel Hyde in the 400m hurdles.

On the women's side, Ristananna Tracey has rediscovered her form over the 400m hurdles and will be looking to pick up where she left off last season when she qualified for her first Olympic Games. There is just a matter of taking on the Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad of the USA who was impressive in winning gold in Brazil.

The women's sprint hurdles is building as something really special. World champion Danielle Williams will be looking to get over missing the Olympics after hitting the hurdles and crashing out at the National Trials last year. She competes against Australian Sally Pearson, who is on the way back after a series of injures stymied her illustrious career, as well as American Skarika Nelvis, among others.

Hansle Parchment, who had to withdraw from the Rio Games through injury, is on the mend and he will be testing to see exactly where he is at. The Olympic bronze medallist from London is working his way back into form and full fitness and will no doubt want to impress the home fans.

Shericka Jackson can now claim the title as Jamaica's new 400m queen after back-to-back bronze medal performances at the World Championships in Beijing 2015 and the Olympic Games in Rio 2016. In just about a month's time, she can expect a fierce challenge from American veteran Francena McCorory who has won a number of relay gold medals for her country.

Fedrick Dacres leads the charge in the men's discus for Jamaica at the Racers Grand Prix, and after a disappointing maiden Olympic Games he is eager to turn the tables this season. Bigger and faster in the circle, Dacres has impressed in the discus thus far this season.

The night, however, will belong to Bolt — win, lose or draw. With eight Olympic gold medals and 11 World Championships gold medals spanning three Olympic Games and four World Championships, the 30-year-old is sure to be teary eyed when he takes off his spikes for the final time at the National Stadium. This is the same venue when, as a precocious teenager, he performed that now famous salute when he became the youngest person to win the 200m at the World Junior Championships in 2002.

The track and field world has not been the same since the arrival of the Bolt and will not be the same after his departure.

JN Racers Grand Prix takes place on Saturday, June 10, 2017 at the National Stadium.

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