BIRMINGHAM, England — For Kemar Bailey-Cole, competing at the Commonwealth Games has brought him full circle after an eight-year spell of injuries and illnesses that threatened to end a career that at one point saw the towering sprinter being hailed as one of the island's most promising sprinters.
Bailey-Cole, who at his best clocked 9.92 seconds in London in 2015, easily secured safe passage to the semi-finals of the 100m after his second-place finish in the heats yesterday at Alexander Stadium, where he clocked 10.15 seconds.
The 30-year-old was thrilled to be back representing in an individual event in national colours and shared with the Jamaica Observer that his determination and ambition were what kept him going even when it seemed he would never recover his career.
"It means a lot to be back here, words can't even express it. You know, it's been eight years since I've worn the Jamaican colours [in an individual event] and it just means a lot. To see some of my friends from my younger years saying the same thing and congratulating me and telling me welcome back and stuff, was special," said Bailey-Cole.
The 2014 Commonwealth Games champion has had to fight his way back from severe hamstring injuries and was also badly affected by the chikungunya and Zika viruses a few years ago.
"It has just been a lot of injuries, hamstring injuries back-to-back plus a lot of Illnesses. I have been through Zika, CHIKV and I caught COVID-19 last year, so it has been a lot; a whole a lot that I have had to deal with. It was mainly the sicknesses that kept me out because, when I got those sicknesses, they messed with my muscles and respiratory system and so on," shared Bailey-Cole.
The sprinter shared that through all his struggles, he refused to give up, having committed to continue his push for an individual medal at the World Championships or Olympics level.
Bailey-Cole has 4x100m relay gold medals from the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games in London and Rio de Janeiro, respectively, after competing in the first round of the event and featured in the final as Jamaica also won gold at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.
His lone individual medal at the senior international level came at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where his 10.00 seconds clock landed him at the top of the podium. He also ended that Games with another 4x100m relay gold medal.
"As you know I won in 2014, so I'm familiar with the zone and competing here at the Commonwealth Games. It's not really a pressure thing though, I just went out there to get through the round as safely as possible," said Bailey-Cole, who also shared that he was somewhat surprised with how good he felt in his heat.
"It was a little surprising because I haven't trained since I was in Oregon at the World Championships for the relays so that was a little bit surprising, but I also know that I'm in good shape to run," he said.
Conroy Jones also won his heat in 10.28 seconds to book his spot in today's semi-finals at 7:10 pm (1:10 pm Jamaica time), while Nigel Ellis, 10.41, missed out after a third-place finish in his heat.