'I am here to fill the gap!'
As Bolt bids farewell, Blake signals intention to take reins with 9.97secsSunday, June 11, 2017
BY HOWARD WALKER
Sprint legend Usain Bolt made an audacious entrance into the National Stadium to raucous applause from a packed venue as he bid goodbye to local fans at the JN Racers Grand Prix last night.
Bolt arrived at approximately 8:15 pm, into an open-top SUV and just like a regal king, he waved to his adoring subjects.
The tribute then poured in from his coach Glen Mills, NACAC president Victor Lopez, IAAF president Sebastian Coe, Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips and Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
Mills, who guided Bolt to global success, presented his star athlete with a gift.
“On behalf of the Racers family, I make this presentation to you. Long live Usain,” said Mills.
Phillips pointed out that Bolt was the best thing Jamaica has produced and was without a doubt the king of athletics. “He is our ambassador, the real big man,” he trumpeted.
Then Holness echoed the sentiments of all Jamaicans. “We gather here today to pay tribute for what he has contributed to the sport and this country,” said the prime minister.
Bolt, who had a race to run later last night, exited the Stadium in the same manner he entered, waving to the over 30,000 fans.
But before Bolt made his dramatic entrance, Yohan Blake showed that he is ready to take over the mantle from Bolt with a commanding win in the men's 100m in 9.97 seconds (0.6 mps).
South Africa's Akani Simbine in 10.00 seconds was second with Keston Bledman of Trinidad and Tobago third in 10.22. Jamaica's Commonwealth Games champion Kemar Bailey Cole was fourth in 10.23.
Blake, now 27 years old, got out quickest amd was never in trouble as he bounced elegantly — and even had time to ease down — looked across at the clock and was pleased.
“We are here for a food cause tonight is to celebrate Usain's farewell, but I am here to fill his gap,” said Blake.
Kelly-Ann Baptiste took the women's 100m in 11.13 (-0.8 mps) ahead of American Jenna Prandini in 11.16. Jamaica's 2015 World Championships finalist, Natasha Morrison, made a welcome return to form, finishing third in 11.26. Shashalee Forbes was fourth in 11.29. In the first international event, American Sharika Nelvis won the womens 100m hurdles (12.78 seconds) ahead of Jamaica's world champion Danielle Williams in 12.81. Australia's Olympic champion Sally Pearson led up to the second to last hurdle before fading into third with 12.83. Rio Olympic finalist Nia Ali of the USA was fourth in 13.02 with Jamaica's Megan Simmonds fifth with 13.16.
Nelvis, who has the meet record of 12.61, took charge midway the race and held off the charging Williams for a very good morale-boosting victory. Williams then had a brief message for Usain Bolt, “farewell and have fun”.
The emerging Ronald Levy showed that he is the real deal with a commanding victory in the men's 110m hurdles winning in 13.17 and had behind him America's Devon Allen second in 13.28 with Jamaica's Olympic bronze medallist, Hansle Parchment third in 13.34. Another Jamaican, Andrew Riley, the 2014 Commonwealth Games champion, was fourth in 13.44. It was a significant victory for Levy leading up to the Jamaica Championship with only Olympic champion Omar McLeod absent.
“The race tonight was to see where I am at and just to prepare me for the trials in two weeks' time. Winning is not the main thing now just executing my race,” said Levy, who is the second fastest in the world with a personal best of 13.10 set on May 27 at the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon, USA.
Earlier, Dawnalee Loney outbattled Junelle Bromfield in the development 400m event, winning in 52.05. Bromfield, the World Junior champion was just behind in 52.08. Bobby-Gaye Wilkins-Gooden closed late for third in 52.20. Then Martin Manley captured the men's equivalent in 46.25 with Jamari Rose second in 46.33.