It was dubbed ‘Salute to a Legend’ and that’s precisely what the 35,000-strong crowd did after Usain Bolt won the 100m at the Racers Grand Prix on Saturday (10).
Minutes before the fireworks lit up the clear night sky, the multiple world and Olympic champion shared centre stage with sprint relay colleagues Jevaughn Minzie and Nickel Ashmeade in a sentimental and symbolic 100m race.
Bolt, competing in his season opener and his final race in Jamaica, showed signs of race rustiness early on, allowing training partner Minzie to get a jump start. However, midway he bolted into the fray, in his inimitable way, then zoomed away from the field for a comfortable win in 10.03 (0.2).
Incidentally, Bolt’s first ever international 100m race some 10 years ago produced the same time. It was, of course, almost half a second shy of his 9.58 world record from 2009, but having missed a block of training following the death of his friend Germaine Mason, Bolt wasn’t overly concerned with what the clock said.
“It was one of my worst races,” he said. “My execution wasn’t all that great. I wasn’t worried about the time; I just wanted to compete in front of my fans.”
IAAF President Sebastian Coe attended the meeting and paid tribute to a man who will leave an incredible lasting legacy in athletics.
“I am here just to thank someone who has changed the face of our sport, and has encouraged so many young people to our sport, and the journey now has to continue,” said Coe.
“This is an extraordinary career that is coming to a close and we are very excited, of course, that that career will close fittingly in a World Championships stadium. If you look at his record, everywhere and everything that he (Bolt) has done, he has always been the best.”
On a warm night for sprinting, the international men’s 100m held earlier in the evening provided an acid test for the contenders to the soon-to-be-vacated throne of the world’s fastest man. South African record-holder Akani Simbine, who has already bettered the 10-second barrier six times this season and won at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha, found 2011 world champion Yohan Blake in a no-nonsense mood.
Blake rocketed out of the blocks and sped away from the field en route to a 9.97 (0.6m/s) victory, delighting the vociferous home crowd. Simbine took second place in 10.00 followed by Keston Bledman in 10.22.