Dubai: Legendary sprinter Usain Bolt might have retired from athletics, but his achievements still inspire the whole of Jamaica. As destiny would have it, his last name describes what it's like watching him dominate the track. From kids to adults to everyone, the Jamaican’s legacy has had a continuous impact on people’s lives. And, in return, he expects no less from any other athletes from the country.
Before leaving for the Special Olympics World Games, Jamaican sprinters Obrian McFarlane and Daeshawn Green received words of wisdom from Bolt at a send-off event. "He spoke to me just before I left for Abu Dhabi. He said I should go out and soak in the experience because it is the first time and hope I enjoy myself and all of my races. Well, I did and I’m going to do that," said Green.
For McFarland, the conversation with Bolt gave him the much-needed assurance that he can put his hands on the shiny yellow metal too. "I like the confidence in what he does and what he has taught the entire nation. The more he talks to me, the more I feel inspired,” the 24-year-old said. Who would have that Bolt’s words would inspire McFarlane and Green to win individual gold medals in the 200m event at the Dubai Police Stadium?
The Trelawny-born McFarlane hails from the same parish as Bolt and idolises him since he was in school. Watching videos of Bolt's triumphs in Beijing, London and Rio Olympic Games guided him to pick running as a sport to pursue. He attended the William Knibb Memorial High School, the same school where Bolt and another famous sprinter Michael Green graduated from. "I have a big picture of Bolt in my room,” said the 24-year-old, who has been sprinting since the age of 15. "We come from the same parish too. The best part is that his house is just about 30 minutes drive from my place,” he said with a wry smile.
Back in St Ann, the largest parish in Jamaica, McFarlane's close buddy Green would go to local events only watch Bolt train in various parts of the country. After all, he has always dreamt about gracing the track the way his idol did. "He is a wonderful person and very famous. I would run to watch him train before I came to Abu Dhabi. But I haven’t got a chance to run with him,” he quipped.
The Jamaican contingent in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consists of athletes from all over the country. "We have 14 parishes in Jamaica and our athletes come from literally everywhere,” said coach Andre Johnstone. "He wanted them to go out there and do their best and enjoy. And the culture and being there in Abu Dhabi and to just enjoy the event. He wanted them to win and go out there and do their best, also don’t forget to have fun,” he added.
Athletics has been very dear to the Jamaicans and that is why the Special Olympics means a lot not only for the athletes but also for the legacy it carries. "We have no doubt that we will continue to produce great athletes, great Usain Bolts and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Merlene Otteys. We’ve been going this for a very, very long time. We will continue doing that,” said Johnstone.
Bolt, the fastest man on earth, announced his retirement from athletics in 2017 at the IAAF Championships in London but since then, the world hasn't seen a promising sprinter as the undisputed king. “I’m disappointed that he is no longer running but I have to wait to see the next Olympics see who will take it so that I can go to work with that guy but right now, I’m still focusing on Bolt because although he has retired, we still have the confidence that he gave us," said McFarlane.
Not everyone can reach the pinnacle of the sport like how Bolt did. His record will stay for a long time. "I think it’s going to be a long time because the records that he set are too high so I don’t see anyone going 19 right now …even in Jamaica, I think someone can break the 100m record soon but not the 200. The 200m record is very difficult to break because you have to take a lot of speed and maintain it to go for it. going to stay for a long time," he concluded.
Elsewhere, India's 19-year-old Jitender Singh and 16-year-old Herojit Singh won 200m gold in two different men's division on Sunday.
The writer is in Abu Dhabi on an invitation from the UAE Government.
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Updated Date: Mar 18, 2019 20:07:28 IST