media_artricles :: 2017
Bolt of inspirationFazeer Mohammed :: Trinidad Express :: 12.06.2017
It's 11.15 on Saturday night and Usain Bolt has just run the final competitive race in his homeland. As expected he wins and wins handsomely, the flash time of 9.65 seconds too good to be true as it is officially recorded as 10.03.
Of course the time doesn't really matter to the adoring people of Jamaica who have packed the National Stadium to bid an official and boisterous farewell to the man who has done more than anyone since Bob Marley to project the green, gold and black in a positive light to the world.
Yet as he prepares now for the grand finale to the staggering career of the greatest sprinter who ever lived – at the World Championships in August in London – it is a measure of Bolt's stature in the sport internationally that Sebastian Coe, a double Olympic champion in his own right, was there in Kingston to pay tribute in his capacity as the head of the IAAF and that Mohammad Farah, a quadruple Olympic champion for Great Britian, was among the horde of photographers surrounding the big man as he made his final lap of honour, recording the moment like any other star-struck fan.
He will not be lost completely to athletics after August but the incomparable Jamaican will be missed on the track where his unparalleled excellence and endearing charisma have been a constant stream of brilliant light for over a decade amid the gloom of widespread cheating among athletes and administrative misdemeanours.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Bolt has been the saviour of athletics at a time when there is so much to discredit it.
Of course it goes without saying that he is an inspiration, not just to the next crop of Jamaican athletes but all in the Caribbean who seek to make their own mark on the world stage.
In fact, his is an example worthy of emulation in all competitive spheres of regional life: working extremely hard, demanding nothing less than 100 per cent commitment and never being satisfied with what has already been achieved.
Just 24 hours before we had watched the West Indies men's cricketers reach another low point against Afghanistan in what has been a protracted period of wretched performances.
And the day before that it was the national men's footballers on show, battling against the United States in the Colorado altitude only to spoil all that work with errors which further damage any prospect of getting to next year's World Cup finals in Russia.
Is it unfair to compare the individual brilliance of a once-in-a-lifetime athlete with two teams that continue to be bedevilled by all sorts of internal and external struggles and challenges? Why?
Has any single one of these cricketers and footballers taken the time to read or watch or otherwise appreciate the amount of work that Bolt has put in for almost two decades to achieve his supreme levels of performance from a schoolboy phenomenon to the greatest of all time?
It's the same with all of these contemporary global sporting superstars. We see the successes, are envious of the riches and the adulation and the bling, yet pay scant attention to the extreme effort and relentless dedication behind the scenes which make all of those eye-catching fringe benefits possible.
In the world of elite sport there is little tolerance for mistakes and excuses, especially when they are repeatable offences.
Captain Jason Holder's hope that the embarrassment experienced at the hands of the Afghans, and more specifically leg-spinner Rashid Khan, in St Lucia would serve as a wake-up call is essentially an admission that the lowly-ranked opponents were taken for granted.
Yet why would the West Indies, a team not good enough to qualify for the Champions Trophy, a team that despite its rich history and pedigree will now more than likely have to go through a qualifying phase for the next World Cup, be complacent against anyone?
Former national defender Dennis Lawrence has rightfully earned respect and admiration for his work as head coach, his attempts to instil discipline and his sincere assessment of the task at hand.
It is honest of him to acknowledge the mistakes that resulted in both American goals and maybe even a bit surprising that he would actually identify key players giving the ball away in critical areas that put the defence under pressure.
Yet these are not earth-shattering revelations. Why do they keep happening? Is he going to be saying the same thing after tomorrow night's game in Costa Rica?
And where or when have we seen Usain Bolt make excuses or make the same mistake more than once in all his years of world-class competition? Even when it's over his career will remain and object lesson. Who is really prepared to follow it though?
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BOLTING HOME: Jamaica's Usain Bolt competes in the "Salute to a Legend" 100 metres during the Racers Grand Prix at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica, Saturday. Bolt was making his final appearance on home soil as plans to retire from track and field after the London World Championships in August. --Photo: AP