KINGSTON, Jamaica, CMC – Superstar Usain Bolt’s final appearance before his home crowd ended on a high, as he won a special 100 metres event dubbed “Salute to a Legend” at the Racers Grand Prix here Saturday night.
The 30-year-old, who will wind up a remarkable career following August’s IAAF World Championships in London, appeared rusty but said goodbye in style to his home fans estimated at nearly 30 000 at the National Stadium.
For once, his winning time of 10.03 seconds did not matter as Bolt soaked up the significance of the moment on a track that over the years played host to the greatest sprinter of all time.
“I don’t think I have ever been that nervous to run the 100 metres,” Bolt said afterwards.
“Just the atmosphere and the people. The support they came out and gave me, it was really nerve-wracking.”
He continued: “There is no words. From World Juniors to now I have always been getting great support from Jamaica.
“I never thought I would ever reach this height in track and field. My only aim was to be a 200 metre Olympic champion.
“I have done all I have done. Being a legend now is something big. But I couldn’t have done it without the support of my parents.”
In what marked his season-opener, Bolt was away slowly from the blocks but found his usual mid-race acceleration to haul in the early leaders and cross the line first.
Jamaicans Jhevaughn Minzie (10.14) and Nikel Ashmeade (10.18) followed Bolt across the line.
Bolt celebrated with a lap of honour, kissed the track before striking his trademark ‘Lightning Bolt’ pose much to the delight of fans.
IAAF president Sebastian Coe, who attended the meet, said Bolt had left an indelible mark on 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,” Coe said.
“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 has done, he has always been the best.” The farewell for the eight-time Olympic gold medallist overshadowed proceedings and fans could be forgiven for not noticing South African Wayde Van Niekerk’s world-leading 19.84 seconds in the 200 metres.
Jamaican Yohan Blake also shone, winning the marquee 100 metres in a time of 9.97 seconds, to beat the impressive South African record-holder Akani Simbine who was timed at 10 seconds in finishing second.
Trinidadian Keston Bledman crossed the line third in 10.22.
In the corresponding women’s event, Trinidad and Tobago’s Kelly-Ann Baptiste took the line first in 11.13 seconds, with American Jenna Prandini finishing a close second in 11.16.
In the men’s 400 metres, Jamaican Demish Gaye produced an upset to beat Olympic finalist Machel Cedenio of Trinidad and Tobago in a personal best time of 44.73.