Jamaican sprint superstar Usain Bolt fired to victory in the 100m in Ostrava on Wednesday in a modest 10.06 seconds, in what was his first appearance in Europe in his farewell season.
“I love this crowd’s high energy. That’s why I come back here. I love you,” said Bolt, in his ninth appearance in the northeastern Czech city.
“I’m not happy with the time, but I’m getting into it.”
Bolt, winner of eight Olympic and 11 world gold medals, will bring down the curtain on his glittering career at August’s world championships in London.
He again proved to have not lost any of his showman’s charisma as he played to the sell-out 15,000-capacity crowd at the Mestsky Stadium when introduced in hot, humid weather.
The field was a kind one for Bolt, only Jak Ali Harvey, previously of Jamaica but now representing Turkey, having gone below 10sec.
Starting in lane five, Bolt was somewhat tardy in getting up and out of the blocks, the 100 and 200m world record holder easily matched by Cuban Yunier Perez outside him over the opening half of the race.
As the crowd roared, so Bolt responded as he has so many times before, moving into his famed “drive phase”, head coming slowly up as part of the process that unleashes the full power from his long legs.
For a flash moment, Perez looked like he might have had the better of the towering Jamaican, but it was not to be as Bolt powered home with a knowing look across to the Cuban from 20 metres out.
Bolt ripped through the finish line, eyes glued on the stadium’s big screen at the end of the 100m track.
Perez came in second in a personal best of 10.09sec, with Bolt’s winning time far off his world record of 9.58sec, set back at the Berlin world championships in 2009.
The Jamaican has consistently been a beacon for clean athletes amid doping and corruption scandals that mired Sebastian Coe’s first couple of years in office as IAAF president.
His absence from the sport will leave a void that will be tough to fill, as shown by the hero’s send-off he was afforded by the Ostrava crowd after the Jamaican anthem was played.
Provided by AFP
Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt insists this “emotional” season will indeed be his last, bringing the curtain down on a glittering career which galvanised track and field at a time of doping and corruption scandals.
Bolt has won eight Olympic and 11 world gold medals in his career, but importantly was the outgoing, larger-than-life personality on whom athletics administrators could rely for a positive slant, an athlete widely recognised globally.
Asked whether he might carry on after this season, Bolt said: “No, I don’t think so!
“It’s just been a great career, I’ve really enjoyed the ups and downs, all the experience I’ve gathered, all I’ve been through, the happiness and the sadness.
“It’s been a wonderful career and I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do and it’s coming to an end and I’m fine with it.”
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s IAAF World Challenge meet in the northeastern Czech city of Ostrava, Bolt admitted that the season was an emotional one.
It started with a home swansong in Kingston before taking Ostrava, the Diamond League meet in Monaco in July and the World Athletics Championships in London.
“It’s an emotional season. I’m looking forward to going out there and putting on a show for the fans for the last time because they look forward to it,” said Bolt.
“Right now personally, I’m just focused on getting through the season. I just like entertaining the crowd. I definitely want to try and enjoy ever minute of it – it won’t be the same sat in the stadium.
“The fact that I know it’s that last time it will be emotional, just seeing it and feeling, being around people and athletes, sitting in the meal room around everybody, joking and laughing about old times, it’ll be emotional.”
Bolt, 30, confirmed that he would not be competing in the 200m in London, but left the door open to a further finale being added to his programme.
“For sure I won’t be running the 200m” at the worlds, he said. “People keep asking, but no.”
Turning to any possible events after London, he said: “I’ve discussed with my coach (Glen Mills) what he thinks I should do, whether I end my season after the world championships, we haven’t fully made up our mind on what we’re doing yet.
“We’ll see what happens, I’m not worrying about that until the world championships or at least getting close to it.”
One of his potential rivals in London will be former doping cheat Justin Gatlin, who has maintained his late bloom, last week winning the US national championships at the age of 35.
“I was shocked he actually won, just because how quick young kids were running,” said Bolt, 30.
“As older athletes in the sport, we have a lot of experience and know how to go through the rounds.
“But I was kind of shocked he came out victorious. It shows that Justin Gatlin is a competitor and he shows year after year that he is not to be taken lightly. I’m looking forward to competition, always.”
Despite the void Bolt will leave, the Jamaican was confident for the doping-mired sport, with Sebastian Coe leading the purge as head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
“The sport has been going through a lot in the past couple of years, but I think you have to go through your worst time to your best. Seb Coe’s doing a good job, they’re really trying to make track and field as transparent as possible, they’re using the independent doping system, so it will run a lot more smoothly,” Bolt said.
“The competition’s getting better, there are youngsters coming through, so the only problem we really have is doping.
“If we can control that problem, then track and field will be in the right neck of the woods and it will be going forward. When people can really start trusting track and field consistently then it will get better and we will be able to stand up with other sports. Over time it will get better.”
Usain Bolt has no regrets as he prepares to hang up his spikes in August and says he is looking forward to watching the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a spectator.
“For me it will just be a joy,” the world’s fastest man told AFP on Thursday. “It will be a joy to sit back and watch it and remember, and get that feeling about all those athletes competing at the Olympics.
“I look forward to just being an outsider and helping anyway I possibly can.”
The reigning Olympic and World champion in the 100m and 200m will run his last race on Jamaican soil at the second annual Racers Grand Prix on Saturday at the National Stadium in Kingston.
Bolt has four events left before retirement – this weekend’s Kingston meet, Ostrava on June 28, Monaco on July 21 and the August 4-13 World Championships in London.
Bolt, 30, drew the curtain down on his Olympic career in August by sweeping the 100m and 200m sprint titles for a third successive Summer Games.
He has a reputation as a free spirit and as a prankster and that joy of life – which comes out in his victory celebrations – will be on display Saturday for what he intends to be a party.
“For me I am going to miss the crowd,” says Bolt, who is known for his signature lightning pose in Olympic stadiums after winning gold. “I enjoy playing with the crowd and the high energy. That is what I will miss about track and field.”
A who’s who of track and field stars will pay tribute at the Racers in an emotional Jamaican farewell for Bolt, who many deem to be the greatest sprinter of all time.
Usain Bolt runs for the last time in Jamaica on Saturday.— BBC 5 live Sport (@5liveSport) June 8, 2017
The Jamaican Prime Minister says Bolt will leave a great legacy in athletics... pic.twitter.com/P8EIUOOiWo
Jamaica is considered the sprint capital of the world over successive Olympics and World Championships and the National Stadium is the venue where Bolt launched his international career, competing and winning as a 15-year old at the World Junior Games in 2002.
“The last time in front of my home crowd. I know it will be loud,” he said.