Thu | Jan 18, 2018

Hubert Lawrence | Shelly on watch at Racers Grand Prix

Published:Thursday | June 9, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Saturday's inaugural Racers Grand Prix is a special occasion. With the Jamaica International Invitational gone scarcely a month ago, the debut of this Racers showcase means Jamaica has two big international track and field meets. As far as l can tell, fans love the idea.

One lady fan told me on Friday that it meant that she now has three chances to see our top performers on local soil, namely, the Invitational, the Grand Prix and the National Senior Championships. She and many others are clearly loving the prospect. It doesn't hurt that the incomparable Usain Bolt will run this year in the latter two.

In a way, the Grand Prix replaces the now defunct New York Diamond League meet where Bolt set his first world record. It occupies the corresponding early-June slot on the calendar and releases Americas-based athletes from having to go all the way to Norway to seek high-level competition in the same week at the Oslo Diamond League meet. With a meet in Kingston or New York, they can whiz back to home base in no time.


Win-win situation


For those athletes and fans here, it's a win-win situation.

In a back-handed way, the co-existence of both meets is a sign of Jamaica's financial strength. Big meets aren't cheap. Getting stars like Tyson Gay, Brianna Rollins, Shaunae Miller, English Gardner and Francena McCorory as the Invitational did; and Grand Prix front-liners Wayde van Nierkerk and LaShawn Merritt, takes some financial doing. Hopefully, the money muscle will stay the course so both meets can flourish.

Bolt, van Nierkerk and Merritt will hold the gaze of many on Saturday.

That's understandable even though the latter two meet at 300 and not 400 metres.

Bolt's high-speed face-off with Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell is a race I never thought I'd see until the National Championships. That's a real coup by the organisers.

For all of that, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will probably be the focus of the most fan interest at the Grand Prix. Sadly, this little empress of sprinting has been battling injury as she prepares to defend her Olympic 100-metre title.

Win, lose or draw on Saturday, if her return to form appears on track, the many fans of the MVP Track Club star will breathe a sigh of relief.

Fraser-Pryce has done as much as anyone to establish Jamaica as the ruling power in sprinting. Even with Elaine Thompson emerging, it would be unprecedented if the 2008 and 2012 Olympic 100-metre winner could recover in time to become the first to win that gold medal three times.

Will she be fit enough in time for the Nationals and for Rio? Or will an injured toe stand between her and sporting immortality?

The inaugural Racers Grand Prix will begin to provide the answers to those questions.

• Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.