Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Preparing the next Usain Bolt

Published:Wednesday | August 30, 2017 | 8:00 AMDr Paul Wright
Usain Bolt embraces his mother Jennifer Bolt and father Wellesley Bolt during his farewell ceremony at the recent IAAF World Championships in London.

The news that athletics' legend and national icon Usain St Leo Bolt will miss the Manchester United Legends match in Barcelona on September 2 concretises the fact that his hamstring injury will really take weeks, if not months, for full recovery.

It seems to be definite now that the king will not return to the track. Some of us - no, most of us - were hoping that there may be a slight chance of his return, but this injury setback and the realisation that he will not be able to play in Barcelona on Monday cause us to look to the future. What next? What can we expect from the 'sprint factory' that Jamaica has been since Beijing?

Already, we have E.T. (Elaine Thompson), who has proved to the world that when focused, victories will abound. On the men's side, Kemar Bailey Cole and Justin Forte seem to me to be next in line of continuing our sprinting dominance on the world stage. Michael O'Hara, DeJour Russell and Kevona Davis are potentials, but there has been many a slip between the 'cup and the lip' justifying our apprehension about the future.

 

THE OBVIOUS CONCLUSION

 

Usain Bolt was not only superhuman in his sprinting ability, he had charisma and a kind of 'kinky' humility that endeared him to everyone who came in contact with him, and that includes his fiercest rivals and critics. The obvious conclusion is that no one will ever be able to replace the 'King'.

What separates Usain from other local "wannabees" was his ability to accept fame and economic well-being while understanding and respecting his roots. Usain understood the importance of the country of his birth, the place where in his early years, gave him the platform to display his awesome talent.

Whenever the time came to represent 'us' at major assignments, (here, read Olympics and World Championships), he has run races that require a training regime that other have described as brutal. He has run different legs on relays when his coach suggests that not finishing the relay (the last leg) would be best for the country. His coach has revealed on national radio, the fact that there were times after world- shattering runs, when he retires to the treatment room in agonising pain, never revealing to the world and his adoring fans the toll that sub-10 and sub-20, 100 and 200m races takes on his tall and non-athletic frame.

 

ADEQUATELY COMPENSATED

 

Contrast that attitude with other local stars who, once reaching the 'top of the heap', suddenly develop 'issues' which prevent them performing for the land of their birth, the land that catapulted them to world prominence. We have witnessed what can only be described as 'medical miracles' as their recovery from "issues" seem to be just in time, enabling them to earn big bucks on the athletic circuit. I do understand that the 'lifespan' of an elite sprinter must be measured in months, not years, and therefore earning as much as possible, while young and fit, is necessary when considering the future.

Coaches and support staff MUST be adequately compen-sated for the work that goes into a victory on the track, but when cash takes precedence over country, that is what depresses me. The money that these athletes earn in a successful season is mind-boggling and can cause a kind of resentment from some administrators and previous athletic 'stars' who worked just as hard during their 'successful' careers, but now have to resort to hustling and the goodwill of others to make ends meet. That is why Usain's template of a successful athletic career seems to me to be too hard to follow and emulate.

But all is not doom and gloom. The island nation that has produced Usain St Leo Bolt, has in its inhabitants, parents like Usain's mother and father, coaches and mentors like the late Pablo McNeil and the now 'world's best', Glen Mills.

There are (potentially) other Usains in our midst. All it will take to bring them to the fore is parenting, identification, mentoring and coaching. We have done it before, we can do it again. All it needs is remembering how you came to be great (and rich) and respecting your roots ... the Usain Way.