'Hard to say goodbye' ... Stewart emotional after final race in Jamaica
As she walked through the Marathon Tunnel at the National Stadium for the very last time as a competitior last Saturday, veteran Jamaican sprinter Kerron Stewart had to fight hard to hold back the tears as the reality of her final race on home soil struck a chord.
It was the 34-year-old's first time competing in Jamaica since the National Championships in 2016.
Stewart, who finished second to double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson in the 100m event at the Jamaica International Invitational Meet, announced that she would be calling time on her career at the end of the season.
And as she graced the stadium, where she has won many battles since her days at St Jago High School, the memories came flooding back.
"This is my final race here at home. I am just happy I was able to come out here and perform well. Walking through the tunnel just now, it was very emotional. I had to really fight to keep it together because I know it will be the last time I walk through the stadium as a competitor," Stewart said.
"I have been competing here since I was a little girl, and the fans always come out to support. This is one of the things that will be difficult for me."
Stewart is among a handful of athletes who have won medals at all three stages of IAAF competitions. She won a silver medal in the 100m in 2001 at the now-defunct World Youth Championships. The following year, she joined forces with Sherone Simpson, Simone Facey and Anneisha McLaughlin to win the 4x100m relay inside the National Stadium.
At the senior level, she has won silver medals in the 100m at the Olympic Games and World Championship in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and has been a staple on the women's 4x100m team that has won multiple global titles.
'IT'S A GOOD LOOK'
Stewart, who has passed the peak of her career, could only manage 11.25 seconds on the night, but she was pleased with her performance.
"To be honest, when you line up with this calibre of athletes, it is not about the time. It is about the place, and that's what it was for me. Just coming out here against these girls, who I know I at least have five years on, it's a good look," Stewart said.
The former Auburn University student athlete says that she plans to dabble in a little bit of coaching when she hangs up her spikes.
"I plan to be one of the best coaches in the world. That is something I am definitely working towards. My experience alone as an athlete won't do, so I am trying to learn as much as I can from different coaches and just people who have been in the sport," Stewart said.
" ... You never really walk away from the sport. Jamaica has a huge talent pool, and the future is bright, so I definitely want to mentor and just to give back in that capacity in any way that I can because if you can teach somebody something, that is the best thing that you can do."