Bye bye Bolt

Usain Bolt deserved a better exit. But even a bronze at the IAAF World Athletics Championships is no less a feat for the Jamaican sprinter who had little to prove. He leaves the 100 metres track with an enviable haul of medals and laurels.

And no one is likely to even match the track record of the athlete, who will turn 31 this month, anytime soon. American sprinter Justin Gatlin, who spoiled what could have been Bolt’s sprint to a glorious adieu, cannot but admire the sprinter.

Bolt had upset Gatlin’s applecart at the world athletics championships in 2015. He had done so after returning to form after a difficult phase recovering from a hamstring injury that threatened to shorten his career.

Bolt’s rise from a humble background as the son of a coffee industry worker, who now runs a grocery in his native village Tralawny, is an inspiring example of the importance that the Island nation in the Caribbean Sea has given to not only sport but music too. Bolt has himself said that his physical strength developed from carrying heavy loads of water for miles as a child.

The rate at which Jamaica is producing world champion athletes has earned it the sobriquet ‘the sprint factory’ and Bolt was one of most promising of sportspersons it produced — someone who became the most celebrated Jamaican after Bob Marley, the reggae musician.

The Inter-Secondary School Sports Association Championship, which is known to Jamaicans as Champs, had a key role to play in producing successful athletes such as Bolt for Jamaica.

The event is said to bring together youngsters aged 12 to 19 from schools around the country and alumni from around the world besides sportswear manufacturers who scout for rising stars to endorse their brands. For many children the sports meet is a way out of poverty and getting themselves a proper education.

For a country that faces high unemployment, low average annual income and high rates of crime, it is a way to better life. Interestingly, the government has very little role in the growth of sportspersons in the poverty ridden nation of Jamaica. It is the endeavour of the average child that creates the star for tomorrow. While poverty drives them to excel, it makes us Indians cringe from perfection.

That nation offers a case study for countries such as India to learn from and to improve its own crop of sportspersons. Although India, too, has its set of events for spotting talent, world-beating athletes are yet to emerge in this country. The biggest positive message that Bolt leaves behind as a legacy is that his achievements have not depended on performance enhancing drugs.

The fact that Gatlin was booed by the audience at the stadium despite his victory and Bolt was cheered despite coming third at the 100 metre dash goes to show the respect the latter has earned for keeping the competition clean. Bolt took his sport and team coach Dwayne Jarrett seriously when it mattered although he was the fun-loving, easy-going, showman off the track.

The understanding between Jarrett and Bolt and the freedom that each allowed the other was important in Bolt’s achievements. Perhaps, there is a lesson or two for the Indian cricket team embroiled in constant controversies over coaches to learn from this relationship.

As the world’s fastest man leaves the stage open for upcoming runners such as 21-year-old Christian Coleman, he leaves behind the lightning pose and a host of scintillating performances for the world to remember him by.

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