A major figure in Jamaica’s most dominant period in international track and field, iconic sprinter Usain Bolt, says he is disturbed by the state of the country’s male sprinting, heading into the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, in September.
Bolt, who retired in 2017 after the World Championships in London, is, however, backing the island’s female sprinters to continue their impressive showing at the top level, but believes it is embarrassing that the island has not been able to produce other male sprinters to pick up the mantle in recent years.
“For all the work we have done to uplift the sprinting and to prove a point and to uplift the country, it looks a way now. Now that I’ve walked away from the sport and no one is there to pick up the pieces or to keep the level, it’s embarrassing for the country,” said Bolt.
So far this season, only Yohan Blake (9.96 seconds) has gone below 10 seconds in the 100m among Jamaican male sprinters, and in 2018, no sprinter from the island registered a top-10 time in the event. Andre Ewars (20.14 seconds) is the fastest Jamaican in the 200m so far this year.
Akeem Bloomfield was the only Jamaican to dip below 20 seconds in the 200m last year, while Blake, Tyquendo Tracey and Ewars all went sub-10 seconds in the 100m in 2018 with times ranking from 26th to 54th in the world.
“Every time I see people, they say, ‘You need to put on back your spikes and come back. We need you.’ We have so much talent in Jamaica for us to have no one stepping up or even someone where we can say, this person is going to be great,” Bolt added.
Since 2008, Jamaica has won 21 of the combined 48 medals on offer in the men’s 100m and 200m at the three Olympic Games and five World Championships that took place over the period, cementing its reputation as the sprint capital of the world.
Bolt, who said he is expecting the Jamaican female sprinters to continue excelling, underlined their commitment to hard work and their constant pursuit of greatness as major factors behind their contrasting fortunes with the country’s male sprinters.
“For me, enuh, I think the females will do well. I personally think the females will do well. Again, back to the males, if we’re going to fall off, it would be on the male side, but I feel that the females will hold up their end and will do well. We’ll see what happens,” said Bolt.
Double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson and two-time Olympic champion and seven-time World Championships gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce are currently responsible for seven of the 10 fastest times in the 100m so far this season, including the 10.73 seconds world-leading mark.
Thompson’s 22.00seconds is also the fastest time this season in the 200m, with Fraser-Pryce’s 22.22 logging in at number eight.
“It’s the fact that females are smarter; I personally think that. Because they want to be great, they want to accomplish things in life so they work towards certain things. And for me, I said to Shelly the other day when she ran, I texted her, ‘Excellent job’. I like the fact that she changed her form, because normally she runs and leans forward, but now she runs upright. I was like, ‘Yo, you looking good and I’m proud of you.’ We had that conversation.
“The females, though, they want to be great. They want to do great things. They want to develop and go on to do big things. I don’t feel like the males are there,” said Bolt.