Bolt concerned about Jamaica's athletics future after recent decline

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

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JAMAICA'S sprint great Usain Bolt says he has “a lot of concerns” regarding the country's future on the track after a noticeable fall-off since his retirement in 2017.

Bolt believes that while the talent is ever present in the island — which has a long sprint tradition — lack of motivation could be one of the problems.

“I've a lot of concerns also. A lot of these athletes I think it's much easier now for them. When we were coming up it was a struggle, we didn't get big contracts when we left high school,” he told reporters yesterday when questioned after a press conference in which he announced his endorsement to Special Olympics Jamaica ahead of that body's participation at the 2019 Abu Dhabi Games.

The 32-year-old Bolt did justice to the hype he enjoyed as an outstanding youth athlete when he clocked 9.72 seconds to claim the senior men's 100-metre world record in New York in 2008. That same year he lowered the time to 9.69 at the Beijing Olympic Games. At those Games, he shattered Michael Johnson's 200m record, stopping the clock at 19.30.

He won eight Olympic Games gold medals during a career that has seen him remain the world record holder in the 100m (9.58) and 200m (19.19) events. He has also claimed 11 IAAF World Championships gold medals.

Jamaica took home only four medals — a gold, claimed by 110m hurdler Omar McLeod, and three bronze — at the 2017 Games in London.

The next World Championships is slated for Doha, Qatar from September 28 through October 6.

Bolt won bronze in his penultimate race — the men's 100m — before pulling up with a hamstring injury just as he began to hit top speed in his final event, the 4x100m relay.

Even before his retirement, Jamaicans have been searching for a heir apparent.

Yohan Blake, the 2012 Olympic Games sprint double silver medallist and 2011 IAAF World Championships 100m winner, has not been the same since a major hamstring injury a few seasons ago, and at 29, many experts believe his best days are behind him.

Kemar Bailey-Cole, also plagued by fitness doubts, has not lived up to the potential of several seasons ago.

A number of prospects have starred at the high school level, but have not really kicked on, leaving the cabinet looking rather bare in the sprint department.

“I think a lot of the athletes aren't motivated any more. When they leave high school and they get a big contract they are happy with whatever.

“I'm seeing it a lot throughout the years but when they get to the senior level they are not motivated enough and they don't work hard enough to get to the level of a Usain Bolt or a Shelly-Ann Fraser and those guys,” he reiterated.

And still, Bolt remains optimistic things could improve.

“For me, hopefully these athletes can motivate themselves because we are not lacking talent, we have a lot of that,” he told reporters.

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