Sunday, Aug 21, 2016

Rio de Janeiro: The legacy of Usain Bolt, who proved sky is the limit for him with his ‘triple triple’ in Rio, will continue even after his retirement in near future, feels a top official of Jamaican Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA).

Speaking to Gulf News in an informal chat at the Olympic Stadium, the hub of track and field action in Rio 2016 earlier this week, Dr Warren Blake, President of the Jamaican athletics body said: “Bolt has really taken the image of our athletics to a different level. There are, however, a clutch of promising names coming up through the ranks who can carry on the flag,” said the head of the federation which has given the world the best of men and women sprinters over the past decade.

The domain of US sprinters had been overtaken by the tiny island in the Caribbean, with Bolt, Yohan Blake, senior pro Asafa Powell and the likes of Shelley Fraser-Price among women making it virtually a monopolistic rule in the Olympics as well as World’s ever since the Beijing Games.

“This actually hasn’t happened overnight. While the natural athleticism of the children has certainly helped, we had put a long term programme in place where young talents are spotted through the sports schools as well as college level,” Dr Blake noted.

Pointing out to a strapping Keymar Bailey Cole, a member of the Jamaican 4×100 metres relay heats who was walking across the track after the qualifiers on the day of the interview, the Jamaican official said: “You will hear more about this runner in future. Then there is Nicole Ellis, who recently did 10.18 sec in 100m — we are pinning a lot hopes on them.”

“See, Bolt is different as apart from his superhuman feats, he also engages the crowd. However, we are conscious of the fact this generation will quit the scene by next year and we already have the next group of promising runners in the pipeline. The success of Elaine Thompson (who completed a sensational double with both women’s 100m and 200m golds) in Rio is an example of the potential of our next generation,” he noted. Thompson, who

became the first woman to complete the sprint double since the inimitable ‘Flo-Jo’ at the 1988 Games, is the carrier of a rich legacy of the likes of Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell.

The success rate of the Jamaican sprinters have often spawned reports that the internal doping control procedure of the island is not strong enough — something which may again gain ground after the nation’s heroics here. Asked about it, Dr Blake said: “Please remember that our athletes are constantly under scanner of the international bodies because of the success rate. Only recently, an independent delegation of the IAAF had visited our country for random tests.”

The success of their athletes, the official says, has virtually made it’s popularity overtake cricket- something which Jamaica was historically synonymous with. “Bolt is now the biggest ambassador of our island but we haven’t been able to overtake football — which is now the No. 1 sport,” he revealed.

Surprisingly enough, the athletes’ exploits have not necessarily translated into a huge sponsorship benefits as yet. “We have a good tie-up with Pumas but we can certainly do with some more sponsorship,” he added.

By Gautam Bhattacharyya Sports Editor

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