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Jamaicans toast living legend Bolt
KINGSTON—A tropical storm drenching parts of Jamaica couldn’t dampen the country’s joy yesterday over another record-breaking Olympic victory by Usain Bolt. As Bolt re-established his claim to the title of world’s fastest man at the London Olympic Games, thousands of his countrymen cheered him on in an athletics building on the grounds of the national stadium, other public viewing areas and thousands of living rooms as off-and-on gusty winds from the storm swept across the Caribbean country.
A crowd of roughly 500 people on the grounds of the national stadium cheered wildly as Bolt crossed the finish line of the 100-metre dash in 9.63 seconds, many dancing and chanting “Jamaica, Jamaica!” One woman dropped to the ground, crying with relieved joy. A group of drummers pounded out a pulsing beat. Nine-year-old Lois Miller was among a group of dancing, flag-waving children. “Jamaica No. 1! I knew it! I knew it,” she said breathlessly.
The intermittent rain and wind from Tropical Storm Ernesto forced the country to abandon plans for an outdoor viewing area at the Kingston stadium, but spectators managed to watch Bolt’s win in the semi-finals less than a minute before a fierce squall swept in and crews had to disassemble the stage and video monitors. “Bolt runs, the whole world shakes,” said Patricia Ebanks, a vendor in a jerk chicken stall set up outside the stadium.
At the Halfway Tree square in Kingston, several hundred people gathered at another outdoor viewing area that attracted hundreds Jamaicans, who stood in a slight drizzle to wave flags and bang kitchen pot lids and blow zuzuvelas. Many mimicked Bolt’s famous two-fingered victory pose. “Shot down the American dem, shot dem down big time. Lef’ dem fi dead,” said triumphant fan Roy Collins, speaking in Jamaican patois.
The Caribbean island is a hothouse for producing sprinters, and for weeks Jamaicans had enthusiastically debated whether Bolt or fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake would claim top honours. “It’s Bolt all the way for me. He’s going to take it all,” Natalie Henningham, an accountant watching at the national stadium, said before the race. Nearby, George Russell shouted: “No way! Blake!”
The rest of the field, including Americans Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin and another Jamaican, Asafa Powell, barely got a mention. “Bolt all the way! The big man a go defend it! Blake have to settle for silver,” Bernard Wolfe shouted to neighbourhood buddies who were rooting for Blake in the Kingston community of Grant’s Pen.
Blake, Bolt’s workout partner and blisteringly fast rival, had beaten the Jamaican sensation in the 100- and 200-metre finals during the island’s Olympic trials. Bolt’s subsequent withdrawal from a meet in Monaco only added to the intrigue and set up the most anticipated story line of the 2012 Games.
But Bolt, the six-foot-five sprinter with a long, loping stride, delivered a huge performance again. Jamaica was already in a party mood. It’s celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence today. Plus, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce on Saturday won back-to-back Olympic titles in the women’s 100 metres an exciting way to start a historic weekend in Jamaica, which became independent of Britain in 1962.
A one-two by Bolt and Blake was the icing on the cake in Jamaica, a high-spirited tropical island that is known worldwide for its knack for producing ultra-talented musicians and athletes. Bolt has been the country’s biggest living icon since he kicked off his run at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing with a world-record time of 9.69 in the 100 metres. He earned that record even after he lost time by mugging for the cameras with about 20 metres to go, stretching his arms out with palms up, then pounding his chest.
Bolt went on to win three gold medals and set three world records in that Olympics. The island’s prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, described yesterday’s race by Bolt and Blake as “sheer brilliance.” Everyone in Jamaica seemed to agree. “There’s nobody can stop us!” said Russell Slater, pointing at the word “Jamaica” on his yellow T-shirt.
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