OSTRAVA, Czech Republic, Jun 27 – Jamaican sprint superstar Usain Bolt will on Wednesday make his first appearance in Europe in his farewell season.
Bolt, winner of eight Olympic and 11 world gold medals, will bring down the curtain on his glittering career at August’s world championships in London.
After kicking off his season on home soil in Kingston, the 30-year-old chose Ostrava and the Diamond League meet in Monaco as his two pre-worlds warm-up events.
It will be Bolt’s ninth appearance in the northeastern Czech city, where organiser Alfons Juck has unashamedly gone out of his way to tailor the meet to the Jamaican’s plans for the season.
“We gave priority in our preparation and the whole set-up of the meet to Usain,” Juck told AFP.
Bolt said a Czech visit was always on the cards. “One meet I was always going to come to was Ostrava,” he said.
That is not to say the meet has not attracted other stars, although there is a dearth of US and Jamaican athletes.
South African Wayde van Niekerk will compete in the rarely-run 300m, aiming to shoot down Bolt’s meet record of 30.97sec, set back in 2010.
Kenyan 800m star David Rudisha goes in the 1,000m, while Britain’s Mo Farah competes in his final 10,000m on the IAAF circuit before quitting the track for road racing after the London worlds.
Van Niekerk summed up the athletes’ sentiments that the meet was all about one person, however, Bolt.
– All about Bolt –
“This year’s really about honouring him and what he’s done for the sport,” said the 24-year-old South African, who beat Michael Johnson’s world record when winning Olympic 400m gld in Rio last year to add to his world crown.
“He’s been a massive inspiration to myself and to many other athletes out there.
“Hopefully, we as an upcoming generation can take the baton and continue what he’s done.”
Farah has similarly dominated his events.
Since winning silver over 10k at the 2011 world champs in Daegu, the 34-year-old Londoner has enjoyed an unbroken streak of nine global final wins (the 5000m in 2011, and the double at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and the 2013 and 2015 worlds).
Due to trade in the track for a pitch at conquering the marathon, Farah was full of praise for Bolt.
“The guy’s incredible, what he’s done for the sport,” he said.
“It’s going to come to an end at some point. I see him as a role model, someone I look up to. When you go through a down patch and say ‘how am I going to do it?’, he’s shown us the way and I’m just glad to be part of it.”
Bolt’s presence has ensured a sell-out 15,000-capacity crowd at the Mestsky stadium.
Also competing will be Kenya’s Olympic steeplechase gold medallist Conseslus Kipruto, and American double Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor returns to the place of his first major medals at World U18 Championships in Ostrava 2007.
Germany’s Olympic javelin champion Thomas Rohler headlines a duel between his German team and the Czech Republic, with four throwers on each side, captained respectively by former champions Klaus Wolfermann and Jan Zelezny.