GOLD COAST, Australia, Apr 16 – As sprint legend Usain Bolt partied into the early hours and hung out with movie stars at the Commonwealth Games, it wasn’t so much fun for the Jamaica track team he left behind.
At their first major competition since Bolt retired after a decade of dominance, the Jamaican juggernaut caught a flat on the Gold Coast, failing to win a single sprinting gold medal.
Yohan Blake’s flop in the men’s 100 metres set the tone as Jamaica’s confidence was immediately dented by South African Akani Simbine.
Blake, who picked up a world title in 2011 after Bolt false-started, could only finish third behind Simbine’s countryman Henricho Bruintjies after a calamitous start.
To add insult to injury, double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson failed to win a medal in the women’s 200m as Shaunae Miller-Uibo romped to victory for the Bahamas.
And with Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards capturing gold in the men’s 200m and countrywoman Michelle-Lee Ahye an upset winner of the women’s 100m, Jamaica’s Caribbean rivals enjoyed their days in the sun.
Jamaica’s Olympic chief insisted that there was no crisis, pointing to a new generation of sprinters coming through.
“It was a perfectly creditable performance,” Christopher Samuda told AFP. “Jamaican athletes usually peak in June or July.
“Usain Bolt had a very big influence but we have a wealth of talent and the future for Jamaican sprinting is in very good hands.”
But after the Jamaican men’s 4x100m relay team were crushed by England to take third behind South Africa in a puny title defence, Bolt took to social media to question whether he had retired too soon.
“Watching the relay just now made me ask myself a few questions,” tweeted the eight-time Olympic champion, who watched part of the athletics with Hollywood heartthrob Chris Hemsworth.
– Fear factor –
Blake insisted he would bounce back this season.
“I was in record-breaking shape, and I’m still in that,” he said. “We were dominating worldwide, and my coach is working to get me back to that level so I can dominate again.”
While Jamaica appeared to have lost the fear factor, Blake dismissed the threat to their recent sprinting dominance.
“It’s not that they’re getting better,” he said. “It’s that we’re not performing.”
England’s sprinters stormed to a golden double in the 4×100 metres relays, boding well for the British at the European championships in August.
Zharnel Hughes, stripped of gold in the 200m for impeding Richards, could be one to watch in Berlin after showing impressive speed in Australia.
South Africa’s Caster Semenya completed a middle-distance double as rival athletes continued to grumble about whether or not she should be allowed to compete.
But with her future still clouded by controversy, Semenya — who identifies as a woman but has unusually elevated testosterone levels — revealed she could be tempted to step up from the 800 and 1,500 metres and tackle longer distances.
The track and field threw up its fair share of feel-good stories — from Neeraj Chopra, the farmer’s son who won a historic javelin gold for India, to Levern Spencer, who captured the women’s high jump title to give Saint Lucia their first Commonwealth title in any sport.
But for Jamaica, life after Bolt began with a jolt — one that could ultimately change the landscape of world sprinting.