Track and field fans of all ages are counting down the days to the biggest event in the sport in the Cayman Islands.
Youngsters especially are about to get the rare opportunity to see some of the world’s best athletes compete in the flesh at the second annual Cayman Invitational track meet, on 8 May at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.
Aspiring young athletes across the Islands will be inspired by Olympic and world champions, including the planet’s fastest man and woman, Usain “Lightening” Bolt and Carmelita “The Jet” Jeter.
Since the London Olympics last summer, where he won three gold medals to bring his haul to six, in the 100 metres, 200m and 4x100m relay, Jamaican Bolt has risen to become one of the world’s greatest athletes of all time.
The world record holder in all three events says he knew early on that he had a talent for running and was encouraged by his parents.
“Track was something I was good at and when I won the World Junior 200m title at 15 it gave me a lot of inspiration,” he says.
He confirms he felt he had been doing well since the start of his athletics career, but the World Junior Track & Field Championships in 2002 was, what he terms “a major breakthrough” for his career development.
Bolt, who is now one of the world’s highest paid athletes, says his parents have always been a positive influence on his life, while the biggest influence in his athletics career has been his coach, Glen Mills. And although he appears to win effortlessly, he says a great deal of hard work goes on behind the scenes.
“Believe me, there is a lot of effort every day in training in order to make it look effortless in competition,” he states, going on to say he believes he has the ability to raise his game on the big occasion and this has helped him in the past.
“I hope I have inspired many young athletes all over the world and brought a lot of positive attention to the sport in the Caribbean,” Bolt says.
Jerry Harper, local athletics coach, says the importance of seeing the world’s top athletes compete first hand is an experience for Cayman’s youth that should not be underestimated.
“There will be more than 100 top athletes competing in the Cayman Invitational, all of whom are extremely positive role models for young people in this country,” he says.
“Those who come and watch these athletes compete will be treated to a first class display of determination, spirit and hard work – all the attributes that make a world class athlete.”
The Cayman Invitational is organised by Cayman’s own Commonwealth Games gold medal-winner Cydonie Mothersill-Stephens of KyStar Athletics.
Mothersill-Stephens says she hopes as many of Cayman’s youth as possible will be able to watch the events on the day.
“We will be hosting ten track and two field events throughout the meet and we have been able to attract some of the world’s biggest athletes in addition to Usain Bolt and Carmelita Jeter,” she says.
“These include Beijing Olympic silver medallist Kerron Stewart, Olympic record holder Melanie Walker, London Olympic bronze medallist Hansle Parchment and London Olympic relay gold medallist Chris Brown along with our local heroes Kemar Hyman, Ronald Forbes, Jon Rankin, Carl and Carlos Morgan and Tyrell Cuffy.”
Mothersill-Stephens believes that such an impressive line-up will create a thrilling day of activities for everyone, but in particular she hopes it will inspire Cayman’s young people to work hard and focus on their goals.
“The Cayman Invitational athletes are proof that no matter where you come from or how humble your beginnings in life, with hard work and determination you can achieve great success,” she says.
As part of the Cayman Invitational meet, KyStar Athletics has included a series of appearances and presentations by the visiting athletes to be made throughout Cayman’s schools and an athletics youth camp to be held with those Cayman children currently participating in, or interested in, the sport of athletics.
“The core objective of KyStar Athletics is the development of athletics in the Cayman Islands,” Mothersill-Stephens says.
“We wanted to take full advantage of having these world class athletes and inspirational role models in Cayman, and hope that the youth camp and school visits will motivate and encourage our children in not only sports, but in all aspects of their lives.”
Bolt echoes these sentiments when he advises Cayman’s own promising track athletes.
“Get a good coach, work hard, stay focused,” he says