Usain Bolt lost last week in his first major 100 metres race of the year. But at least he won in his 100m opener at the Cayman Invitational a month ago and only had positive things to say about the Cayman Islands.
The local meet was organised by Cydonie Mothersill-Stephens and her husband, Ato, and between them they attracted not just the world’s fastest man but also the fastest woman, too, Carmelita Jeter, who won her 100m race here as well.
Other Olympic and world championship medallists included sprint hurdler Hansle Parchment, sprinters Kerron Stewart, LaShawn Merritt, Debbi Ferguson-McKenzie, Tianna Madison and 400m specialists Luguelin Santos and Novlene Williams-Mills.
The meet also gave Cayman athletes Ronald Forbes, Kemar Hyman, Tyrell Cuffy, Shane Evans and long jumping twins Carl and Carlos Morgan a chance to perform in front of their compatriots, as well as share the spotlight with Bolt and Co.
Cayman’s aspiring champs also got an opportunity to rub shoulders with the stars in their own events.
Bolt was still recovering from a slight hamstring strain during his run here, hence the photo-finish in a relatively sluggish 10.09 seconds to beat Jamaican training partner Kemar Bailey-Cole.
Bolt was edged out to second place last Thursday in the Diamond League meet in Rome by American Justin Gatlin, but he was pretty relaxed about it, intending to tweak his training in time to be at full steam for the world championships in Moscow in August.
Cydonie is thankful and relieved that the Cayman Invitational went off without any serious mishaps again. The sellout crowd of 3,500 certainly had a marvellous time.
“I think everyone enjoyed it,” she said. “The feedback has been great. We still have a lot of work to do, that’s expected, it’s just the second year, but the feedback from the athletes, spectators and sponsors has been great.”
Mothersill-Stephens enjoyed the entire build up and evening, particularly the 100m wins by Bolt and Jeter.
“The 400m women’s hurdles was also pretty exciting,” she said.
“I don’t have a favourite, it was all pretty exciting, but it was great to have Usain Bolt here and to just feel the energy of the crowd.
“The day was very hectic, but it was something that I enjoyed. I’m very critical of myself. It took a lot of work, but I was very pleased with the overall turnout and how the athletes performed.
“Some wanted to run faster, but just the fact that they were here and for the second year we were able to secure some of the big names, I was pleased.”
Bolt made a point of saying that he thoroughly enjoyed his overall experience here and promised to come back next year. “We will just have to wait and see,” laughed Cydonie. She was at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex again last week to help record results of a two-day meet with Liz Smith.
Mothersill-Stephens said she believes Bolt’s presence will inspire the local children to take track up seriously.
“We had a school visit with him and over 600 of the primary and secondary school kids there and he had an opportunity to talk to them and they asked questions. I hope it did have a positive effect.
“They were influenced in what he had to say and to see him perform and his mannerisms, not just Usain but the other athletes as well.
“I do hope that they took something positive from it. There was an opportunity for you to take a piece, whether it was a camp that we did, school visit or the actual day of competition.”
Mothersill-Stephens is pleased that Bolt was not pestered everywhere he went. “That’s the culture here,” she said. “We’re pretty laid back and proud. Even though we want to come over and bother we hold back.
“I do believe that he will come back, I don’t know when. I know he had a great time and I’m pleased that the general public gave him the space to breath and enjoy the island.
“I don’t think the other athletes were particularly bothered because they know that he brings that kind of attention to the sport which is needed and welcome. I don’t think anyone felt slighted and all athletes are used to it by now.”