The fastest man in history, Usain Bolt, will be competing at the Cayman Invitational track meet in May, organizers announced Tuesday.
Bolt, the current Olympic and world champion in the 100m, will be the headline attraction at the meet at Truman Bodden Sports Complex as he begins preparations for the 2016 Olympics in Rio later this year.
The 29-year-old sprint king, current holder of both the 100m and 200m world records, is aiming to make history once again in Brazil as the first man to win three consecutive Olympic golds in the 100 meters.
The Cayman meet, in its fifth year, will also feature U.S. athlete Allyson Felix, who won 200m gold at the London Olympics. The meet will also welcome 2012 Olympic 100m silver medalist Carmelita Jeter of the U.S. and rising star sprinters Machel Cedenio of Trinidad and Zharnel Hughes of Anguilla.
The event will be televised for the first time on ESPN.
Meet director Cydonie Mothersill said it was an honor to have Bolt compete in Cayman in what could be his final season.
“I am sure Rio is going to be his last Olympics, so I don’t think we will have this opportunity again. It may be the last chance to get to see him up close and personal.”
Bolt said in a statement, “It will be my first international competition in 2016 and my second time running in Cayman. I always enjoy competing in the Caribbean and look forward to seeing my fans in Cayman again.”
Challenging Bolt for supremacy in the 100m dash will be fellow Jamaican Kemar Bailey-Cole, who ran a close second to Bolt at the same event in 2013, and Cayman’s own Kemar Hyman, who is also preparing for the Rio Olympics.
More than 100 overseas athletes and 20 local runners, including Ronald Forbes and Tyrell Cuffy, are expected to compete in the one-day meet on May 14.
Ms. Mothersill, who had a glittering track career and won gold in the 200m at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, in 2010, said it has been relatively easy to persuade some of the world’s top athletes to come to the island.
“A lot of athletes want to come to Cayman but for them to keep on returning, that is because of the type of hospitality we put forward,” she said.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said he expected to see a packed stadium, including hundreds of visitors, for the event, which he said would showcase Cayman as a destination attraction for sports tourism events.
The Ministry of Tourism has so far contributed more than $100,000 to the event, but the minister said it was also providing other support through its staff and partners in the industry. The Ministry of Sport chipped in $50,000 toward the event, while private sector sponsors include Frank Hall Homes and Cayman National Bank.
Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden said money could not buy the kind of exposure Cayman would get from having Bolt and other world track stars on the island.
“When you have top-notch athletes in their prime coming to the Cayman Islands to showcase their talents, I think that’s wonderful.”
He said the event should also help celebrate and inspire Cayman’s own athletes.
Bolt will take part in an event with primary school athletes, while Felix will meet Cayman’s Carifta athletes.
Dominic Dyer, who won silver in the 3,000 meters and bronze in the 1,500 meters at the event for the region’s young athletes in Grenada last month, said he was looking forward to competing at the Cayman Invitational, which will also feature visiting international youth teams.
“When I compete,” Dyer said, “it is usually me against the clock and maybe 100 people, so it will be crazy to have 5,000 people there.
“Usain Bolt is the biggest guy in athletics and it is great to have him come here to inspire the children. There may be young boys sitting in the stands that think ‘I want to be like him,’ and come down to the track and train, which is great for Cayman.”
Lacee Barnes, who won gold in the shot put and silver in the discus at Carifta, said it was great to have role models like Bolt and Felix coming to the Cayman Islands.
She said she hoped the event would help inspire greater interest in track and field.
All the visiting athletes will get appearance fees for the meet, though organizers declined to say how much.
Tickets for the event are available at Funky Tang’s and cost $55 for finish line, $45 for grandstand, $30 for Mackie stand and $25 for the bleachers. For more information, call 928-2726 or email [email protected]