The world will be watching the Cayman Islands Saturday as the fastest man in history, Usain Bolt, runs the first race ahead of what he’s said will be his final Olympics in August.
In a press conference Friday, Bolt said that although he always feels a little nervous before the first race of a season, he’s excited to compete in the 100m sprint at the Cayman Invitational track meet this weekend.
“I don’t know what to expect,” Bolt said. “My friends have a bet on how fast I’m going to run. I have 9:91, the fastest time is 9:86, so we’ll see tomorrow.”
Bolt said he’s in better shape now than the last time he competed in the Cayman Invitational in 2013.
“Last time I was just getting back from injury, but this time is different,” Bolt said. “I’ve been training good and everything’s been going smooth so I’m in much better shape and as I said, I’m excited to compete.”
Bolt said that while he always aims for his best time, the invitational is a good place to evaluate what he needs to work on for the rest of the season.
While the race is important to Bolt personally, Minister of Tourism Moses Kirkconnell said Bolt’s presence in Cayman boosts an essential market here: sports tourism.
Sporting events like the invitational, Mr. Kirkconnell said, are especially helpful to bringing tourists to Cayman in the off season.
“The invitational itself has brought more than 100 athletes alone and the athletes are from 22 different countries,” Mr. Kirkconnell said. “Sponsoring world-class events which bring household names like Usain to Cayman sets us into the grand recognition that we want.”
Bolt’s presence is also an inspiration to Caymanian schoolchildren, Mr. Kirkconnell said. The minister accompanied Bolt on a visit to Cayman Brac yesterday, 100 miles from Bolt’s home of Trelawny, Jamaica.
“If the schoolchildren remember nothing else from the day, I want them to remember that you can be anything that you want to be,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.
Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden, who also spoke at the press conference, said the Cayman Invitational is one example of how Cayman continues as a small island to “punch above our weight,” bringing in top-level athletes like Bolt and showcasing Cayman’s own track and field talents.
“The power of sports is huge and it brings people together,” Mr. Bodden said. “It breaks down barriers like nothing else. So we are extremely pleased that we’ve been able as a small island to pull this off.”
Caymanian long-jumper Carl Morgan, who will also compete in this weekend, said that having such a high-level competition on island would be “motivational, inspirational, and so much more” for young people in Cayman.
“It’s very special for us as local athletes to compete in front of our friends, our family members and anyone else that is watching, for them to see that it is possible to compete at that highest level, against the best in the world.”
Morgan said he’s looking forward to welcoming the other athletes, to show them that trademark “Caymankindness” but also that he’s here to compete, not just here to make friends.
“At the end of the day I know something I’ve lacked over the years is consistency so I want to go out and compete, have fun, and be competitive among the best. So I think for me, I expect to do well.”
Caymanian sprinter Kemar Hyman said he hopes the meet brings out as many people as he saw in 2012.
“When it’s a big crowd and everything it brings a lot of energy to athletes and I think it’s good for Cayman … What I saw in 2012 was amazing and we had a big turnout and the energy was crazy so hopefully we can get a crazy energy again.”
Hyman said his coach told him he’s “on track to run something very special.”
“I think that I definitely will surprise myself,” Hyman said. I’m not saying any specific time but I know that I can surprise myself as well as others.”
The Cayman Invitational starts at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday with a youth relay and culminates with the 100m finale scheduled for 7:40 p.m. at the Truman Bodden Stadium.