The world’s fastest man Usain Bolt touched down in the Cayman Islands Thursday, ready for his first race of the season as he warms up for the Rio Olympics.
Bolt was greeted by crowds of cheering schoolchildren as he landed first in Cayman Brac, stopping to meet his young fans before a more low-key arrival at the Owen Roberts International Airport.
He stopped briefly in front of the Cayman Airways plane to perform his signature pose and to oblige requests for photos with airport staff.
Beaming from ear to ear and filming his own arrival on a camera, Bolt even broke into a dance as the airport band struck up a tune.
“I’m feeling good, brother, I’m feeling good,” was the sprint king’s only comment to the media as he was whisked through customs and into a waiting car.
The eyes of the world will be on the Cayman Islands Saturday when Bolt takes to the track for the 100m sprint, the finale to the Cayman Invitational track meet.
It’s Bolt’s first race of the season, ahead of what is widely anticipated to be his last Olympics, in Rio in August.
He’ll be up against a high-class field, including Jamaican teammate Kemar Bailey-Cole and Cayman’s own sprint-king Kemar Hyman, who is also preparing for the Olympics.
Hyman said he was excited to face Bolt and the other top sprinters flying into Cayman and is not ruling out a shock victory.
“Nothing is impossible,” he told the Compass this week.
Saturday’s event will be screened on ESPN later in the evening, but organizer Cydonie Mothersill is hoping Caymanians will fill the stands to cheer on Bolt.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said, “He came here in 2013, I’m sure he won’t be coming here again.
“If you can’t see him in Rio, come out on Saturday and shout, scream and show him how we do things in Cayman.
“I’m hoping the stands will be full and people will be saying, ‘Oh gosh, it’s an honor to have Usain Bolt here for his first race of the season.’”
Bolt will meet schoolchildren at the Camana Bay Arts and Recreation Center Friday and take part in a press conference at the Westin Hotel the same day. He is slated to make a guest appearance as a DJ at Fete nightclub after the race on Saturday.
“He’s very down to earth, he’s people friendly, which is why everybody loves him,” said Ms. Mothersill.
“It doesn’t matter if it is the security guards, the flight attendants, the schoolchildren, he’s got time for everybody. He’s such a nice guy.”
Bolt’s impact on athletics and sport in general cannot be underestimated, she said.
“He is athletics; he has transformed the way we look at track and field. He is a mega super star and the attention he brings is all quite positive.”
The Cayman meet, in its fifth year, will also feature 2012 Olympic 100m silver medalist Carmelita Jeter and rising star sprinters Machel Cedenio of Trinidad and Zharnel Hughes of Anguilla. U.S. athlete Allyson Felix, who won 200m gold at the London Olympics, had been slated to attend but was forced to pull out at the last minute because of injury.
She said, “Unfortunately, I’m still not fully healthy and will not be able to compete in Cayman. I am looking forward to getting back on track and know the Cayman event will be a great meeting.”
Tickets will not be sold on the door but are available through Saturday morning at Funky Tang’s and FLOW’s outlet at the Galleria Plaza on West Bay Road.
The event starts at 4:30 p.m. with a youth relay and culminates with the 100m finale scheduled for 7:40 p.m.
Police are restricting parking in George Town from Friday afternoon through 9 p.m. Saturday. There will be no parking on Academy Way and Hinds Way around the stadium and restricted parking on Aspiration Drive and Fairbanks Road.