EDITORIAL — Usain Bolt: On the fast track this weekend

Blink and you might miss it.

For a few seconds on Saturday night, the eyes of the world will be on the Cayman Islands as sprint superstar Usain Bolt lines up for the 100m dash, the showpiece race of the Cayman Invitational track meet.

For thousands of spectators lucky enough to get a ticket, it may be the last chance to see this living legend in action.

A competitor whose athletic genius is matched by his charisma and personality, Bolt is a rare species in the ultra-professional world of modern sports. It is that combination of talent and personality that has propelled him to stardom way beyond the world of athletics.

As Muhammed Ali was to boxing, Usain Bolt is to track and field – an icon whose presence transcends sport.

He only has to step off a plane to create a sensation. Hundreds of schoolchildren turned out at Cayman Brac airport to cheer his arrival Thursday morning.

At Owen Roberts International, airport staff crowded round to shake his hand and ask for a picture.

He had just a few words for the media.

“I’m feeling good, brother, I’m feeling good,” he said, in response to a reporter’s question.

The real talking will be done on the track.

With ESPN cameras rolling for what is the first race for Bolt in an Olympic season, Cayman will certainly be in the spotlight.

Many believe this may be Bolt’s final season before he hangs up his running shoes. If that proves to be the case, there will only be a handful of opportunities for anyone, anywhere, to see him in action again.

For one of those events to be in Cayman is quite a coup and kudos must go to Cydonie Mothersill, Cayman’s own track star and the organizer of Saturday’s event.

Kudos, too, to the government and sponsors who have made it happen. Sports tourism is a growing niche in the market, and it is difficult to think of an event that could realistically be hosted in Cayman and generate more publicity and more newspaper column inches than this.

The Cayman Invitational track meet is not the only big sports event taking place this weekend.

The Truman Bodden Sports Complex will play host on Sunday to the finals of the Cayman Airways Invitational Under-15 Cup.

As well as bringing 12 squads of talented young soccer players to Cayman, including English giants Manchester City, to challenge our young players, the event puts heads in beds at the start of the tourism slow season.

These events are about more than just money, however.

Any young athlete in the stands on Saturday evening should look not only to Bolt for inspiration, but also to Cayman’s local sprinter Kemar Hyman.

Hyman honed his sprint skills in playground races at George Town Primary School. He’s gone on to be one of the few men in history to break the 10-second barrier in the 100 meters and has earned his place in the starting blocks next to the world’s fastest man.

As he tells the Compass, in an interview today, “Anything is possible.”