A young athlete from East End recently had the chance to meet track and field star Usain Bolt in Jamaica.
On May 31, 9-year-old East End Primary student Shakur Connor joined youngsters from across the Caribbean at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica, to meet Bolt at the launch of the Digicel Bring the Beat campaign, leading up to the summer Olympics in Rio.
Shakur traveled with his parents to the event, which included a fireside chat session with Bolt followed by a “kiddie press conference” where Bolt fielded questions from children between the ages of 6 and 10 who had been chosen to attend.
“When I was contacted about this by Digicel, I was very excited for whomever the young athlete would be, [and] I knew that the best organization to select a worthy athlete would be the governing body for track and field, the Cayman Islands Athletics Association,” said Department of Sports Director Collin Anglin, who noted that the association’s acting president is Cayman sprinter Cydonie Mothersill.
Mr. Anglin said he reached out to the association and their executive committee reviewed some of their promising athletes between the ages of 5 and 10. Ultimately, Shakur, who is making his mark as a budding sprinter, was selected.
“Experiences like this serve as a huge motivator for children, and for those that love track and field there is no greater experience than meeting the fastest man in the world,” said Mr. Anglin.
“I trust that they also will come to understand the tremendous amount of discipline, commitment, time management and focus it takes to reach the top of your sport, and if they apply that to every area of their lives, there’s nothing they can’t achieve.”
Shakur’s mother, Sonya Jervis, said when she got the phone call telling her Shakur had been selected to go to Jamaica to meet Usain Bolt, she was at a loss for words.
“I picked up the phone on the Friday morning and I said ‘hello.’ It was [Cayman Olympian] Cydonie Mothersill there. She told me Shakur had been picked, and I actually paused, as I had to process all that was going to have to happen, but then I did say we accepted,” said Ms. Jervis.
The young mother of three, who works as a cashier at the East End Foster’s supermarket, had to scramble all day to arrange visas and other paperwork for the trip, which would be a first for her as well as for her son.
“I had never been to Jamaica before, so I was excited, and it was Shakur’s first time on a plane, so that was really thrilling for him as well,” said Ms. Jervis.
After getting packed over the weekend, the family had the chance to sort out some last-minute details on Monday before heading to the airport Tuesday morning to catch the 7 a.m. flight to Kingston.
“When we got there, it was such an experience, to feel we were in a totally different environment,” said Ms. Jervis.
“We really enjoyed that we were somewhere that was another culture.”
The family first took a cab to their hotel, the Pegasus, where they got settled, and then were picked up by a bus which took them to the Terra Nova hotel for the event.
Ms. Jervis said it was a big thrill for her to meet the fastest man in the world.
Shakur was also extremely excited to meet one of his biggest idols.
“Shakur had actually met Usain Bolt before, once, at Camana Bay, but this was so special as there were children from all over the Caribbean and they had the chance to ask questions and take pictures and talk to him properly,” said Ms. Jervis.
She noted that during the question and answer session at the beginning, Shakur raised his hand but did not get the chance to ask Bolt a question. When they got to meet face to face later on, he felt quite shy.
“Afterward, when we got back to the hotel, though he said after thinking about it, the question he would have liked to ask Mr. Bolt was: If he was in a race, and he didn’t win, would he cry?” said Ms. Jervis.
She said that the whole trip was very enjoyable, and she took lots of photos of Shakur on his first flight and enjoying the hotel, especially the pool.
Ms. Jervis said the experience has also resulted in people coming up to her and mentioning that she and Shakur are current local social media “celebrities.”
“I feel so famous, as the photos of the trip are all over the Internet; people keep texting me about it,” said Ms. Jervis.
“Overall, this was such a great experience, and we really enjoyed it so much.”