Jamaican champions prepare for post-Bolt era

Elaine Thompson and Omar McLeod of Jamaica, who have three Olympic gold medals between them, facing the media yesterday before the Shanghai Diamond League meet.
Elaine Thompson and Omar McLeod of Jamaica, who have three Olympic gold medals between them, facing the media yesterday before the Shanghai Diamond League meet.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SHANGHAI • Usain Bolt's imminent retirement is a blow for athletics, but a new generation of Jamaican sprinters is ready to try to fill his golden shoes, Olympic champions Elaine Thompson and Omar McLeod said yesterday.

Thompson, the Olympic women's 100m and 200m champion, and 110m hurdles gold medallist McLeod will be among the marquee performers in today's Shanghai Diamond League competition, which will feature rematches of key Rio Olympics battles.

Bolt, the greatest sprinter in history with eight Olympic golds, 11 world titles and three world records, will retire from international competition after the World Championships in August.

"It's sad that he's retiring, but there is nothing we can do to change his mind," McLeod said. "But what we can do, as young emerging Jamaican athletes, is shine our own lights and try our very best to keep the flag flying high."

Thompson said: "He's a legend. He's done so much for the country. We can't be like him, but we can follow in his footsteps and motivate each other to continue to raise the flag higher."

In Shanghai, Thompson will face off in the 100m with America's Tori Bowie for the first time since they went one-two in Rio, where Thompson became the first woman since Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988 to win the 100m-200m double.

Jamaica's new sprint queen has been in good form this year but feels there is still "room for improvement" as she gears up for the World Championships in London.

"This is preparation for me to compete (in) the world championship. So I just have to stay focused," she said.

The women's 100m will also feature Olympic and world long jump champion Tianna Bartoletta of the United States and Jamaican two-time Olympic 200m champion Veronica Campbell-Brown.

McLeod clocked the fastest 110m hurdles of the year two weeks ago - a 13.04sec - at the Drake Relays.

He takes on Spain's Orlando Ortega, who took Olympic silver last year, and others with sub-13 times, including past world champion Aries Merritt of the United States.

In yet another Rio rematch, Brazilian Thiago Braz will take on world record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France in the pole vault.

Braz stunned the Frenchman, the defending champion and hot favourite, last August to take gold with an Olympic record 6.03m in a memorable battle in which Lavillenie was mercilessly jeered by the home crowd.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'Jamaican champions prepare for post-Bolt era'. Print Edition | Subscribe