New sprint king has to play catch-up

New sprint king has to play catch-up
Jamaica once again rules the 100m track, with Kemar Bailey-Cole storming ahead to clinch gold. But unlike his countryman Usain Bolt, he did not celebrate his feat in a flashy manner, nor did he gloat in the press conference.

"I am not the next Bolt. I am just Kemar Bailey-Cole."

In that short utterance, one can grasp the extent of inner demons and external pressure facing the new 100m king of the Commonwealth Games.

In front of the world's quote-hungry media, Jamaica's latest sprint sensation was forced to field more queries on Olympic champion Usain Bolt rather than his own 10.00sec breakthrough burst to win gold.

The 22-year-old can shake his head irritably as much as he wants but he must realise that comparisons with the world's fastest man are unavoidable.

Both are coached by Glen Mills at Kingston's famous Racers Track Club.

In gait and stature, both sprinters are also similar. Bailey-Cole is 1.93m, 2cm shy of Bolt.

If the showpiece race at Hampden Park was watched from afar, it might have looked as if Bolt himself was in the middle lane.

After a stumbling start on a blustery evening, Bailey-Cole's loping stride helped him claw his way back into the main group at the midway point.

Once the hands were locked and the legs in full throttle, Jamaica could not be denied a third straight success in the Games' blue riband event.

But no exuberant, sky-pointing celebrations followed and Bolt's showmanship at press conferences was also absent.

Bailey-Cole almost risked a diplomatic incident after noting that Scottish food "needs more seasoning".

There was some added spice when he discussed his relationship with Bolt.

"I train with Usain but the friendship is not that close," said Bailey-Cole, who was also a member of Jamaica's triumphant 4x100m relay team at the 2012 London Olympics.

"I didn't hear from him beforehand."

Bolt, a six-time Olympic medallist and double world-record holder, did not race in his country's national championships which doubled as trials for Glasgow 2014, and will compete here only in the 4x100m relay.

Last year, he had talked up Bailey-Cole's prospects of one day eclipsing his feats. Watching the 100m final from his hotel room in Glasgow, the Fast One tweeted a congratulatory message to his younger compatriot.

It is worth noting, however, that the young pretender's winning time on Sunday would have put him last in the Olympic final two years ago.

Trinidadian Ato Boldon's Commonwealth Games record of 9.88sec at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur edition never looked in danger of being broken.

Bailey-Cole, who clocked a personal best of 9.93sec last year, must be wondering if he missed the chance to make a bigger statement in a final without Bolt and injured understudy Yohan Blake.

In fact, British newspapers yesterday were filled with praise and pictures of second-placed Adam Gemili, an unfancied 20-year-old in his first major outing.

In 10.10sec, the London native split the Jamaicans on the podium, consigning national champion Nickel Ashmeade to the bronze medal. Gemili kept pace for nearly 90m. Though he faltered towards the end, the former Chelsea football academy prospect earned the biggest whoops from the crowd.

"The reception I received was amazing. It gave me goose bumps and the extra energy to hold on despite tired legs," he said.

It was a transformational evening for Gemili, already touted by the British media as a worthy successor to British speedsters Linford Christie and Dwain Chambers.

And what a difference 17 days has made for Bailey-Cole, who was deemed quick enough only for a "B" race at a Diamond League event in Glasgow earlier this month.

For now, at least, the shiny gold medal around his neck may not be bright enough to emerge from Bolt's shadow.

Bailey-Cole has around 3,800 Twitter followers. Bolt has 3.4 million. Still a long way to go - online and on the track.

nsanjay@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 30, 2014.
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