CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. May 29, 2009: Last May, Usain Bolt shattered the world`s fastest time of his compatriot Asafa Powell at the Reebok Grand Prix. A year later, Bolt is not on the meet`s line-up but he remains ever present on the minds of the top participating athletes as the event returns to the New York Icahn Stadium this Saturday.
The triple Olympian and world`s fastest man was on the lips and minds of the top male athletes gathered at a pre-press conference Thursday ahead of Saturday’s showdown. Instead of touting their own capabilities, each of the three men hoping to win the 100-m at the Grand Prix instead focused with amazement mingled with a tinge of envy and self-doubt at Bolt`s 2008 summer feat in Beijing and the May performance that preceded his historic wins.
Powell, who was once the world`s fastest man before Bolt stole the title and the fame that comes with it, admitted Thursday that the 21-year-old athlete is `a target` of his.
`When I watch the replays I look at Usain to inspire me,` admitted the 27-year-old Powell. `Usain is the target for everyone now and I am also going after him.`
American Tyson Gay unabashedly admitted that he too was looking at Bolt`s 9.6 as a challenge to push his performance to a higher level while Trinidad and Tobago-born Olympian, Richard Thompson, lauded Bolt for making athletics more exciting.
`Guys like Usain are a huge inspiration for me and young athletes,` said Thompson.
Gay for his part shared with the press an encounter earlier Thursday morning with a hotel guest, who asked about the cameras gathering for the press event. Gay said after filling in the man on the basic details of the event, he asked him if he knew of any top runners. To which the guest responded, `Yes. Usain Bolt.`
Powell agreed that Bolt`s Beijing performance now has people equating Jamaica not just with Bob Marley anymore, but with Bolt as well.
Bolt`s presence in the room was such that the top three choose to not make any predictions on their performance on Saturday. Powell, who had promised fireworks at an April press event for his first Reebok run, was less prophetic on Thursday. Asked by CWNN if he was hoping to take his record back, the Spanish Town native only laughed and instead stated, `I`m not focusing on records. I’m just trying to do my best and cross the finish line.`
Questioned about his injury, he insisted that he is fine and is ready to compete. `Saturday will answer all questions,` he assured.
Thompson also choose the demure route, saying he is looking forward to his first New York racing experience while Gay admitted he was `trying to get the kinks out` and get back to racing.
The Reebok Grand Prix is the fourth stop of USA Track & Field’s Visa Championship Series and will begin at 3 p.m. on May 30th, at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island, NY. Other top athletes on the bill include the US’ Lauren Williams, Jamaican Olympian, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Kim Smith of New Zealand, Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba and Jenn Stucznski.
NBC will broadcast live from the event from 4:30 to 6 p.m. EST. – By Felicia Persaud/CWNN/ NY