A victory in Kingston, Jamaica this past Saturday, June 11th, marks the first step in what's sure to be an overwhelmingly emotional retirement for Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world. After winning the 100m 'Salute to a Legend' race at the National Stadium at Independence Park, Bolt will now continue to compete until the World Championships this August in London.
However, for the people of his native Jamaica, Saturday was the last chance they would have to see the homegrown legend compete on his native soil.
Bolt is arguably one of the most naturally gifted athletes in the world - and definitely in his sport. It can confidently be called HIS sport at this point, as there are few triumphs and accolades in the world of competitive track that Bolt doesn't hold.
Not only the fastest man in the world, Bolt is famous for his Olympic "Triple-Triple" - that being three gold medals at three separate Olympic games: 2008, 2012 and 2016 - in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. On the track, he is an incredibly gifted and entirely unparalleled athlete. Add to this his 6'5 frame and the fact that his height requires him to exert more energy fighting wind resistance, and his ambition, accolades and attitude render him in a class of his own in the world of international sport.
With his flare for post-win celebrations and overall joie de vivre, Bolt has been, since his explosive appearance on the world stage, one of the most entertaining athletes to watch both in and out of competition.
Bolt taking selfies with fans following his 200m gold-medal victory at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
As such, his pending retirement has garnered emotional reactions from fans, none more so than those at home in Jamaica - people to whom Bolt is so much more than an athlete, but also an inspiration both at home and on the world stage.
Speaking to Morgan Jerkins of Rolling Stone, Dennis Boothe, a lawyer born in Kingston, Jamaica, said of Bolt: "I think he is very significant in expressing how Jamaicans feel about themselves. Almost like validation that we all can excel on the world's stage despite being such a small country," Boothe said. "There's a lot of satisfaction knowing that despite their best efforts he's been able to beat American sprinters on the biggest stage in the world."
Even more than this though, Bolt has not only excelled on the world stage but also remained true to his Jamaican roots and works as diligently as he does to be the best in his sport, if not more so, to remain a positive impact on his home country. He grew up and got his start on the track in Trelawney Parish, a rural neighbourhood in the northwest, about three hours from the nations capital of Kingston. He also grew up in a family of modest means, ensuring that his meteoric rise to fame was met with applause from people of every walk of Jamaican society.
Fans in the Half Way Tree neighbourhood of Kingston celebrate Bolt and his teammate's gold-medal victory in the 4x100m in London, 2012
Further, his love of and pride in his homeland has led Bolt to ensure that his fame not only reflects his Jamaican heritage but positively impacts his home as well.
In the same Rolling Stone article, Jamaica Faculty Representative of Track and Field, Damon McLean - who is from Bolt's hometown of Trelawney Parish - attests to his efforts to stimulate his homeland economically.
"All the ads that Bolt does - he tries to do them in Jamaica and that's unlike everyone else because a lot of producers will try to shoot elsewhere. Gatorade and Puma have to shoot here and give jobs to people [in Jamaica]," McLean said.
Bolt living it up at the Jamaica National Building Society "Heroes In Action 5K" run in Trelawney Parish (2015)
This passion for supporting and developing his homeland has even led Bolt to form his own charitable foundation, aptly titled the Usain Bolt Foundation, with a mandate to create opportunities through education and cultural development for a positive change, both in Jamaica and abroad. To this end, Bolt has instituted fundraiser runs in his hometown of Trelawney, supported his alma matter William Knibb High School as well as Haitian victims of Hurricane Matthew and raised funds for and visited countless other initiatives throughout the country to inspire and lift up the people of Jamaica. He continues to workout and train in Jamaica to this day.
This is the true reason that Bolt is such a national treasure in Jamaica. Because he remembers where he came from and does everything he can to wield his considerable platform in order to make his home a better place to live for the people who helped him become who he is today. Though his natural talents are all his own, his success, his affable, fun-loving nature and his humble and gracious presence are built on the foundation of his heritage.
Bolt running alongside children during a visit to a sports complex in Rio de Janeiro (2015)
Suffice it to say, while Jamaicans may have witnessed Usain Bolt's incredible athletic talents at home for the last time this past week, his equally incredible presence will be felt in his homeland for years to come as he continues his campaign of positive social change through cultural development, giving and enormous Jamaican pride.