Bolt makes Comm Games debut after Glasgow uproar
GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — If Scots were offended by Usain Bolt they didn’t show it on Friday as the Jamaican sprint star made his Commonwealth Games debut.
Despite a newspaper claiming that he was disparaging about Glasgow, Bolt’s introduction to a 40,000-plus crowd at Hampden Park was greeted with a roar of cheers.
“I was never worried, I was just looking forward to coming out here and showing the people,” the world’s fastest man said. “I am here to have fun and compete.”
And Bolt gave them what they wanted to see, taking the baton off Nickel Ashmeade to anchor Jamaica’s 4x100-meter team to a comfortable win in its heat as the favorite advanced to Saturday’s final in 38.99 seconds. Even the weather turned into Bolt’s favor after days of drizzle.
“It was wonderful, it’s just like the London Olympics — the crowd was great,” the six-time Olympic champion said.
Three days earlier, The Times of London quoted Bolt as saying that he was “not really” having fun in Glasgow, using an expletive and deriding the caliber of the competition featuring former British colonies.
“I would never have used that word,” Bolt said, discussing the story publicly for the first time.”
While acknowledging that he spoke to the journalist, Bolt disputed the most eye-catching comments attributed to him and insisted he is enjoying the Scottish experience.
“The people have been fun and I’ve had some great laughs,” Bolt said.
Most importantly, Bolt successfully negotiated his first track action of the year after being sidelined with a left foot injury that prevented him from competing in the individual sprints at his first Commonwealth Games.
“Injury-wise everything was good, otherwise I just felt sluggish,” the 27-year-old Bolt said. “I know it’s going to take me time to get into my rhythm.”
Bolt wasn’t the only one putting aside off-track drama, as 2012 Olympic champion Sally Pearson won the 100 hurdles in 12.67 seconds. In a disruptive week, the head coach of Australia’s athletics team was ordered to return home as punishment for criticizing Pearson for not attending a pre-Glasgow training camp.
In other games news:
MEDAL STRIPPPED: Chika Amalaha, a 16-year-old weightlifter was stripped of her gold medal after a doping hearing. The Nigerian tested positive for diuretics and masking agents after winning the 53-kilogram (117-pound) division last Friday in becoming the youngest female to win a weightlifting title at a Commonwealth Games. Amalaha’s gold medal now goes to Dika Toua of Papua New Guinea.
“Being a junior obviously there must be some culpability from those that are looking after her, whether it is coaches or managers or doctors,” Games President Prince Imran Tunku of Malaysia, who chaired the hearing, told The Associated Press.
EBOLA FEARS: With the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa spreading, fears have reached the games. Two Sierra Leone athletes — cyclist Moses Sesay and table tennis player Samuel Morris — underwent tests for the virus in Glasgow but were cleared to compete. With visas valid until September, team members are hoping to stay in Scotland in a bid to avoid Ebola.
“About 30 of the delegation who are due to return home are becoming very much worried,” Sierra Leone chef de mission Unisa Deen Kargbo told the BBC. “They will wait to see the measures taken back home and if it is safe to return home.”
Games organizers said Ebola had not been detected in the athletes’ village.
HAMPDEN HITS: With Olympic champion Mo Farah of England out injured, Moses Kipsiro defended his 10,000-meter Commonwealth title in 27 minutes, 56.11 seconds, pushing Josphat Kipkoech Bett into second. Cameron Levins of Canada took bronze.
Perhaps the greatest feat on the track came from Lynsey Sharp in winning silver in the 800 final despite a bout of sickness. Eunice Jepkoech Sum of Kenya won in 2 minutes, 0.37 seconds.
“Up to this morning I was in hospital in the village until 5:30,” Sharp said. “I haven’t slept at all. I was throwing up all night.”
After winning pole vault bronze in 2006 and silver in 2010, Steven Lewis completed the set by winning the gold after clearing 5.55 meters. It was England’s first title in the event since the 1986 Edinburgh Games.
ENGLAND LEADS: England strengthened its lead over Australia at the top of the medals’ standings with two days of competition remaining. In the gymnastics, 16-year-old Claudia Fragapane won her fourth gold in Glasgow by claiming the floor title.
Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris