P.E.I.'s Jared Connaughton finishes sixth in 100 metres at Festival of Excellence
LORI A. MAYNE
THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO — Usain Bolt loped out of the blocks trailing the field under a miserable and steady downpour on Thursday night. But the way he hit his second gear and left the field in his wake made the fans at Varsity Stadium forget all about the rain.
The world’s fastest man put on a show at the inaugural Festival of Excellence, galloping to victory in the 100 metres in 10.00 seconds. The time was well off the Jamaican’s 9.69 world record that he ran at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but Bolt was simply using the event to gauge where he is at this point in his season, and he admitted to be cautious in the rainy conditions.
“That’s the right thing to do,” Bolt said afterward. “You’ve got to be very careful because they have a lot of running to do and you can’t manage to get injured at this time of the season.”
Shawn Crawford of the U.S. was second in 10.25, and Ivory Williams, also of the U.S., finished third in 10.28.
Jared Connaughton of New Haven, P.E.I., finished sixth in a 10:51, off his top Canadian mark of 10:15 from last year.
The meet featured 50 Olympians, but Bolt, who reportedly earned $250,000 for his appearance, was the headliner and clear fan favourite in front of a large Jamaican-Canadian crowd of 5,835 — a near-sellout in the revamped 6,500-seat venue.
“It felt good, I think I should have done a little better. For me it’s all right, I got through it injury free so that’s a good thing,” said Bolt, who jogged a victory lap with dozens of young children.
Jared Connaughton of Charlottetown was sixth in the 100 in 10.51 while Anson Henry of Pickering, Ont., was seventh in 10.57.
The race was delayed by two false starts which led to Bolt’s countryman Marvin Anderson being ejected from the eight-man field. The 22-year-old wasn’t thrilled to have to wait at the start in the rain.
“This is a part of the game,” said Bolt. “Some day you have a good day, some day you have a bad day. I guess I’ll put this down as a bad day for me.”
Minutes before Bolt stepped into the starting blocks, Canada’s female hurdlers gave the crowd a thrill. Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Whitby, Ont., won the women’s 100-metre hurdles in 12.86, edging fellow Canadian Perdita Felicien of Pickering, Ont., who crossed second in 12.88. Damu Cherry of the U.S. was third in 13.01.
Felicien praised the crowd for supporting the event, and hopes it’s only the beginning for the sport in Toronto.
“(The crowd) was ridiculous, and the tickets were expensive, but it was well worth it,” Felicien said.
“There is a crowd and there is a market for it,” she added. “I love Usain and I’m thankful to him that he won all those medals last year so we can have an event like this. The big message is sustainability and getting an event out here every single year.”
Fans paid from $25 up to $250 for finish line seats.
One particular fan thought Bolt’s performance was worth the price of admission.
“I wanted to come here and see him do his thing, on Canadian soil,” said Bailey, Canada’s former 100-metre world-record holder and Olympic champion. “You have to understand that this is the very best specimen in track and field ever. He’s going to do things that none of us have seen. . . including me, who once held that title.
“As a fan I’m just here watching and cheering him on and hoping that he stays healthy so that we see some really good things in Berlin.”
Order of finish in the 100 metres:
1. Usain Bolt, Jamaica, 10:00
2. Shawn Crawford, U.S., 10:25
3. Ivory Williams, U.S., 10:38
4. Bernard Williams, U.S., 10:47
5. Mario Forsythe, Jamaica, 10:48
6. Jared Connaughton, Canada, 10:51
7. Anson Henry, Canada, 10:57
Disq. - Marvin Anderson, false start.