Thursday, June 4, 2009

Speed demons - Islander Jared Connaughton will be among sprinters going up against Olympic speed king Usain Bolt in Toronto

Speed demons
Islander Jared Connaughton will be among sprinters
going up against Olympic speed king Usain Bolt in Toronto

The Guardian

Jared Connaughton of New Haven, P.E.I.
Jared Connaughton of New Haven, P.E.I.

Bullet proof and thick-skinned describes many an Olympic-quality sprinter. It's born from knowing there's always someone faster.

In this case, its the 100-metre men’s sprint at the inaugural Festival of Excellence exhibition track meet on Thursday, June 11, in Toronto.

It’s where Jared Connaughton of New Haven and six other sprinters will be staring down Usain Bolt, the 2008 Olympic 100-metres gold medallist and world record holder (9.69) who is considered in the world of track and field to be the fastest man alive.

But ask Connaughton, 23, what the race holds for him and he’s blunt with his answer, despite the eight-man field boasting half with sub-10 second times.

“I’m pretty confident. The last three or four weeks training has been a breakthrough,” said Connaughton from Arlington, Texas, where he lives and trains. “How that fares against Usain, I don’t know, but against the rest of the field it could be formidable.”

The men’s 100 metres headlines the festival, which also includes an 800-metre women’s wheelchair race, men’s and women’s 400-metre races, men’s 110-metre hurdles, a men’s and women’s mile and women’s 100-metre hurdles.

A strong 100-metre lineup includes: American Shawn Crawford, who won Olympic gold in 2004 in the 200 metres and a silver behind Bolt in the same event last summer at the Beijing Olympics; Anson Henry of Pickering, Ont., (Connaughton’s teammate on Canada’s 4x100-metre men’s relay team); Jamaicans Marvin Anderson and Mario Forsythe; Americans Bernard Williams and Ivory Williams.

The men’s 100-metres lifts off at 8:21 p.m.

TSN will be broadcasting the festival live.

Bolt is the lightning rod at the event.

His reported $250,000 appearance fee dwarfs Connaughton’s $1,000 guaranteed payday.

Prize money is available, but is doled out according to finish.

Bolt is coming off an injured left foot suffered after an April car crash last month in his Jamaican homeland but is now healthy and back running.

It’s a good thing, too, as he’s the only runner eliciting that kind of cash and the main draw.

Tickets for one of Varsity Stadium’s 7,000 seats range from $75 to $250.

Connaughton, a 200-metre semifinalist in Beijing, got the invite when his agent worked the organizers, who wanted more Canadians in the race, and secured him a spot.

And while he’s not treating it as a major championship, it’s his first first race in front of a large home country audience and he carries certain goals.

“I’d really like to go and run (between) 10.01 and 10.10. I ran a 10.26 in April and I feel at least two 10ths faster than that. Mathematically, that’s a 10.06,” said Connaughton, who ran the fastest 100-metre race in the country last year in 10.15. “The focus is always on myself, not Bolt. I’m putting my efforts solely on myself. He’s not focused on me.”

Connaughton leaves for Toronto on June 9.

After the race, he’s returning to P.E.I. on June 12 until the Canadian senior track and field championships, June 25-28, also in Toronto.

Connaughton then joins Henry, Hank Palmer and Brian Barnett on the Canadian men’s relay team at the world track and field championships in Berlin in August.

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