Thousands of Jamaicans braved heavy rain on Monday to give triple Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt a rapturous welcome home.
Fans lined roads leading from the Norman Manley International Airport to the heart of New Kingston to cheer Bolt, who electrified the Beijing Games with his 100m-200m sprint double and 4x100m relay triumph — all in world record times.
Bolt (22) arrived from London shortly before 2pm and was mobbed by fans, mostly airport workers, who abandoned their posts to get a glimpse of him.
More official greeters, including Prime Minister Bruce Golding, were pushed aside in the rush to welcome the athlete.
Members of the throng banged on the sides and trunk of the bright red BMW convertible that was provided by one of Bolt’s local sponsors to show their appreciation, while reporters and photographers scrambled for good vantage points.
A motorcade of at least 15 vehicles wound its way from the airport to a New Kingston hotel, where a welcome reception was held.
The reception started nearly two-and-a-half hours late because of the massive crowd and the rain.
Bolt, dressed in a pair of black jeans and dark T-shirt, said he was happy to be home.
”I am feeling good right now,” said Bolt, who had gone from his Beijing triumph in August to competition in Europe. ”I am glad for this turnout and I am just happy to be home now.”
Bolt’s three gold medals in Beijing all came in world-record times.
He won the 100m in a stunning 9,69 seconds, beating his own 9,72sec set in May in New York.
He lowered American Michael Johnson’s 200m world record to 19,30sec, while the Jamaican relay team, on which he ran the third leg, clocked 37,10sec.
Golding said Monday’s function was just a precursor to an official welcome-home celebration for all of Jamaica’s Olympians, with plans in the works for a four-day celebration for the entire team to start on October 3.
Jamaicans captured six gold medals from Beijing, three silver and two bronze. — Sapa-AFP