Usain Bolt has revealed how the death of his close friend Germaine Mason, the British high jumper, left him so devastated that he was unable to train for more than two weeks, threatening to derail his farewell season.
The eight-times Olympic gold medallist had been out with the 34-year-old Mason before he died in a motorcycle accident in Kingston in April, and was one of the first on the scene after the crash. Pictures of a distraught Bolt, in tears as he carried Mason’s coffin in the funeral, showed how much his friend’s death had affected him.
“It was rough for me at the start. It took us by surprise and set me back a little bit training-wise,” Bolt said. “Mentally, I wasn’t ready to even train for, like, two and a half weeks, which I had to take off and just collect myself.
“So I have been working hard trying to get back to where I was, but I am confident in myself and my coach that we can get it done because we have done it years and years, and this year isn’t any different. So it was tough, but I have to focus on what I have to do.”
Bolt is now back in training and hopeful of showing his form when he makes his last ever appearance in Jamaica at the Racers Grand Prix, at Kingston’s National Stadium on Saturday. The meeting is set to feature a star-studded cast of athletes including Britain’s four-times Olympic champion Mo Farah, the double Olympic 800m gold medallist David Rudisha and South Africa’s 400m world record holder and Rio gold medallist Wayde van Niekerk.
“I know my friend would have wanted me to go out there to do my best and to be strong and to be focused on what needs to be done,” said Bolt, who believes he is back on track in his preparations for the World Championships in London in August, where he is due to run the 100m and 4x100m relay.
“There is no other place to do the last one,” he told the Gleaner. “The Olympics in London was out of this world. The support, the energy in the stadium was magnificent. Everywhere in the world I go people keep saying: ‘See you in London’. I don’t know if they have so many tickets, but I know the energy is going to be amazing, and it will definitely be emotional for me,” he said of this summer’s championship. “It’s the last one, and so many Jamaican fans will be there, and it’s for me to go out in as much glory as I can. I am looking forward to it.”
Mason was born in Jamaica and trained with the Stephen Francis-coached MVP Track Club before switching allegiance to Great Britain in 2006. Two years later he won a silver medal for Great Britain in Beijing after jumping 2.34m – a height that equalled his personal best – to finish behind the Russian Andrey Silnov, who cleared 2.36m.