GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – 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.”
Bolt gave them what they wanted to see, taking the baton off Nickel Ashmeade to anchor Jamaica’s 4×100-meter team to a comfortable win in its heat as the favorite advanced to Saturday’s final in 38.99 seconds.
“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, insisting 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.
“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.”
So what does the Jamaican make of the Scottish culture?
“For me, it’s different,” he laughed. “Everybody was trying to get me to wear a kilt. But it’s been fun. It’s been wonderful.”
Bolt has chosen to compete in just the relay event at Glasgow 2014 and is hopeful of adding a first Commonwealth medal to his burgeoning collection.
“I need a gold, so it’s very important for me,” he said.
Earlier, another Olympic champion, Australian Sally Pearson, stormed to victory in the defense of her 100 hurdles title in a time of 12.67 seconds, ahead of England’s Tiffany Porter and Canadian Angela Whyte.
Kenya secured a 1-2-3 in the men’s 3000 steeplechase with Jonathan Ndiku winning in a Games record time of eight minutes 10.44 seconds ahead of Jairus Birech and Ezekiel Kemboi Cheboi.
Their compatriot Eunice Sum followed with another gold by romping to victory in the women’s 800 final.
A thrilling finish to the men’s 10,000 saw Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro narrowly retain the title he won in Delhi, while Steven Lewis won pole vault gold for England.