West Indies’ fast bowling great Michael Holding and track legend Usain Bolt have a strong connection. Both are Jamaicans known for their speed with Holding being a track and field athlete at school level.
In his first autobiography Whispering Death (published in 1993), Holding revealed that he still held the high jump record (four feet, 11 ¼ inches) for the under-12 class of Kingston College High School. And while he also competed in hurdles and 400 metres, his was a case of mistaken identity when he first made it to the West Indies team. A senior member of the Caribbean press fraternity spread the story that Holding was a potential 400m Olympic champion.
The fact was that Holding opened the bowling for the Jamaica youth team with Seymour Newman, who went on to become a Commonwealth Games (1978) silver medallist and an 800m participant in the 1976 Olympics at Montreal. Holding is one of the several proud Jamaicans in England where he is on commentary duty for the England vs South Africa Test series.
The 58-year-old Jamaican is an out-and-out Bolt fan, but stressed the point that the other Jamaican athletes too did their country proud at the Games.
MiD DAY spoke to Holding over the phone recently.
What is your reaction to Usain Bolt being open to playing the Big Bash T20 League in Melbourne?
I think it is just a promotional thing. He is not that good a cricketer to be playing at that level. But I suppose, without being disrespectful to Usain, anyone can play 20-20 cricket.
If his name wasn’t Usain Bolt, the double Olympic champion, this wouldn’t have happened. For any other cricketer of his ability, there would not be talk of him playing the Big Bash. Like all these 20-20 tournaments have shown, it is great to have a name like Usain Bolt at a show.
Do you think it’s good for the game of cricket?
Well, when people who know nothing about cricket hear that he’s playing, they will want to know what it is, so I suppose it will at least lead to people enquiring about the game.
But as I said, it’s all about promoting the Big Bash and having a name like Usain Bolt associated with it can’t hurt.
It confirms to me that 20-20 is not about the game cricket, it’s just a form of entertainment and his name adds to the show.
Big names add to a circus. I don’t think it will actually happen, but there is some notion to have Usain Bolt associated with something like that because his name is worldwide known.
Can you gauge how fellow Jamaicans feel at this point of time?
Jamaica, I am told, is on Cloud Nine right now. The whole country is celebrating because of him and because what our athletes have done. It’s just not Usain Bolt.
Of course, he was the premier athlete, but to get a 1-2-3 (Bolt, Blake & Weir) in an event at the Olympics — all the three medals in that event (200m) and to get 1-2 (Bolt and Blake) in the premier event (100m) of the Olympics is a fantastic achievement and not many have been able to do that.
The entire country is on top of the world right now.
Your thoughts on Yohan Blake…
He is a fantastic sprinter. In Yohan, you have a man breaking into the big time now and he is showing the world that he has it. He has great things ahead
After the 100m final, Blake said he would win in Rio and that his time would come…
That is a good thing for him to say. That is a good thing for him to look towards. If Usain Bolt and he race in Rio I have no doubt that Usain will win again, but he might not go to Rio considering the training he would have to do. After all, it is four years of hard work.
Would you agree to the view that Usain Bolt is the greatest sprinter of all time?
I don’t like to use the term ‘all-time’. The training methods they have now are different to what methods that they had a long time ago. Bolt is certainly the greatest I have seen. In modern times he is the greatest but I won’t go back to the days of Jesse Owens and the athletes of those times. First of all, they did not have the nutritional knowledge and the training techniques they have now. I wouldn’t go into this ‘all-time’ debate. That would be stretching it a bit.
And finally, were you sure that Bolt would win the 100m?
I was absolutely sure! I told everybody in the Sky commentary box that he would win.