Two statues on track for Jamaica 55

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, right, and Jamaican track and field sprinter Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce hold their International Athletic Foundation “2013 Athlete of the Year Awards” after a press conference, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Monaco. The IAAF 2013 World Athletics Gala will take place tonight in Monaco.
Associated Press / Lionel Cironneau, File

On the 55th anniversary celebration of Jamaica’s independence, the images of two multiple Olympic gold medal winners will be immortalized with the unveiling of statues at the National Stadium Statue Park in Kingston.

In acknowledgement of their outstanding contributions to the development of the island’s track and field sports industry, imposing 8-foot sculptures of Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will be unveiled to represent the glory of the two athletes who triumphed during the same Olympic contests to emerge “the fastest man” and “fastest woman on earth.”

The world will not soon forget Jamaica’s Jubilee year celebration of independence from British rule. It was 2012, an Olympic year that athletes competed in London, England. The milestone accomplishment also coincided with optimism and anticipation of track and field triumphs by two sprinters dubbed “Pocket Rocket” and “Lightning Bolt.”

The female “Rocket” shot from her starter’s block four years earlier to become the first Caribbean woman to claim the Olympic 100meters title.

Undoubtedly the fastest woman on earth mined gold in Beijing, China in 2008 and reclaimed the title four years later in London, England to deliver a cache when her island marked 50 years of independence.

She exacted her male counterpart’s feats carting three gold treasures back to the Caribbean island.

She married Jason Pryce in 2011 and is now pregnant.

Usain St. Leo Bolt had been gaining currency earlier at home and blazed a trail here at Randall’s Island clocking 9.72 in the 100 metres race at the Reebok Grand Prix.

Sports enthusiasts living in the tri-state area got their first glimpse of the record-breaking athlete then and by the time he competed in Beijing, China the moniker “Lightning” had become a recurring adjective to his introductions with the title “super-star.”

In Asia, Bolt’s prowess spiraled when he easily aced the 200meters run in Beijing competitions.

Since then his dominance has prevailed and in 2017 he is a legend.

“The Government of Jamaica has been recognizing and saluting Bolt’s achievements throughout his career, and even as we speak we are completing a lasting tribute to this great son of Jamaica — an eight-foot statue that will be mounted at the Independence Park Complex,” Olivia “Babsy” Grange, the island’s culture, gender and sports minister said.

“We are on schedule to complete this statue by Independence Day (Aug. 6) and to have the mounting coincide with Bolt’s final race at the World Championships in London.”

“Our athletes represent the best of what is right with Jamaica,” Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism said while promoting sports tourism on the island.

“Everywhere we go in the marketplace, they are the ones that have been generating most of the interest. It is very easy for us to take for granted that we have the fastest man and the top woman in the world, but believe me, the rest of the world has been taking notice.”

In promoting the latest addition to selling the island to tourists, Bartlett added that:“People will want to come here to be close to the Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce mystique, wanting to know about their history, the food they eat and their training methods. It is the same way persons flock to Brazil because of Pele and Neymar or to Argentina because of Maradona and Messi, and so on,” he said making a comparison to the soccer (football) tradition of the South American nationals.

“There is this thing about sporting greats that attracts people.”

Grange described Bolt’s prestigious distinction as “a lasting tribute” to the legendary sports icon and a fitting salute to his career which will culminate with his final competition at the World Championships in London from Aug. 4-13.

Proud nationals have been clamoring for a Bolt statue since he first won multiple Olympic gold medals in China. Reportedly, Bolt said if such a tribute was ever approved he would like to see the structure erected in his hometown of Falmouth.

Last year those calls amplified after the world’s fastest man charmed stadiums-full of spectators again winning in every race he competed at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Bolt became the first person in history to complete the ‘triple-triple’ winning three gold medals in the 100, 200 and 4x100m events at three consecutive Olympic games.

According to Grange, the ultimate aim is to erect four statues of track and field stars during the next two years. Monuments to Veronica Campbell-Brown and Asafa Powell will complete the government’s tribute to millennium track and field Olympians.

Such monuments are part of extended development of the Kingston stadium complex and an effort to add to the National Sport Museum.

The statues will be crafted by renowned Jamaican artist and sculptor Basil Watson.

Watson is reputed for recreating the statue of sports icon Herb McKenley who medaled for Jamaica on the island’s first Olympic outing. McKinley was first to win a gold medal for Jamaica at the Olympics. From that very first global international contest in Helsinki, Finland in 1948, McKenley started a tradition that endures. He also triumphed at the following 1952 Olympic Games in London, England.

In addition to winning two gold medals, the trailblazing Jamaican won three individual silver medals, two of which were confirmed in spectacular photo finish fashion.

Allegedly, in I952 McKinley produced one of the greatest relay legs of all time as Jamaica took the 400 meters relay gold in world record time.

Anchored with speed by Arthur Wint, George Rhoden and Leslie Laing they propelled the island to sports recognition and claimed a place on the sports map that has grown in sprints and bounds.

That year Jamaica finished 13th at the medal table, ahead of Japan, Great Britain and Canada.

McKinley was the island’s track and field coach from 1954 to 1973 and became one of six inductees in the Jamaica Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.

McKenley died Nov. 26, 2007 at age 86.

His statue stands at the National Stadium as an enduring monument to his proud achievement to his birth island.

“Fearless Girl” Could Indefinitely Stare Down Wall St. Bull

At the 11th hour Mayor Bill de Blasio appeased fans of the “Fearless Girl” statue at Bowling Green Park by granting an extension to her temporary stay, allowing her to stare down a bronze Bull until next February.

“In her short time here, the Fearless Girl has fueled powerful conversations about women in leadership and inspired so many,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Now, she’ll be asserting herself and affirming her strength even after her temporary permit expires — a fitting path for a girl who refuses to quit.”

The four feet, 25-pound, pony-tail wearing, girl was due for removal on April 2 but with public pressure, tourist’s approval and a huge advocacy campaign supported by Public Advocate Letitia James — who would like the statue to remain permanently — the extension arrived five days ahead of the deadline.

A petition campaign also helped with delaying the removal of the image of female presence, girl power and female gender inclusion akimbo and seemingly in defiance of a dominant, charging, force.

Granted by the Street Activity Permit Office — under the auspices of the Department of Transportation — officials claim the last minute decision is not unusual and occasionally allows extensions of short term events under the “Arterventions” program.

The decision to stay the artistic creation was fiercely opposed by the creator of the 11-foot-tall 7100 pound, bronze bull which has been a mainstay at the park since 1987.

“My bull is a symbol for America,” Italian-born sculptor Arturo Di Modica said. “My bull is a symbol of prosperity and for strength.”

Reportedly he was angered by Kristen Visbal’s statue and publicly denounced its creation as “an advertising trick,” commissioned to market an advertising firm on the eve of the March 8 International Women’s Day observance.

Visbal disagreed with the perception that she dislikes the Bull or intended to upstage the popularity and symbol of the might of corporations of the New York Stock Exchange.

“I made sure to keep her features soft; she’s not defiant, she’s brave, proud and strong, not belligerent.”

The sculptress feels that the “Fearless Girl” should permanently stand her ground because “women are here, and we’re here to stay.”

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