Throwback Thursday: When ageless Kim Collins conquered the world

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Photo: Kim Collins. André Zehetbauer via Flickr

It seems only fitting that even Kim Collins’ eventual retirement process lasted longer than everyone first thought.

The 42-year-old had been in the sport for as long as anyone could remember, appearing in an astonishing five Olympic Games and eleven World Championships.

Then, in March 2018, after bowing out of the World Indoor 60m Semi-Finals, the 41-year-old walked off the track and said everyone “I have to stop…it’s time”.

The Saint Kitts and Nevis icon had been around for what seemed like a lifetime, gracing five Olympic Games and winning the hearts of many different people and places.

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Collins was simply known as the ‘evergeen’ runner, consistently running sub 10 seconds for 100m even up until the age of 40 where he in fact ran faster than he ever had before in a 9.93 personal best.

And it was because of this that one simple retirement announcement at the world indoors was not enough. A career as long and inspiring as his would require many more races and appearances over the summer to officially bid farewell and turn the page on his evergreen career.

While the sprinter has inspired many with the times he managed to produce at the back end of his career, undoubtedly his greatest moment of all came 15 years years ago in Paris, when a 27-year-old Collins managed to conquer the world.

Even back then Collins was still seen as a ‘dark horse’ in the event, coming into the race ranked seventh in the world.

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However, times and rankings would soon be thrown right out of the window come the final, when the Olympic and World champion Maurice Greene was shockingly knocked out in the semi-finals to leave the medals up for grabs.

But even then when the final did arrive few were backing the St Kitts and Nevis athlete that stood in lane one, despite him showing strong pedigree with a world indoor silver at 60m earlier that year as well as a Commonwealth bronze in 2002.

But just as he always has done throughout his career, Collins simply left everything else aside and let his running do the talking.

As soon as the gun sounded, Collins was utterly focused on himself, running his own race and setting off at lightning speed to hold a considerable early gap at the front.

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The early pace was quick, in fact it was almost too quick. As the race wore on Collins soon felt the entire field begin to close in on him down, as a hugely close battle for medals began to develop between virtually everyone competing.

Even during the race however, not many people noticed Collins streaking down on the inside until all athletes crossed the line in a blanket finish, with everyone, including the athletes, left wondering just who had managed to sneak the win.

Almost immediately, Collins’ eyes were drawn to the screen, anticipating, waiting and hoping to see his name appear at the top of the board.

And of course, after quite a lengthy wait, the moment finally came. Collins let out a beaming smile, shaking his head in disbelief, sealing his moment in history as the first ever athlete from the small nation of Saintt Kitts and Nevis to win a world gold.

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So great was this victory for his home nation that the date of his victory, the 25th August, became known as ‘Kim Collins day’ in his home country.

The world champion of course was already a huge star in his home country, having had stamps made with his face on them in the previous year. This was therefore the moment that Kim Collins turned from a national track star into a world track star, winning people’s hearts with his small-nation background before embarking on his age-defying athletics journey.

Now with his retirement finally reached, Collins remains an athletics great in his own special way. He may never have reached the heights of the sprint stars such as Usain Bolt, Michael Johnson or Carl Lewis, however, his status as the evergreen athlete, who at the age of 40 still only got better, may not be bested anytime soon.

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