During the height of Team St. Kitts & Nevis’ participation in the 2016 Rio Olympics, social media, mainly Facebook, has been rife with negativity directed at Collins, especially after he narrowly missed out on qualifying for the finals of the 100m in Rio.
Collins, who won the Gold in the 2003 World Games, in the 100m event, clocked only 10.12, which turned out not to be enough to line the tracks with giants such as Usain Bolt, who eventually won the race, Andre’ Degrasse of Canada, (Bronze), and Justin Gatlin of the United States, (Silver).
But while small pockets of Kittitians and Nevisians have delighted in taking personal swipes at Collins, with comments and ridicule unrelated to sport, Kim, as he is fondly called by fans, is receiving much love, support and admiration from some of the best athletes in the world, including Justin Gatlin.
Gatlin, a former world and Olympic champion, who, himself failed to qualify for the 200m this week, made it clear that he intends to continue his career and the inspiration to do that, said the American sprint champion, is coming from his admiration of what Kim Collins has accomplished even in the closing chapters of an illustrious career on the track.
While being interviewed by a European media outlet, Europe Online Magazine, about what is next for the American, Gatlin stated, “…from this point on I‘m taking it year-by-year, and I‘m going to come out as strong as I can for each year. Someone like Kim Collins gives me inspiration for Tokyo.”
He said, “There‘s a lot of athletes that only make it to one Olympics. I have been to three in the span of 12 years. For me it has been an honour to be able to come out here.”
Europe Online added in its article that “At age 34, Gatlin must now ponder his future but is not ruling out until Tokyo 2020 where Bolt will most certainly not be. The Jamaican (Bolt) has named Rio his last Olympics and may even not be competing in next year‘s worlds in London.”
So instead of looking at Bolt, wrote Europe Online, “Gatlin now sees Kim Collins as a role model, the 40-year-old former world champion from St Kitts and Nevis who is still around and ran in Rio.”
Collins, who made his debut at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, has now made it to five games, and on this long journey, has captured the World Championship as well as being crowned the Commonwealth Champion in the 100m, (2002). He is still competing against athletes half his age, at home and abroad, but Collins continues to hold his country’s National Record, and earlier this year, clocked an impressive career best of 9.93.
While the criticisms will no doubt continue, there is one unchallenged fact that many embrace. Kim Collins has become the most celebrated and well known personality to have ever come out of his Caribbean nation, St. Kitts and Nevis, in recent history.
Only Nevisian born Alexander Hamilton, who became the first US Secretary of the Treasury and one of that country’s founding fathers, whose image is on the American ten dollar bill, can claim greater international eminence than Collins, as a son of the soil of the twin-island state.
Collins is the first and only man above age 40 to break the sub 10 second (100m) barrier.
Nevermind the attacks against him, the majority of Kittitians and Nevisians and indeed Caribbean people, view Kim Collins as a role model and someone who has given much to a nation that punches above its weight in athletics. The naming of a highway and a stadium in his honour, and the distinction of having a day named in his honour, clearly signify that Collins is a hero to his people.