Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt — who yesterday shattered another world record on his way to double Olympic gold — has relied on a little bit of Ulster support as he conquered the sporting world.
Bolt’s agent — and the man responsible for honing his career — Ricky Simms, hails from Milford in Donegal and was there at the Bird’s Nest stadium watching the 21-year-old electrify the 91,000 spectators as he added the 200m crown to the 100m he won at the weekend.
Speaking from his apartment in Beijing last night, a very tired but ecstatic, Simms — who was celebrating Bolt’s win with the Jamaican and his family, told the Belfast Telegraph that he was thrilled for the athlete who he counts as a good friend off the track: “I am absolutely delighted for him,” he said. “It has been a fantastic week for him. I was there at the stadium and spent time with him before he got called out, getting him ready for the race.
“It’s a great achievement. That’s what we were aiming to do. Winning both events was fantastic. He is something special.
“He is also a really great guy, a very down to earth guy. He is very popular and he is a good example for other kids.”
So how did the man from Co Donegal end up at the Beijing Olympics?
Well, after Simms, who was the captain of the Finn Valley Athletic Club in Donegal, finished a Sports and Leisure Studies degree and a PGCE in Physical Education at the University of Ulster in Jordanstown, he moved to Limerick where he took up a post in coaching.
He then met Sonia O'Sullivan's coach Kim McDonald in 2000 and went to work for him at his sports management company in London.
But shortly afterwards McDonald died and Simms, his partner Marion Steininger and Duncan Gaskell took over the company, PACE Sports Management.
It was there six years ago, the former 800m and 1,500m runner, who won a couple of Irish vests at under-23 level, met Bolt.
“When I met Usain it was when he won the Junior World Championships at just 15,” he said. “He was offered lots of things at that stage, to study in the US or go professional and he chose to go professional.”
Soon after Bolt signed with PACE and Simms became his manager which he says goes far beyond negotiating endorsement deals.