KINGSTON, Jamaica - Two-time Olympian and sprinting coach Pablo McNeil, who mentored 100- and 200-meter world record-holder Usain Bolt in high school, has died.
He was 71.
Mr. McNeil, who suffered a stroke in 2007, died in a hospital Monday after a long illness, Jamaica’s Ministry of Sports announced Tuesday.
Through his publicist, Bolt said he was saddened by the death of his former coach at William Knibb High School in Trelawny Parish.
“Coach McNeil was a part of my early track and field life,’’ Bolt said in a statement Tuesday.
“I appreciate all he sought to pass on to me. I would like to offer my condolences and sympathies to his family and close friends.’’
A sprinter during his youth, Mr. McNeil participated in the 1964 Summer Olympics and the 1968 Summer Olympics.
He also represented his Caribbean homeland at the British West Indies Championships, where he earned several medals.
Sports Minister Olivia Grange said Mr. McNeil left a mark on Jamaican and international athletics.
“He was a good competitor for Jamaica and went on to nurture, mentor, inspire, and coach some of our fine young athletes at William Knibb High School, including Usain Bolt, who has been such a success and inspiration,’’ Grange said.
When Bolt came to international prominence in 2002 by winning the 200 meters at the World Junior Championships in Jamaica, Mr. McNeil said he was not surprised.
He had seen Bolt run the 100 in 10.3 seconds when he was only 15.
Mr. McNeil was credited with encouraging Bolt to give up cricket and focus on track.