Jaheel Hyde for Sportsman of the Year?
By Orville Higgins
Somebody mentioned on my Facebook page a few days ago that we should break with tradition and make Jaheel Hyde the Sportsman of the Year for 2014. It never really resonated with me at the time. Jaheel is, after all, a junior athlete, and junior athletes don't take the prestigious title of Sportsman of the Year in Jamaica.
Way back in 1961, Joy Foster's phenomenal exploits in table tennis saw her named as Jamaica's Sportswoman of the Year when she was a mere child and the term 'woman' was hardly applicable. None of the male winners in the more-than-50-year history of the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year were junior athletes, however. Is this the year when that will change?
Who are the male front-runners at this stage? Nobody from cricket or football has done anything spectacular this year, although with some international cricket on the horizon before the end of the year, somebody could make an unlikely late rally. In boxing, Nicholas 'Axeman' Walters had his third successful title defence earlier this year. Again, that doesn't jump out at you. If this were the year that he won the WBA featherweight title, he would be a more obvious candidate, but for me, it was merely business as usual.
In this year's Commonwealth Games, we had four gold medals on the men's side. One suspects that one of these names, at this time, is in pole position for the award, especially as the heavy hitters in track and field - Bolt, Powell and Blake - never really factored, for one reason or other.
At the Commonwealth Games, Kemar Bailey-Cole won the 100 metres in 10 seconds flat. Odayne Richards won the shot put in 21.61; Rasheed Dwyer took the 200m in 20.14; and Andrew Riley claimed gold in the 110 hurdles in 13.32. Let's be honest here. While we applaud the male athletes who won these gold medals, we must accept that none of the winners did anything particularly jaw-dropping. You can never sneer at a gold medal, even at a church meet, but you wouldn't say any of our male winners at the Commonwealth Games took your breath away.
Now let's look at Jaheel Hyde. At the just-concluded Youth Olympic Games, he won the 110 hurdles in 12.96. It was the fastest time somebody his age has ever run in this event. Nobody his age has ever gone under 13 seconds in the 110 hurdles. It was truly a spectacular display. Before that, at the World Junior Games, he won the 400 hurdles in 49.29.
Jaheel Hyde has shown that he is a special case. He is unquestionably one of track and field's most exciting teenagers and the world is now awaiting just exactly what this precocious youngster will turn out to be. Remember, last year he won the World Youth 110 hurdles in 13.13. He is now the only man in history to land global titles in two different hurdles events, across two different age groups, in successive years.
Can we look at all that and just give him an award for Best Junior Athlete, or something like that? Or should we say that he was far more impressive than even his senior countrymen? It's a difficult call. It's far easier for a youngster to dominate his age-group peers than for a senior athlete to do the same. Let us accept that. If you line up Jaheel against his seniors in any of his pet events, he will most likely lose.
The 110 hurdles at the junior level is at a different height, and so there is nothing to compare it with at the senior level, and other Jamaicans have gone faster at the 400 hurdles this year. So it's not a case of him being 'better' than his seniors, but he was clearly more outstanding. If you add the international buzz that's now associated with his name, Jaheel should definitely be in the conversation for Sportsman of the Year.
Last year, in horse racing, Princess Popstar became the first two-year-old to win Horse of the Year. The same arguments that will work against Jaheel were thrown around then: that Princess Popstar was merely competing against her age group; that running against one's peers is different from competing in an open event, etc. Like Jaheel, the filly really captured the attention of turfites and was in record-breaking form for much of the time, and in the end just simply could not be denied. Will the same thing happen for Jaheel this year?
I know where my own vote would go. What say you?
Orville Higgins is a sports journalist and talk-show host at KLAS. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.