More objectivity in sports for 2015
The 2014 sportsman and sportswoman of the year will be chosen in a matter of days. As it stands now, boxer Nicholas Walters looks to be a shoo-in for the male award. He defended his World Boxing Association (WBA) featherweight world title twice last year, making him the WBA super featherweight champion. He is now one of boxing's hottest properties. His talent and charisma have gone a far way in reviving boxing in Jamaica, and indeed on the world stage. No other male athlete can claim to have that kind of record over 2014.
Up to about November, Kaliese Spencer appeared to have no competition in the female category, but by the time December came around, Alia Atkinson appeared to have spoilt her party. Kaliese had a dream 2014. In fact, she lost only once last year. Kaliese won the Commonwealth 400 hurdles, she won the Continental Cup 400 hurdles. She won the Diamond League series of races over her pet event and, to top it all off, she finished second in the world indoor 400 flat, finishing behind Francena McCorory of the United States. Her year was impressive. She had four of the top-five fastest times in the world in her event last year and, if we stretch it a little, eight of the top 10 times.
World record in swimming
Alia Atkinson, for her part, was not particularly special at the Commonwealth Games. She got silver and bronze at the games and many here in Jamaica were branding her with the choker tag, good enough to always be among the best, but never having that extra to pull it off at the big event. All that changed at the Swimming World Championships in December. She not only won the 100 metres breaststroke, but equalled the world record in the process at 1:02:36. This made her the first black woman in 40 years to hold a world record in swimming. That should swing the scale in her favour.
That apart, I have a real problem with the so-called People's Choice Award. At a Diamond League meet in Paris, Hansle Parchment ran 12.94 in the 110 hurdles. It happens to be a national record. In fact, he is the first and only Jamaican to go under 13 seconds in the 110 high hurdles, breaking his own national record of 13.05. This should have been good enough for him to be nominated for sportsman of the year, in my view, but the fact that the performance was not thought of to be a performance of the year boggles the mind. How can a goal scored in a daCosta Cup match be seen to be a greater performance than a man breaking a national 110 hurdles record? It tells you that people are always emotional, and hardly logical in how they see and discuss sports. Having said that, the committee that's in charge of these things should have put in Parchment's run in the mix and made sure that his performance was among those voted on. He can rightly feel that the Jamaican public and those who decide these things may have had a temporary brain freeze.
Another demonstration of the emotional nature of the Jamaican public is the case with Jaheel Hyde. Hyde was nominated for his 'Champs' performance of 49.49, which was a national junior record at the time. That was a special run, but then Hyde did run faster, 49.29 at World Juniors in Eugene, Oregon, and the public didn't see it fit to nominate that. It is baffling that the 'Champs' run got more votes than a run among the best juniors in the world. But when his junior time was faster, it shows you that the public's view at times can depend on very irrational criteria.
Then again, it could also be argued that Hyde's 12.96 at the World Youth in China was a far better performance than his exploits in the longer hurdles. It was the first time an under-18 athlete went below 13 seconds for the 110 hurdles. It was a phenomenal run and may be the event that set him apart as one of the most talented youth athletes in the world. Still, that didn't create a buzz with the public, while a run at 'Champs' did! One thing I have preached on radio is for people to argue sports objectively. On the evidence of these People's Choice nominees, that's not going to happen anytime soon.
n Orville Higgins is a sports journalist and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.