Devon Dick: Pressure Buss Pipe
Former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell, after his team's victory over the USA in the 4x100m relay, declared that 'pressure buss pipe' claiming that USA cracked under pressure and lost the race. Nesta Carter, another member of the relay team, said that the members of the USA team were too tense and serious and did not know how to have fun.
It is paradoxical that Asafa was the one to state 'pressure buss pipe', because most people believe that he does not perform at global events because he 'chokes'. Nevertheless, the reality is that sometimes stress gets the better of athletes. Stress can make athletes perform to their optimum or freeze and underperform. This Beijing IAAF world championships, with a record 207 countries participating and at which Jamaica tied with Kenya with the highest number of gold medals - seven - dispelled the theory that some experienced persons do not choke under pressure. It was often said that Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay bring their A-game at the right time, but both underperformed based on their times. Pressure reach them.
It is important to remember that athletes are humans and stress will affect them. They will have issues which might be emotional, biological, psychological and physical, and we must expect that some will choke. It is not time to crucify them, but to understand and appreciate the effort under trying circumstances.
Finally, we must celebrate those who performed at their best under great pressure of this world championship and did their personal best on the world stage and won medals. We celebrate the likes of Danielle Williams in 100m hurdles, Elaine Thompson in 200m, Shericka Jackson in the 400m; and Odayne Richards in the shot put. In addition, Jeneive Russell did her PB in the 400m hurdles and Natasha Morrison in the 100m final. These are persons with strong character. They displayed heart and spirit. They have a very bright future.
Equally strong under pressure are those who did their season's best and got medals, such as Bolt in the 100m and in the 200m; and Veronica Campbell-Brown (VCB) in the 200m. Others who showed great strength of character and will include the imperious, fashion-conscious Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the 100m and Hansle Parchment in 110m hurdles.
Bolt is in a class by himself. He is to athletics what Mohammed Ali was to boxing and Pele to football. His charisma and easy-going style make him a motivator and astute marketer. Apart from being the greatest sprinter, he is an icon and idol who brings joy to the fans. When he was at the London Olympics, he affirmed the British Mo Farah's symbol; at this world championships, he affirmed American basketball superstar LeBron James' celebration and before the relay he told his teammates to embrace the Chinese symbolic greeting. He handles pressure well by embracing different cultures.
Apart from Bolt, there were others who brought great joy, such as Williams winning the 100m hurdles; VCB coming off the bend first and the commentators did not even notice; Jackson dipping under 50 secs; Thompson's smooth running in the 200m; Javon Francis' anchor leg giving us the lead and, for those fleeting seconds, first place in the world championships; Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce's anchor leg in the 4 x 100m relay. But, for me, the one who handled pressure best was Novlene Williams-Mills, a cancer survivor, who did the fastest leg for the Jamaica 4 x 400m relay. She underperformed in the 400m flat race, but came back, and with her experience, overtook the American. So she lost her form badly in the final 60m and then led Jamaica to victory.
They brought joy to our hearts and that is what sports is about - having fun and enjoying the moment.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.