Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Orville Higgins | Odds stacked against KC

Published:Friday | April 14, 2017 | 4:59 AM

I have been watching Champs for most of my adult life. I wouldn’t consider myself a track and field guru, but Champs Saturday is a must-watch for anybody in my line of work. Last Saturday, I was transfixed to my television. I don’t think I have ever paid such keen attention to the annual event, maybe because never before was there so much controversy leading up to Champs.

I am among those who didn’t believe ISSA should have allowed Ary Rodgers to compete. I am not accepting the extenuating circumstances argument one bit. I know of too many other cases where students were not allowed to compete because they breached the rules and their reasons were just as compelling.

I have no preferences for who wins Champs. Over the years, I have been just a follower. This year, I still didn’t back anyone. What I didn’t want was for KC to win a close contest against Calabar. If the Purples were going to win, I wanted them to win big, claiming victory by far more points than the Ugandan would give. I thought it would have been unfortunate if KC were to win with fewer than the points that Rodgers contributed. There would be an eternal asterisk over that victory for me and the controversy would never stop any time soon. As it got close and I realised it was going to be close, I wanted Calabar to win.

I wasn’t the only one with those sentiments. From all I have gathered, there was a distinct anti-KC sentiment among most of the neutrals. KC people, of course, will always be loyal to their school, but for those who had no dog in the fight they were silently hoping for a Calabar win. That waving of the Ugandan flag by Rodgers didn’t help KC’s cause. Where before it was Calabar against KC as the main central theme, after that 5,000 metres, it almost became Jamaica vs Africa. It was a strange move by the KC supporters, strange and probably inappropriate, too.

That spontaneous celebration of the schools with Calabar in the 4x400 was instructive. It wasn’t so much they were cheering FOR Calabar, it was that they were happy that KC didn’t win. It’s not unusual for the loser to congratulate the winner. That is standard in all sports. What we saw, however, was not mere congratulations from the schools that finished second, third and fourth in that final race. What we saw was unbridled celebration.

When the Calabar assistant coach told the whole world that the other schools said they would do their best that KC didn’t finish top three in the 4x400, it told a story. “The enemy of my enemy shall be my friend,” says the old proverb. The common ‘enemy’ here was KC and Calabar, therefore, became the ‘friend’ of the unattached. The anti-KC sentiment was evident even from before.

When Raheem Scott of Rusea’s won the Class Three 200m, beating KC’s Terique Stennett, he gave the most-talked-about interview at Champs. “Him gwaan like him too boasy, Miss, so me did haffi just beat him.”   

KC supporters can be hard to like. I am not broad-brushing the entire set of KC supporters; I know many who are rational and objective, but some of them can come across as arrogant and are at times dismissive of contrary opinions. I myself have come in for harsh criticisms both on air and on social media simply because I felt ISSA blundered to make Ary run. It isn’t helped by the fact that those ex-KC old boys in media are often so biased in their public utterances that it sometimes borders on the unprofessional.

So in the end, it may well have been poetic justice at work. The sports gods were not in purple this year. I have no doubt whatsoever that a fit Jhevaughn Matherson and a fit Wayne Pinnock would have won the Champs for KC. I don’t buy the argument that KC didn’t manage their athletes properly.  There are some athletes that are injury prone. There is not necessarily any direct correlation between being injured and being managed properly, especially when the athlete has a history of injuries.

KC was just ‘salt’. A lot of this must be put firmly at the feet of ISSA. By appearing to give KC a bly with a big athlete in what was expected to be a close race, ISSA appeared to be handing KC an advantage. That didn’t go down well with some schools who were quietly protesting.

KC will rise again. Their indomitable spirit will see them coming hard. Champs next year is already anticipated. 

- Orville Higgins is a talk-show host and sportscaster. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.