Orville Higgins | Twists and turns
It has been a strange World Championships for Jamaica. The results so far have made a mockery of the form books, and our legion of track and field experts have not looked like the gurus they project themselves as. Who can blame them, though?
Who could have foreseen Elaine Thompson's fifth-place finish in the 100m? Who would have thought that Bolt would finish third? Fedrick Dacres' pre-World Championships form would have suggested that he should have been at least on the podium, and Yohan Blake has performed well below expectations. The 200m final for men didn't have a single Jamaican. One would have to go back to 2003 to see anything like that. So yes, things have gone badly. The Jamaican athletes seem to have fallen victim to Murphy's law. It seems everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.
Our failure to capture some 'sure' medals has already started the discussions as to what will happen in the future. Most track and field pundits are now looking at the post-Bolt era with doom and gloom. It isn't only Bolt who is leaving the scene either. Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Melaine Walker, Asafa Powell, Kerron Stewart, Sherone Simpson, and company were part of a golden generation. All of them are in the twilight of their career, unlikely to capture the glory they did in their prime. We may never see such an amalgamation of world-beaters in any one squad for another lifetime.
I am not as pessimistic as some of my colleagues, though. Even in this horrible World Championships, I am still seeing some positive signs. While we did not do as well as we would have hoped overall, we did better than ever in some events. So while we are naturally worried about our sprint factory having issues, we have to appreciate what we are doing elsewhere.
Look at other events
Danniel Thomas-Dodd finished fourth in the women's shot put. We should not take that for granted. It is the first time we have ever had a throwing finalist on the women's side. She was in bronze medal position for much of the event and was, in fact, beaten on the last throw. She is still in her mid-20s. It's not inconceivable to see her as a gold-medal contender by the time the next World Championships comes around.
Fedrick Dacres disappointed with his fourth-place finish in the discus. Based on his season form, he should have been at least on the podium, but fourth is the best a Jamaican has achieved at that level. Traves Smikle was also in the discus final. This is the first time that we have had two Jamaicans in a discus final at that level. That must count for something. Both of these throwers are pretty young, and could prove to be podium finishers in the not-too-distant future.
We also have to look at Kemoy Campbell in the final of the 5,000m. This is the first time that a Jamaican has ever reached the finals of the World Championships for any event over 800m. It is one small step in the right direction.
I have argued for years that I disagree that Jamaicans were born with a greater propensity for sprinting than any other nations. I think we can do just as well over long distances as we do in sprints if our youngsters have the same level of passion and role models. Kemoy Campbell's qualification for the 5,000m will hopefully prove a catalyst for others to follow.
My hope is also buttressed by burgeoning youth talent. We have produced the last three 400m winners in the World Youth Championships: Martin Manley in 2013, Chris Taylor, 2015, and Antonio Watson in 2017. Surely, we expect at least one of those to make some noise at the senior level.
Dejour Russell is too good a hurdler at the junior level not to make an impression when he starts competing regularly with seniors. So we ought not to be panicking. We may take a long while to win the number of gold medals to which we have become accustomed in the last decade. What we have lost in gold medals through sprinting, though, we could make up for it in other areas with medals of a lesser hue.
Our programmes and our coaching are too advanced for us to disappear as a track and field force. The sprint factory may need some fine-tuning, but it doesn't mean that we won't be a force to be reckoned with.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.