Mon | Nov 20, 2017

Garth Rattray | Knighthood for Usain Bolt

Published:Monday | August 14, 2017 | 12:40 AMGarth Rattray

The amazing talents of our elite track athletes have spoilt us. Their repeated international successes and world dominance caused many to see them as unbeatable. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Some years ago, a scientific group did a study of Michael Jordan’s performances and correlated them to his ‘natural prowess’. They found that, in spite of his natural gifts, Jordan would be no more than a mediocre basketballer had he not worked extremely hard to hone his skills and develop on his talents. He would be unheard of had he simply worked only as hard as his competitors.

Thomas Edison was quoted as saying, “Genius is one per cent inspiration, and 99 per cent perspiration.” The same applies for any natural talent. 

Being an elite athlete requires many years of dedication, monumental effort and sacrifice. It takes hours of weightlifting, hours of pain, hours of conditioning, hours of running and hours of perfecting the various techniques until they become second nature. And then, last but far from least, it takes hours of envisioning the races over and over and over again, keeping mentally focused yet calm, and executing all that they went through in a burst of energy for a few mind-blowing seconds. 

The physical demands and the mental preparation that goes into every race is phenomenal. The sport consumes and controls every aspect of their lives for many years. It’s a sacrifice that only a very select few can make.

When Usain didn’t get gold in the 100m at the recent IAAF World Championships in London, words like anguish, heartbreak, disappointment, horror, dumbstruck, shock, numb, stunned, dismay and saddened were all over the place. I was not disappointed in his performance but I was aggrieved by what people were saying. 

Usain wanted to retire before the last Olympics. He said that his commitments to his sponsors made that impossible.

I do not envision that 9.58s in the 100m or that 19.19s in the 200m, or that Olympic double-triple win, or his 11-time World gold medal exploits being surpassed any time in the near future, perhaps not even in my lifetime. 

For the fastest man of all time to perform drug-free and at world-beating levels in a sport where every twitch of the muscles and every stride and every millisecond counts, for so many years, is beyond astounding. He is physically and mentally tired - perhaps signified in the gut-wrenching image of the sprinting giant pulling up in his final race, the 4x100m final, grimacing, collapsing to the ground, writing in a crumpled heap. He needs and deserves the rest.

Usain has been a superlative ambassador for our little Jamaica and for the entire track and field community for years. He has put us front and centre on the world map and been an economic boon for the country. He single-handedly transformed the power sprint events from one with serious and intense-looking men with sour faces into fun-loving, sparkling and very entertaining events. 

I hope that this new trend will continue after his departure. His drug-free record stands as a testament to what clean and natural living combined with dedication to hard work can achieve. The entire planet owes him a lot.

The other day I saw a patient with a court document with her name v Regina. When I explained that it was she against the Queen, she almost fainted. Although I don’t like being subjugated by a queen, as a member of the British Commonwealth, Jamaica can request certain honours and privileges.

In January of this year, 33-year-old World and Olympic distance runner Mo Farah (Mohamed Muktar Jama Farah – born in Mogadishu, Somalia, migrated to the UK at the age of eight), was made a knight for his outstanding world and Olympic athletic achievements. 

Wimbledon and Olympic tennis champion, 29-year-old Andy Murray was also made a Knight. Paralympian, 11-time, para-equestrian gold medallist, 43-year-old Lee Pearson, was knighted.

Heptathlon gold medallist and World champion, 30-year-old Jessica Ennis-Hill, was made a dame (the female equivalent of knighthood) for her athletic achievements. And, Britain's most decorated female, five-time Olympic medallist, 30-year-old, double-skull athlete, Katherine Grainger, also became a dame.

From my understanding, as a member of the British Commonwealth (Subjects of the Crown), all it takes for our world hero, Usain Bolt, to be knighted is for a government committee to agree for the prime minister to recommend him for the honour. I hope that the powers that be will seriously consider this.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.