Mon | Oct 22, 2018

Orville Taylor | U-20 Champs was my World Cup

Published:Tuesday | July 17, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Sixteen-year-old Briana Williams crosses the finish line to win the women's 100m race at the 2018 IAAF World U-20 Championships in Tampere, Finland. She went on to complete the sprint double taking the 200m in record time of 22.50 seconds.

Croatia's national team is truly hard-dough, but they could not withstand the French baguettes. However, they played balls to the end. Now it's over and my regret is that the Reggae Boyz were not there, and Jamaicans put their energies behind alien nations and were so passionate that incidents of fatal violence resulted from our support for our 'countries/teams'.

Still, during the frenzied backing, countries, some of which would never welcome the average Jamaican, our track and field athletes needed our cheering and support. On the day that Belgium beat England for bronze in the World Cup of football, little 16-year-old Briana Williams stunned the world with a 200 metres victory that was as dominant as a 6-0 score in a soccer match.

Her championship record of 22.50 was clearly a high point of the IAAF World U-20 Championships, and it capped off a remarkable double, she having won the 100 metres on Thursday. We reaffirmed ourselves as sprint champions of the world, winning eight individual medals like the USA. However, three of ours were gold. The US eked out one 'dege-degeh' one. Only Kenya won more gold medals than Jamaica.

 

Drama and courage

 

And as we held our breaths for the grand finale, there was drama and courage in Tampere with more history being made. A young Jamaican man following in the footsteps of Fedrick Dacres threw the discus, threw off the discussion with his name, took home gold, and secured Jamaica's second place in the medal standings. Kai Chang, whose Chinese ancestry is totally hidden under his melanin, was never expected to even medal, but he did.

Two days earlier, my 'son', Christopher Taylor, ran into a wall in the home stretch and left us all heartbroken, caught by the Belgian athlete. More dis-appointment came in the girls' 4x100 and boys' 4x400, where we were disqualified. In the latter, the squad with Taylor and two other men who have PRs better than all the American runners would have set a new world U-20 record.

But so it is. I am still puzzled by how the judges' eyes could separate American Tia Jones and Jamaican Britany Anderson when the electronic clock had them in a dead heat down to the millisecond. Were it not for that still-inexplicable, sympathetic decision, the USA would have won no individual gold medals. Nevertheless, what I saw was courage among our young athletes, who toiled to represent our nation and have the 'Eternal Father' sung, even while thousands of fanatics ignored them and cheered for nations.

Too many athletes performed to the best of their abilities for me to outline them all. Many personal records were set. I salute every single Jamaican athlete who boarded the plane to make this nation proud. However, one can't overlook Calisha Taylor (no relation), who pulled out all the stops on the final leg of the 4x400 for her team and nation to secure bronze. She was so injured that she had to be assisted to collect her medal. That's guts!

Indeed, while we waited for soccer, American Justin Robinson ran the leg of his life to allow his team to salvage silver after a disastrous dropped baton. Courage in any nation must be applauded.

Nevertheless, it is track and field that has put us on the map, given our youth hundreds of scholarships and opportunities, and kept scores of them away from gangs. We love to reap the corn when Bolt, Shelly and others conquer the world, but we do not water the corn. The success of our young athletes pays economic and social dividends. Parading flags of foreign nations does zero for us.

By the way, both the Government and Opposition support the idea of having the IAAF World Relays here next year. Just make sure the Petrojam crew have nothing to do with its planning.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.