Orville Taylor | Lesson for the waggonists
He might no longer be the Beast, but Yohan is still young, gifted and Blake. Lest we forget, he is the second fastest man in history over both the 100 metres and 200 metres. His 9.69 over the shorter distance was done into a slight headwind (-0.1 mps).
Blake has already gifted us with multiple medals, including the 100 metres gold in 2011 and the world 4x100 metres record. If he does nothing else ever in track and field, his résumé is fat like a man who eats pork for dessert.
Moreover, if he had run his season’s best of 9.96, he’d still have come in fifth. Few grandstand critics would be able to even walk, much less run, anything except their mouths after all he has been through. Similarly, unless you know what it feels like for your ‘heel string’ to be chronically painful, you have no right to be bad-mouthing Elaine Thompson.
In this IAAF World Athletics Championships, we have had some bitter disappointments inasmuch as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was priceless in dismissing her opponents like primary schools after 2 p.m.
We had no athletes in any of the 200 metres finals and some ‘sure picks’ did not deliver. Even defending champion Omar McLeod, ranked among the top 10 fastest hurdlers of all time, crashed out, taking a guaranteed gold medal with him. Is there any Jamaican fan who honestly thinks that these athletes did not try their best on the day?
Young Shiann Salmon ran a personal best but just missed qualification in the 400 metres hurdles final. Another 1/1000th of a second would have put Tyquendo Tracey in the 100 metres final. Jonielle Smith’s performance was just shy of her lifetime best, which would have kept her exactly in the same place as she finished. There were many other examples, but I believe the point has been made. The fact is, we take too much for granted.
NOTHING SHORT OF MIRACULOUS
For a decade, Usain St Leo Bolt led an entourage of Jamaican track and field athletes into Olympics after Olympics and Worlds after Worlds after championships, owning the sprints. We were spoilt. Therefore, when on day seven we were only third on the medal tables, with two gold medals and only the USA and China leading us, it seemed like an aberration. Based on size of population and the paltry money we spend on track and field, our performance over the years, including now, is nothing short of miraculous.
When one is on top, the only place to go is down. And with the best of intentions, programmes and systems, the natural cycle of things will mean that we will at some point lose the number one position. It only is an issue when we are no longer in the discourse, such as when it took Kingston College (KC) three decades to make a Manning Cup finals (I couldn’t resist that).
I hold no brief for any of the athletes. However, Jamaica is still one of the biggest draws in track and field, and the absence of Bolt does not diminish our greatness.
Still, I cannot help but being discomforted by the performance and behaviour of other non-Jamaican athletes. No, not Dina Asher Smith, who looks like a younger sister of Anneisha McLaughlin. And for those who are suddenly hugging her up because she is ‘Jamaican’, just know that she is merely another in the long line of Jamaica-born or -descended athletes who have brought glory to the United Kingdom (UK) and other countries. Anguillan with a Jamaican mother, Zharnel Hughes is an ISSA Champs winner who attended KC.
Linford Christie, 1993 champion, (Canadian) Donovan Bailey, 1995 champion, and the list goes on. Our pool is deep and the place is full of other Jamaican descendants. Indeed, Japanese 400m runner Julian Walsh is son of Jamaican musician Emmanuel. His middle name is Jrummie. Note another Japanese Aska Cambridge, with another Jamaican spelling, was actually born here.
Simply put, we can afford to give genes and heritage to others and still be on top. After all, inasmuch as we like Dina and celebrate her victory, we have no qualms in Elaine and Shelly whipping her when the former is fit again.
UNEVEN PLAYING FIELD
Still, some athletes seem to have benefited from an uneven playing field. The wonderful Ugandan athlete must have been running in Swahili because she jostled and harassed ‘winjy’ Natoya Goule in both the semis and finals of the 800 metres, clearly contributing to her falling outside of the medals. As hurt as we are over McLeod’s brave fall without yielding, it is the unexplainable disqualification of Ronald Levy, who, in my opinion, was the victim of interference rather than the one who impeded the Barbadian athlete.
Still, shrugging off his disappointment of the last championships, University of the West Indies’ sociology major Fedrick Dacres showed that we can throw more than words in winning silver in the discus, an event which amusingly sounds like conversation. Add to that the silver earned by Danniel Thomas-Dodd, and it is history that we have written.
In the field, Tajay Gayle surprised everyone, including his unflappable coach, Stephen Francis, winning gold in the long jump. New chapters were written in Doha.
And as for the return of Americans to ascendancy in track and field, especially the sprints, let me put things into perspective. Christian fossil-fuelled ‘coal man’ missed several drug tests, leaving nimbus stratus clouds above his head. As humble and respectful as Justin Gatlin is, I ask a simple question. “If I used drug money to start my legitimate business, do I lose the economic effects of the contraband simply because I stopped dealing narcotics?”
Finally, Bolt ran 9.58 after four rounds and 19.19 after a total of eight. Blake has run 19.26 for the 200 metres. Coleman, at 9.79, and Lyles, at 19.50, are not even in the conversation yet.
“Eternal father …” sounds so good.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.