Fri | Sep 21, 2018

Topping Commonwealth's track and field

Published:Thursday | August 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM

By Hubert Lawrence

With 10 victories in athletics at the Commonwealth Games, Jamaica almost topped the medal table. Had the men's javelin finished with a slightly different result, Jamaica could have finished first overall in our flagship sport. Instead, Julius Yego made history. He won Kenya's first Commonwealth gold medal in a non-track event.

That left Jamaica and Kenya level on gold. Since the Kenyans collected 10 silver compared to Jamaica's three, they were superior.

Jamaica also had a throws first in Glasgow, host of the 20th Commonwealth Games. Odayne Richards spun the shot out to 21.61 metres to break new ground. Not only did he win, but he set a new Games and Jamaican record.

His wonderful victory was probably as much of a surprise as Yego's gold was for the rest of the world. After all, who expects throwers from sprint-strong Jamaica or distance-dominant Kenya.

Neither of these two track superpowers would have enjoyed the wet and chilly Glasgow weather. Yet, the results still provide grounds for introspection. As sweet as it was to watch 'Yellow House' dominate the sprints, and relays, one wonders if second place overall is a sufficient return.

The Games remain a worthy contest. In netball, it is a virtual World Championships and our bronze there was brilliant. In swimming and diving, two-time medal winner Alia Atkinson and Yona Knight-Wisdom advanced in an area where national interest, judged by the very limited spread of facilities, is next to non-existent. In the racquet sports, our participants gained valuable experience.

In athletics, the situation is different. With the USA and Russia ineligible and Great Britain split up, we may need to view the Commonwealth Games as a tournament we can win. It's ambitious, but if you're a superpower, the only way to go is up.

Two shots at gold were lost when injuries slowed speed queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and when they stopped discus ace Fedrick Dacres. When she is on form, the little dynamo is the best 100-metre sprinter in the world. At 66.75 metres, Dacres still has the best discus throw in the Commonwealth this year, even though knee surgery ruled him out months ago.


More generally, to top the table at big Games, it is clear that 'new' Jamaican medal streams are in need of being created. Between them, Arthur Wint and George Kerr have three Olympic medals at 800 metres. Since their heyday, no Jamaican had even reached an Olympic final until Kenia Sinclair did in 2008.

Paul Foreman and Deryck Taylor went one-two in the 1958 Games' long jump. Wellesley Clayton, double Commonwealth bronze medal winner and 1996 Olympic runner-up James Beckford were world-class in their respective eras.

Our women have kept their part of the horizontal jumps bargain with Olympic long jump finalists Dorothy Scott, Cynthia Henry, Elva Goulbourne and Chelsea Hammond and star triple jumpers Trecia Smith and Kimberly Williams putting black-green-and-gold into the picture.

Winning the sprints is great, but that alone won't put Jamaica atop the medal tables ... even in division two. A more rounded effort might just do it.

Hubert Lawrence has scrutinised athletics since 1980.