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Can a thrower be Jamaica's Athlete of the Year?

Published:Thursday | October 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM

It's easy to pinpoint Kaliese Spencer as the top Jamaican female track and field athlete of 2014.

Even before her season-closing 400 metre hurdles win at lthe Continental Cup, she was head and shoulders above every other candidate for the position.

A single loss, the gold medal from the Commonwealth Games and wins in all but one race in the IAAF Diamond League will do that. By contrast, there's no clear leader amongst our male athletes this year.

Kemar Bailey-Cole, Rasheed Dwyer, Andrew Riley and O'Dayne Richards all won Commonwealth titles, in the 100m, 200m, 110 hurdlesm, and the shot put, but none came close to dominating on the world level as Kaliese did. Bailey-Cole, the tall Commonwealth 100 champion, fought off injuries in the early season and was just third at Nationals. Dwyer, Riley and Richards are all 2014 National champions and perhaps take a slight lead over Bailey-Cole in the race of Athlete of the Year honours.

He came back strongly to win gold in Glasgow, host city of the Commonwealth Games, to be first in Zurich, Zagreb, Birmingham, and at the pre Games Glasgow meet, and to come within 0.03 of his personal best of 9.93 seconds.

Dwyer beat Olympic bronze, medal winner Warren Weir in the 200m at both the Nationals and in Glasgow, and at the Continen-tal Cup got a personal best of 19.98 seconds. However, Weir and Nickel Ashmeade, with a time of 19.95, ran faster on the clock.

Riley beat another Olympic bronze-medal winner, Hansle Parchment, to win the Nationals. In Glasgow, with Parchment injured and out, Riley took the top spot.

Neither Bailey-Cole, Dwyer nor Riley had the best marks by Jamaicans in their events this year. Asafa Powell, Weir and Parchment all set times that were beyond the champions' reach.

Powell actually beat Bailey-Cole in Brussels and sprinted to times of 9.87 and 9.90, while Weir was brilliant in New York at 19.82. Similarly, in Riley's event, Parchment blitzed to 12.94, the first sub-13 by a Jamaican.

By contrast, Richards was far superior to his compatriots. His winning Commonwealth Games throw was not only the longest by a Jamaican this year, but also stretched the old national record held by Dorian Scott to 21.61 metres to win the gold medal. Like the others, he got his hits in Diamond League competition.

Before you give the edge it to the likeable MVP athlete, note that this nation's number two, Raymond Brown, is more than a metre behind Richards with a 2014 personal best of 20.17 metres.

You can't tell how things will go come awards time, but it's great to have a thrower in the running. In the land of the sprinter, it's a mild surprise that O'Dayne Richards is a contender of the title of Jamaican Male Athlete of the Year. For those like his coach Linval Swaby, it's no surprise. It's simply the reward for years of hard work.

Hubert Lawrence has scrutinised field and track athletics since 1980