Count me in, says Gonzales
With Javon Francis' Herculean effort on the anchor leg in the 4x400m finals at the 2013 IAAF World Championships and 15-year-old Christopher Taylor's world age-group record 45.69 seconds a few days ago, there's certainly an air of promise around Jamaica's young quarter-milers.
Add the talents of Javere Bell (45.08), Rusheen McDonald (45.10) and a few others and the picture of a promising batch of Jamaican 400m sprinters, for today and tomorrow, starts to appear.
However, there's an old name - looking on in amazement, desperate to play a part in the resurgence of a programme that boasts a rich heritage.
Jermaine Gonzales was once Jamaica's 400m poster-boy. Medals at the age-group level, Commonwealth Games bronze in 2006, and a national record 44.40 in 2010 - a year that saw him posting seven sub-45 seconds times in the event.
Now 30, Gonzales faces a battle to return to those heights after two and a half years of injury setbacks.
The athlete told The Sunday Gleaner that he is encouraged by what he sees from the 'new breed' of Jamaican quarter-milers and is hoping to play a role in the country's return to the pinnacle of the mile relay.
"I miss competing, and when I look out there and see the youngsters doing so well, I'm really happy for them knowing that the country's 4x400m programme looks really good. This is something that I want to come back and contribute to. I think I have enough experience to lead the youngsters and I want to be a part of it," Gonzales said.
Gonzales, who had to undergo two major knee surgeries, including the removal of a bone tumour, returned to training last September under the watchful eyes of coach Bert Cameron, the 1983 400m world champion.
"I have learnt a lot. I started doing well from a young age as I have been competing for a very long time. I've learnt over the years to take even better care of my body," Gonzales said. "It's been tough, coming back from two knee surgeries, doctors weren't even sure if I was going to be able to do track and field professionally again, so I am happy and looking forward to racing."
"People don't have a clue what I've been through and you won't see that on my face. I'm always smiling. This is the sport, though, and people don't see the hard work, the hurt and the pain. They see the results and that's what's important to them, but you have to think about yourself and try to do your best and run fast. That's all people care about anyway; they don't care about your injuries or issues," added Gonzales, shortly after a recent workout.