Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Jamaicans will recover from slow start

Published:Monday | May 18, 2015 | 12:51 PMDr Paul Wright, Contributor
Bolt (left) and Gatlin

It is my understanding that track and field athletes throughout the world value Olympic glory above all other victories in the sport.

The Olympics, however, only takes place every four years. In the intervening years there is the biennial World Athletics Champion-ships and yearly Diamond League.

The latter events are where these athletes compete not only for glory, but they compete to earn a living, which will see them comfortable when their bodies are unable to keep up with the rigours of the sport and the competition from younger, faster and stronger competitors.

This is a World Championships year, so the vast majority of athletes train to peak in August (the month of the competition), while earning well-needed cash during the Diamond League.

Catching up

This year has not started out very well for Jamaican athletes. Billed and recognised worldwide as the 'Sprint Capital' of the world, athletes from Jamaica are finding out that this year might be the one when the world (read: USA) catches up with us.

The first two Diamond League events have just been completed with Kaliese Spencer - a perennial Diamond League winner - being the only victor for the all-conquering Jamaicans. We are just not used to seeing our king and queen beaten.

Usain Bolt ran a tremendous last leg in the 4x100 metres relay in The Bahamas, but was unable to catch an American sprinter whom he would usually have for lunch, while Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has just not been herself recently. Apart from being in the centre of the usual 'cass-cass' between the Jamaica Athletics Administrative

Association (JAAA) selected national coaches and her own personal coach, Fraser-Pryce seems to lack the top-end speed to compete with other athletes who seem to be ahead of her in their preparation for competition in August.

This is not to say that all is lost. Far from it, we-the-people expect her to improve to the extent that retaining her title in Beijing in August would be a given, but after watching her race so far this year, a lot of us are going ... hmmmmm.

The emergence of Elaine Thompson from the Fraser-Pryce camp (MVP) gives us hope of another 1-2-3 finish in the women's 100m, and maybe even the women's 200m. But as it stands now, the third week of May, let us pray!

On the male side, the world's fastest man seems to be on his way to another gold medal. The report of a "niggle" after the defeat in the relay is worrisome, as we are well aware that healing can be time consuming. But, Usain is Usain. If healthy, defeat is not contemplated.

The re-emergence of Asafa Powell, after months of training abroad under the watchful eye of his brother, gives us hope. After his expulsion from the MVP club, every Jamaican remembered the 'prophetic' words of his former coach, who reminded us that any athlete who leaves his camp NEVER improves. This renewed Powell brought forth roars from a relieved crowd at the National Stadium

at the Jamaica International Invitational meet.

Unfortunately, his world leading time was soon eclipsed by that living medical marvel in Justin Gatlin, whose latest run of 9.74 is faster than he ran some 12 years ago.

This remarkable achievement should confound sport medicine and biomechanical experts, who thought that a 12-year ageing process would slow him down.

Therefore, athletics this year, (the sprints) may just be dominated by those who cheat and were forgiven, while those who chose to remain dope free struggle to make the podium.

My cheers are for Bolt and Thompson. Who will you cheer for this year?