Wed | May 24, 2017

Will it be better in Beijing?

Published:Thursday | July 9, 2015 | 7:00 AM

Andre Clarke has the worst luck. During practice for the 400 metres hurdles at the World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea, the G.C. Foster College ace fell and broke his shoulder. His only option now is to watch. Ironically, his misfortune is just the latest to befall Jamaica's track and field athletes in South Korea.
Jamaica went there in 1988 for the Olympic Games in Seoul. Sadly, the great Merlene Ottey was ill and had to withdraw from the 100 semi-finals. Juliet Cuthbert was in fine form but pulled up in the 100m final. The same sad thing happened to Raymond Stewart in the famous Ben Johnson world record race.
Ottey came back to run 21.99 metres in the 200 final, but was pipped for the bronze by East German Heike Dreschler. In a race where the late Florence Griffith-Joyner set a staggering world record of 21.34 seconds, Grace Jackson took the silver medal with a then national record time of 21.72 seconds.
 

Hard-knock life
 
Jamaica returned to South Korea for the 2011 World Championships. This time, the host city was Daegu and, again, Jamaica had hard knocks. That's where the incomparable Usain Bolt false-started in the men's 100m. Before the meet, some of us were thinking 1-2-3-4, but injury knocked Asafa Powell and his world leading time of 9.78 seconds out of contention. Then Bolt erred and, on the restart, Nesta Carter caught a severe cramp and could only jog home to the finish.
That's where Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce slipped three strides into her usual brilliant start as she sought to defend her 100-metre title. While Yohan Blake was there to defend national honour in the 100m, Veronica Campbell-Brown could only claw her way back to second in the women's 100m.
Fraser-Pryce, 400m hurdler Kaliese Spencer and 400m runner Jermaine Gonzales all missed bronze medals by small margins.
It's probably a good thing this year's World Championships are in Beijing. That's where Spencer became the first Jamaican to win the gold medal in the 400m hurdles at the World Junior Championships. More importantly, from a team standpoint, the 2008 Beijing Olympics is where the current Golden Era in Jamaican athletics began.
The Bolt legend was born there. The tall man, Fraser-Pryce, Campbell-Brown and Melaine Walker were all brilliant there. The unique 1-2-2 sweep of the women's 100m happened there. That was seven years ago. Hopefully, this next visit to Beijing will be just as good.
- Hubert Lawrence made notes at track side in Beijing in 2008.