Taylor gives Bucknor ‘the chills’
As members of Calabar High School's track and field team gathered on the National Stadium's blue mondo on Saturday to celebrate a historic fifth straight hold on the Mortimer Geddes trophy, one image stood out among the revelry.
Sprinter Christopher Taylor, who, of course, played a major role in Calabar's 26th ISSA-GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships title, was understandably the centre of attention, with hordes of teammates, fans and officials clamouring for photographs with the young star.
However, it was the few minutes he shared with one of his school's greatest Champs icons, Richard 'Jabba' Bucknor, that stood out, as a Calabar giant of the past and the Lions' newest hero stood side by side for the first time, in a ratheral literal timeline of Calabar excellence.
Taylor set records in the Class Two boys' 400m (46.33) in the heats and the 200m (20.80) in the semi-finals, before returning to win gold in both events. Adding the 4x100m gold and a smart 45.3 anchor leg run, which led Calabar to a title-underlining 4x400m relay Open win over the Akeem Bloomfield-anchored Kingston College.
It was a run that impressed Bucknor so much, that the two-time Olympian was compelled to make his way from his seat in the grandstand to the track, for a chance to meet the youngster he considers to be the future of Jamaican sprinting.
"This young man (Taylor) puts a chill on me. I don't have my voice any more. That race that he ran; that last leg, I will put this down as the best mile relay I have ever seen or witnessed ever in Jamaica," said Bucknor, who represented Jamaica in the 110m hurdles at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games in Seoul and Barcelona, respectively.
That's a huge compliment coming from a man that in his time was seen as one of the island's brightest talents.
At the 1986 Boys' Championships, two years before his first Olympics, Bucknor, who is widely considered as one of the greatest Jamaican high school track and field athletes ever, had his own magnum opus.
In a dominant display, Bucknor ran 50.53 in the 400m hurdles - a record that would stand for two decades - in addition to claiming the 110m hurdles and helping Calabar to a win over the highly fancied Camperdown High team of that time in the 4x100m, before running a leg on his team's gold medal-winning 4x400m relay team.
Calabar, coached then by the legendary Herb McKenley, would go on to win the 1986 championships, breaking a Clarendon College spell of two straight wins and three in the previous four championships.
Currently living in Texas, USA, where he went to college, Bucknor told The Gleaner that he decided to return to Jamaica for Champs as a part of his 50th birthday celebration and also for the chance to see his school win a fifth straight title - a feat they had never managed before.
"It brought back a whole lot of memories and amazing feelings witnessing this in the stands, I mean just seeing that final race and just seeing a Class One man giving it his all and then having a youngster - I won't say put him in his place; but the boy showed us all what it's like to be an athlete in Jamaica, you have to come hard every single time no matter who you are running against," Bucknor said.
"I wanted to see this happen, Calabar winning a fifth straight title. This is history and I'm a part of history and back in the day I never had the experience of just being a spectator in the stand so today in the stand with all the fans and just the way everyone was, the way everyone came together, was simply amazing!"
He wouldn't leave without a world of advice for young Taylor.
"Stay healthy and as my old coach Herb McKenley used to tell me, stay away from all the women dem," he laughed.
"Seriously though, he has a great future ahead of him, he has some great advisers around him and if the country comes around and keeps him in check, we are going to have another Usain Bolt on our hands pretty soon."