Sat | Sep 23, 2017

The Wright View; Much hope for Rio

Published:Tuesday | May 10, 2016 | 5:00 AMDr Paul Wight
Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson (left) wins the women’s 100 metres ahead of the United States’ English Gardner at the Jamaica International Invitational meet at the National Stadium on Saturday night. Thompson won in a wind-aided 10.71 seconds.

Four years after the London Olympics, the hype regarding the safety of the next venue, Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, seems to have died down, particularly where track and field is concerned.

The start of the lucrative Diamond League series has heralded the onset of several other meets all over the world, giving fans and indeed athletes an opportunity to discover who are the potential finalists in the many events to be contested this summer.

Jamaicans got an opportunity, up close, to witness one such early contest with the staging of the Jamaica International Invitational (JII) meet last Saturday at the National Stadium.

The meet was well attended and the usual World leading and personal best performances of some of the athletes on show added to the general satisfaction of those who attended or who watched on television.

The late withdrawal of some of the big name stars seemed not to have dampened spectator enthusiasm except when it was announced - just before the start of the women's 200-metre event - that double Olympic sprint champion and Jamaican sprint queen, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce would not be running.

The Jamaican hopefuls who did compete, however, gave fans confidence that the prophesy of Olympian and new Member of Parliament, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, would be fulfilled.

Mrs Cuthbert-Flynn predicted that the nation would surpass the 12 medals garnered at the event in London in 2012.

Elaine Thompson (10.79), Kemar Bailey-Cole (10.01) in the 100-metre races, Danielle Williams (12.55) in the sprint hurdles, Janieve Russell (54.61), Jaheel Hyde (49.16) in the 400m hurdles races, Javon Francis (44.85) and Novlene Williams-Mills (50.87) in the flat 400m, all showed signs of being in the finals of their events in Rio.

This is not to say that the other Jamaicans who competed last Saturday night have no chance in reaching the finals or even medalling in Rio.

Asafa Powell looked very good in the early stages of the men's 200m and his time of 20.45 is not to be sniffed at. However, with his history of groin and hamstring injuries, I am confident that his handlers will encourage him to concentrate on the 100m and the second or finishing leg of the 4x100m relay, of which the nation seems to be a sure pick for the gold in Rio.

There were other very notable performances at the JII last Saturday. Bahamian Shaunae Miller, who ran what seemed to be an easy 22.14 in the women's 200m, was the standout performance of the night.

Miller is better known as a 400m runner, who uses the 200m to sharpen her speed in the first 200m of the race. Her body type is reminiscent of another top world class runner (a male) and if she continues to progress (as it now appears), Marita Koch's very suspicious world record of 47.60 seconds may be in danger.

Well, maybe not this year, but definitely before the following Olympics.