Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Follow the Trace | Thumbs up for exemption clause

Published:Tuesday | July 5, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Usain Bolt (centre) looks at Senoj-Jay Givan (right) as he win’s the men’s 100 metres semi-final at the JAAA/Supreme Ventures National Athletics Championships at the National Stadium on Saturday. Looking on is Jevaughn Minzie, who placed third.

Despite the many brilliant performances on the track and in the field at the weekend's national senior track and field championships, by far the biggest news coming out of the event was the withdrawal, due to injury, of sprint superstar Usain Bolt.

The official word is that Bolt suffered a grade-one muscle tear in the first round of the 100 metres.

Bolt said, subsequently, he felt the twitch again after the semi-final, thus when the sprinters lined up for the final, there was an anxious hush over the National stadium as the double defending Olympic champion and world record holder was not on the track.

Bolt and his camp followed protocol and submitted a medical-exemption request to Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) both for the 100m and 200m events.

Thank heavens for the flexibility of JAAA's selection policy, the door has been left ajar for Bolt to have the opportunity to defend his sprint double in Rio.

Credit must be absolutely given to the Jamaican athletics officialdom for having the vision, foresight and simply good sense to maintain that one discretionary place, for elite athletes ranked in the top three in the world, in the selection of athletes for flat events.

The hard-and-fast top-three-past-thepost rule, as exists in the United States of America (USA), to my mind, is unreasonably inflexible and could conceivably omit the best athletes from the team, even when they are fully fit.

Already there is talk about the possible difficulties that could arise when JAAA's selection committee moves to bump the third-place finishers, in both sprints, in order to accommodate the returning Bolt.

One colleague asked what if Asafa Powell was the third place finisher in the 100m?

How easy would it be to displace the veteran Jamaican crowd favourite in what should be his last Olympic Games?

There ought not to be any real problems with the exemptions, not just for Bolt. Other elite athletes, Hansle Parchment and Janieve Russell, have also applied for medical exemptions for their pet event.

That this rule has been in place for some time now, plus, in the case of Bolt, we are talking about the six-time Olympic champion, the world record holder and greatest sprinter of all time.

As hard as it might be for the individual athletes involved, the Bolt factor should make the decision that much easier.

It is exactly for situations like these that this rule was instituted and, basically, it allows good sense to prevail.

As we speak, Bolt is already in Europe getting medical treatment. While we should all be somewhat worried , there should be some measured optimism that the injury is not all that bad based on the fact that he felt the niggle in the first round and came back to run and win again in the semi-final, suggesting the injury is not very serious.

Jamaica and, indeed, the entire world, continue to hope and pray that the big man will recover fully, especially with the rampant talk all season being about him getting close to those elusive world records. Those lofty ambitions might now have to be revised, with Bolt now sure to miss out on some crucial preparation time.

Assuming that Bolt gets back to a minimum 75 per cent fitness, he should be able to successfully defend his crowns. Such is his superiority.

If, however, God forbid, the injury is worse than initially thought, and he cannot get back to 75 per cent fitness, then an even bigger decision might have to be made. Let us all keep our fingers crossed.