Thu | Aug 24, 2017

Hubert Lawrence | That’s the deal

Published:Thursday | July 7, 2016 | 7:00 AM

I'll confess. I'm as worried as you are about the fitness of Usain Bolt, Hansle Parchment, Janieve Russell, and Elaine Thompson.

With just weeks to go before the Rio Olympic Games, it's going to be touch and go for this fantastic four to be ready.

Bolt would be a huge loss. He reigns as Olympic champion and just last year, rose from the therapist's bench to save the world of sport from crowning American Justin Gatlin as the fastest man alive, with a double win at the World Championships in Beijing.

Never mind that it was the world's sporting authorities that let Gatlin back in. They needed Bolt to win, and as he often does, the tall man did the business in Beijing.

Just weeks ago, Bolt racked up his third win in three starts this season with a stunning 9.88-second devastation of a fine 100-metre field at the Racers Grand Prix meet. Parchment and Thompson both won silver medals at Beijing and had shown great form this year in the 110-metre hurdles and the 100 metres, respectively. The same goes for Russell, who was fifth last year in the 400-metre hurdles. Undefeated this year, she is second fastest in the world at 53.96 seconds.

All of them have earned the right to obtain the medical exemption allowed to those ranked in the world top three. This provision relies on performances in both 2015 and 2016.

If you hadn't heard of it before, that's because it hasn't been needed too much in the past. Most often, in recent times, when our top stars have been out of form, they've been able to make the grade because of wildcard exemptions issued by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Bolt and Novlene Williams-Mills struggled to get fit in time for Beijing last year, but as World champion and Diamond League winner, they got going before it was too late.

In the Olympics, there are no such exemptions. Thinking ahead, the local governing body of track and field, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), created a safety valve about a decade ago when the late Howard Aris was president.

It's hard on sprinters Jevaughn Minzie and Julian Forte, 110-metre hurdler Andrew Riley, 400-metre hurdler Kaliese Spencer, and 200-metre newcomer, Kali Davis-White, who placed third in their events at the Nationals. They all stand to lose Olympic team slots if Bolt, Parchment, Russell, and Thompson report fit in time. That, however, is the deal.

It's a good deal, too. The latter quartet gives Jamaica a legitimate shot at five individual Olympic medals ... if they are fit. Provided they and the little empress of speed, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, are running at full pitch in Rio, Jamaica could be a very happy place next month.

• Hubert Lawrence was in Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London for the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.