Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Foster's Fairplay | Selectors should play it by the rule

Published:Tuesday | July 12, 2016 | 7:00 AM
World champion Danielle Williams (right) crashes out of the women's 100m hurdles during the final at the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA)/Supreme Ventures National Senior Championships at the National Stadium. Megan Simmonds (centre) won in 12.79 seconds. Shermaine Williams (left) was second in 12.90 seconds.

The recently held National Senior Championships served as trials for Jamaica's track and field team to the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. Foster's Fairplay is stretched to recall a previous selection decider that has turned up controversy anywhere akin to this one.

It was thrown in the faces of fans and raised serious concerns about who was granted a berth on the travelling group and who was not. Some of the arguments generated called into sharp focus whether the four-day exercise was indeed necessary.

This is the consideration that will occupy the mind of this columnist as final touches go into the South American safari in search of medals.

It would detract from, and demean, the standards that this column tries to maintain, to argue against one matter raised in the public space. It spoke to granting byes to elite athletes. This would excuse their non-participation at trials, on the back of outstanding performances prior to the true test of their ability under the canopy of competition.

What this columnist will remind is that the event is also Jamaica's National Championships - a rare opportunity not to be denied the adoring fans to see the country's best in living colour. Also, surely the sponsors, who are continually called upon to put their dollars into the sport, deserve the additional prestige-laden platform to promote their products. A diluted display of talent would not afford all this.

On another pivotal level, a prime example to illustrate the vagaries of the selection process lies in the women's 100 metres hurdles. Danielle Williams, the reigning World champion from Beijing last year, must be top-ranked as the country's finest female sporting ambassador. A personal view is that she contests the number one spot with the equally affable Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. All this is said in terms of her captivating charm and a demeanour and disposition which attract.

 

OBSTACLE RACE

 

She was the compelling favourite going into the trials event that afforded her global status. The reason it is called an obstacle race came to the fore at hurdle number six and heightened at the next barrier.

There was no hope, no return, her Rio dream ending with a floundering last place. It removed the sting from any argument that her seat was already booked. Gracefully, she accepted her fate, telling her supporters through social media: "I shall rise again ... a minor setback for a major comeback ... broken but not defeated."

Her pedigree for decency and dignity was confirmed - a class act.

In light of all this, there is a call to have the Kings Gate Prep, Queen's School graduate ticketed for Rio. Her World champ status, as well as her Jamaican leading time, is brought into the mix as airtight and impeccable credentials. Perish that thought. Yes, the best team needs to be sent to the Olympics. Above all, it is indeed the greatest show on earth and demands no less a billing.

What is needed here is a proper definition of the word 'best'. There is no guarantee that a just definition, by whatever means decided, can sustain its integrity six weeks later. It is not that we are beholden to the United States, but their First World stature is cast in stone. They solve any dispute by saying, "You must do it today".

Whether or not the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) settles for so sophisticated a system in a scenario that lacks that attribute is a dilemma that they alone must face. Right now, the perception is 1-2-3 will travel. As such, it cannot be acceptable to lower the standard on one hand and raise the bar elsewhere. That is what any tweaking of the rules would do to Nickeisha Wilson, who placed a legitimate third and earned her spot.

How could the selectors call the former 400m hurdler, who placed fourth at the Osaka World Championships in 2007 and with a straight face say, "sorry, but Danielle has to go to Rio."

It must be borne in mind that the team is not yet confirmed at the time of writing. However, the voices in support of a decision to name Danielle, although not overpowering, merit a stern response.

Don't do it, JAAA.

For feedback: Email lauriefoster2012@gmail.com