Hubert :Lawrence | Easy 2017 for Chris Taylor?
What should be done with the exceptional youth? Should he be bubble-wrapped and put on a shelf? Should she compete only with her peers? Or should he/she be given challenges commensurate with their exceptional gifts?
When Christopher Taylor began breaking world age group best times for the 400m last year, there was talk that he could 'beat the big man dem'. When he ran 45.30 and 45.27 seconds to win the semi-final and final, respectively, of the 2015 World Youth Championships, it seemed to prove that a year later he would be past the 45-second barrier.
Few noted that those World Youth Championships were held in Cali, Colombia, which is situated just over 1000 metres above sea level.
Like Chris, many sprinters there set personal bests in the thinner air that prevails at high altitude. Even now, a year later, his best time at low altitude is a 45.55 in Kingston.
His best time this year is 45.66 seconds.
Based on the moderate form of our seniors in the 400m, I'd have been tempted to run Chris in the National Senior Championships 400m. A top-six finish and a place in the 4x400m relay pool seemed certain.
This manoeuvre worked in 2000 for Veronica Campbell-Brown and Brandon Simpson, who were junior athletes then. Campbell won an Olympic 4x100m silver medal and did the sprint double at the late-season World Junior Championships. Simpson finished second in the 400m and helped Jamaica to 4x400m gold.
It didn't work for Taylor. The 'big men' showered the Nationals with seasonal bests and relegated the youngster to lane one in the final. Though superior to his peers, the repeated need to run to the red line slowed him to seventh in the final.
At the World Under-20 Championship, he ran listlessly and let go in the semi-final when advancement seemed lost. He looked tired there. That might have been the product of a long season, the energy-sapping National Senior Championships, and a long and late journey from Jamaica to the Polish city of Bydgoszcz, where the Under-20 meet was held.
The matter of travel fatigue is important. Taylor's event began on day two of the Championships, four to five days after a Kingston-Miami-Philadelphia-London-Berlin journey by air and a seven-hour drive to Poland for the Jamaican team.
By contrast, the 4x400m was last. Perhaps, he was fully recovered by then from jetlag when he secured the bronze for Jamaica with a swift anchor leg timed in 45.1 seconds.
A key question presents itself. It's my guess that this exceptional youth might need to train with less intensity or regularity for the upcoming season. Year 2017 contains no global age-group meets for which he is eligible, so shutting things down at the end of April, when the annual Penn Relays are done, will give Taylor some rest.
In 2018, he will be 18; then he can make a real bid to win the World Under-20 title.
- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.