Hubert Lawrence | Medals in the future
In major championships, like the recently concluded Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, medals matter.
Jamaica can be justly proud of its haul of six gold, three silver and two bronze medals.
It would be a mistake to focus only on those who won medals.
Annsert Whyte arrived in Rio as national 400-metre hurdles champion with a two-year-old personal best of 48.58 seconds. Peaking perfectly for the biggest meet of his life, the former Clan Carthy High School 400-metre finalist went faster in every round and clocked 48.07 seconds in the final.
Among Jamaicans, only Winthrop Graham, Danny McFarlane, Kemel Thompson and Isa Phillips have ever been quicker.
Whyte's new personal best is faster than the time that sat atop the 2016 performance list before the Olympics began. That was 48.10 seconds by American Johnny Dutch at the Jamaica Invitational. Dutch didn't reach Rio as he was the victim of a shocking last hurdle fade-out at the US Olympic Trials.
BEST RACE IN YEARS
Kerron Clement, the two-time World champion who beat Dutch at the US Trials, clicked to his best race in years to win in 47.73 seconds. A Kenyan record of 47.78 gave Boniface Tumuti the silver. Yasmani Coppello of Turkey edged Thomas Barr of Ireland, the 2015 World University Games champion, 47.92 to 47.99, in the race for the bronze.
Whyte peaked at the right time, but found himself surrounded by others who had obviously read the same script. This Racers Track Club athlete is a late bloomer who, at 29, might be a medal candidate at the World Championships next year in London.
The same goes for triple jumper Kimberly Williams, who bounced into her second Olympic final, and Olympic newcomers Christania Williams and Stephenie-Ann McPherson. The latter pair competed in the 100m and 400-metre finals, respectively.
It seems like it was just yesterday when Christania zoomed to the second fastest 100-metre dash in Girls' Championship history, a 2014 winner of 11.19 seconds for Edwin Allen Comprehensive High School. In just two years, the University of Technology student has mastered the 11-second barrier. Her future seems bright.
Nothing is certain. In 2011, she was third in the Carifta Games Under-20 100-metre final. Ahead of her were Anthonique Strachan of the Bahamas and Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago. Injury ushered Strachan out to the Bahamian Olympic 4x400m, while Ahye was an impressive finalist in the 100m in Rio.
All things being equal, Ristananna Tracey, Leah Nugent and Janieve Russell will be on the same growth pathway in the future too. Like those detailed above, they all were in their first Olympic Games and made history by giving Jamaica a trio of 400-metre hurdles finalists for the first time.
Like Whyte, Tracey and Nugent set personal bests in the 400-metre hurdles final.
Spare a thought for 2015 World shot put bronze medal winner, O'Dayne Richards. The burly national record holder fought his way past injury and leg surgery to again take his place in a global final. Had he been 100 per cent, a medal would have been within his strong grasp.
In an environment where only medals matter, these performances will appear to be disappointments. Nothing could be further from the truth. Youth, even for Whyte, is on the side of this group of distinguished athletes.
While the future offers no guarantees, continued smart work could well open the door to the medal stand as early as next year in London.
- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.