Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Medical exemption rule worked

Published:Thursday | August 25, 2016 | 8:00 AMHubert Lawrence
Janieve Russell competing in the women’s 400 metres hurdles heats in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She placed seventh in the final.

It's hard to argue with the JAAA's medical-exemption rule now. The incomparable Usain Bolt and new star Elaine Thompson rode the exemption to two gold medals apiece at the recently concluded Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Though not at her best, Janieve Russell hurdled her way to the final of her event, the 400-metre hurdles.

If not for the medical-exemption rule, the world would have been denied a last look at Bolt, who crowned his last Olympic appearance with a solid sprint double.

Thompson only had exemption eligibility for the 200 metres, but she 'proved' her fitness with a gold-medal run in the 100m. Had a less mature approach been taken, she might have been ruled out of both sprints.

Bolt ran his fastest times of the season in Rio. Thompson's winning 100-metre time - 10.71 seconds - missed her recent personal best by one-hundredth of a second. In the 200m, like Bolt, she clocked her quickest time of the year, 21.78 seconds.

Had Bolt been ruled ineligible, his absence might also have handed the 4x100-metre gold medal to Japan, who crossed the line in second place with a time of 37.60 seconds. Only Jamaica and the United States have ever gone faster.

More importantly, non-Bolt Jamaica quartets have only beaten 37.60 twice.

Russell didn't regain the form that gave her a personal best of 53.96 seconds.

However, in the absence of really fast times by her likely replacement, Kaliese Spencer, Russell's Olympic participation isn't too much of a talking point.

Hansle Parchment, the other athlete seeking an exemption, wasn't able to prove fitness in time and made space for Andrew Riley in the 110-metre hurdles.

This was sad, as a fit Parchment might have reasonably considered himself a gold-medal candidate. Were he closer to 100 per cent, he might have benefited from a deadline closer to the start of his event as Thompson appeared to.

In a nutshell, the rule allowed Jamaica to send its strongest team to Rio. It isn't a wide open door to anyone who has an injury at the time of the National Senior Championships. That's because only those with world top-three performances or rankings in-between 2015 or 2016 could apply.

It's hard to argue with that.