Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Supporting cast ready to take over

Published:Thursday | August 25, 2016 | 8:00 AMRaymond Graham
Elaine Thompson celebrates winning the women's 100m final.
Omar McLeod (centre) raises his arms in triumph as he crosses the finish line and wins the men's 110 metres hurdles final as he races alongside France duo Pascal Martinot-Lagarde and Dimitri Bascou, during competition at the Rio Olympics, inside the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Yohan Blake runs off the bend in the men's 200m heats at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Shericka Jackson celebrates her bronze medal finish in the women's 400 metres inside the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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The country's athletes gave another sterling performance at the Olympic Games, winning 11 medals - six gold, three silver and two bronze - a repeat collection of the 2008 Games in Beijing, China, where the medal haul and colours were the same.

In China, the country finished fourth in track and field medal-placing. This time around, the Jamaicans were third overall, being edged out of second spot on Sunday's final day of competition by Kenya, whose Eliud Kipchoge won the men's marathon to give his country its sixth gold. Thus, they finished second with 13 medals - six gold, six silver and one bronze.

The United States, with 32 medals - 13 gold, 10 silver and nine bronze - finished atop the track and field medal table.

Despite failing to overhaul the 12 medals (four gold, four silver, four bronze) gained in London four years ago, it was another proud moment for Jamaica's track and field.

Undoubtedly, the star was Usain Bolt, who proved once again that he is the best in the business as he became the first ever to win triple titles at three consecutive Games, defending titles in both the 100 and 200 metres, plus anchoring the men's 4x100m relay team to victory.

 

Thompson's rise

 

After making her senior debut at the World Championships last year, where she finished a close second for silver in the women's 200m, the Stephen Francis-coached Elaine Thompson made a big statement at the highest level that she is now the queen of sprinting, after amazing performances in winning the 100m and 200m, plus the silver medal-winning 4x100m relay team.

In so doing, she became the country's most successful female athlete at the Games.

Sprint hurdler Omar McLeod became the first Jamaican to win a gold medal at these Games by capturing the men's 110m hurdles, while Shericka Jackson, like she did a year ago at the World Championships, captured bronze in the women's 400m, and defending 100m female champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who despite competing under severe circumstance with an injured toe, secured bronze in the women's 100m.

While Jamaicans are celebrating the success of our athletes, there is a major concern, however, as in four years Bolt, Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell-Brown, who have been our most successful athletes at the past three Games, will not be in Tokyo.

The million-dollar question is who will take up the mantle?

 

Good signs

 

On the female side, the emergence of Thompson and Jackson, and on the male side, Yohan Blake - who was not at his best after coming back from injuries - and McLeod, are good signs. But who else will be stepping up to the plate?

Winning 11 medals in Rio was no surprise. The only surprise among the medals was the men's 4x400m relay, as they were not given a chance to be among the medals after pathetic performances all season, with Javon Francis being the only sub-45 second man.

Francis ran an intelligent anchor leg, plus their path was made easier as Trinidad and Tobago and Great Britain, who were ranked ahead of Jamaica, were disqualified in the preliminary round. Here, young Nathon Allen must be commended for his brilliant run in both the preliminary round and the final, as he made it easier for Francis on anchor.

Now, the Selection committee of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) must send a strong message to athletes. Why are they taking athletes who barely make the qualifying standards?

It is said that most of these athletes were taken for experience, but this is Jamaica, a powerhouse in track and field, and we should not take athletes to just participate, as many of these athletes could not get past the first round.

If they continue to select them for just barely attaining qualifying marks, these athletes will be very comfortable and won't make an effort to improve as they know they will be selected nonetheless.

In his final assessment, technical director Maurice Wilson said he hoped the authorities will not just dwell on the success of our athletes in Rio, but build on it to ensure that the legacy of Bolt, Fraser-Pryce and Campbell-Brown continues.

Based on what happened at the World Under-20 Championships recently, I am confident that this will continue. The likes of Christopher Taylor, Nigel Ellis, Raheem Chambers, Jhevaughn Matherson and Dejour Russell among the males, along with Tiffany James, Junelle Bromfield, Shannon Kallawan and Rushelle Burton, among the females are waiting in the wings.

Add to these the talented Akeem Bloomfield and Natalliah Whyte, who once they get over injury problems, will be a force to be reckoned with at the highest level.