400 metres finals push - Cameron urges young stars to step up
Bert Cameron, the elder statesman of the 400 metres, is full of praise for the young Jamaicans who currently compete in his pet event.
Cameron, the 1983 World 400 metres champion, is also encouraging the likes of 2016 Olympic 4x400 relay silver medal winners Javon Francis and Nathon Allen to excel in the individual event.
Speaking before a Cameron Blazers training session earlier this week, the 1984 and 1988 Olympic finalist was looking forward to great days for Francis, Allen and other upcoming Jamaicans in the 400m.
"I can't wait to see the day when the quarter-milers are genuinely back because that's the only race I really love," he hoped. "I just want to see those individual runners get to finals," he said.
The last Jamaican male 400m runner to reach a World or Olympic final is Jermaine Gonzales, who raced to a close fourth in the 2011 World Championships. Gonzales, who is making progress after several injury setbacks, was among those hard at work during the ensuing Blazers workout. At the 2016 Olympics, Francis and Rusheen McDonald, national record holder at 43.93 seconds, both reached the semi-final stage, but no further. With Allen blazing a 43.5-second relay leg in the heats and Francis storming a 43.9 anchor in the final, Jamaica took silver in the relay. That earned praise from Cameron.
It also led him to urge them all forward.
"If you win a silver medal in an open event then you know you're doing something," he said.
Cameron believes fast running in individual races should spill over into the relay. "And then, if you're running that fast in the individual races," he asserted, "then you know that you run faster relays, at least a second faster."
After naming Francis and Allen specifically, he predicted: "I see some good young quarter-milers, so hopefully, we can challenge the United States because remember we've won that before."
That comment was a reference to the Jamaican 4x400m victory over the Americans in the 1952 Olympics in London by Arthur Wint, Les Laing, Herb McKenley and George Rhoden.
Jamaica also beat the USA to win World Indoor titles in 1991 and 2004.
"You know, those days will come back," said the coach who directed Gonzales to a number 2 world ranking in 2010, Rosemarie Whyte-Robinson to the 2012 Olympic women's final, and Tiffany James to the World Under-20 gold medal this summer. "I want to live to see that," he concluded.