Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Hubert Lawrence | A Last Look At 2016 In Sport

Published:Thursday | December 29, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Brathwaite celebrates West Indies' T20 World Title win against England in April this year.
Usain Bolt celebrates after winning his third gold medal at the Rio Olympics.
1
2
3

The death of Dominic James of St George's College and Saymar Ramsey of Spot Valley High School cut cruelly across my sporting recollection of 2016. I was scrolling through mental images of the Olympics, the T20 World Cup double West Indies triumph; the fairy tale come true for Leicester City in the Premiership; the Nico Rosberg 1-2 of Formula 1 victory and then sudden retirement, smiling. Then the loss of those two young boys sobered me.

It's still shocking that they both could have fallen while playing games that student-athletes have participated in for generations.

Lionel Messi's Copa America penalty miss and his immediate retirement from international football are on centre stage, too. He must feel enormous pressure to bring his club form to bear when he is wearing Argentina's white and light blue stripes. However, at 29 now, he should have one more World Cup in him. That will probably be his last chance to join the likes of PelÈ, Maradona, Beckenbauer, Zidane and Ronaldo, the elder in the sport's super elite.

For me, Carlos Braithwaite's belligerent finish to the T20 World Cup was a highlight. His 4 towering sixes combined the best traditions of West Indies batsmanship with a cool head under tremendous pressure. While Messi missed, Braithwaite hit the target with aplomb.

 

SUDDEN RETIREMENT

 

While Messi quite rightly rescinded his retirement, Rosberg is gone with his decision announced just 5 days after he beat Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to the F1 drivers' title. Hamilton had more than his fair share of mechanical problems this season, but Rosberg, 31, is still a worthy champion.

There was no more worthy champion than Usain Bolt. His Olympic 100 metre win pulled him away from Carl Lewis of the USA, who had also won the 100 twice. Yet, Elaine Thompson perhaps shone even more brightly. She did the sprint double, as Bolt did at the Olympic Games for the third straight time, but was the first woman to do so since 1988.

Those Games featured stunning world records from Wayde van Niekerk, Almaz Ayana and Anita Wlodarczyk in the 400, the 10,000 and the hammer respectively. Yet, they will also be remembered for Shaunae Miller's fall at the finish line to deny Allyson Felix gold in the women's 400, giving the Bahamas its second winner in the event.

In the pool, Michael Phelps continued to write his name in history. The American swimmer took home his 23rd Olympic gold medal. Say what you will about the multiplicity of events available to swimmers, but you must accept that Phelps has done mission impossible.

So did Leicester City. Against the odds, and led by Jamaican Wes Morgan, City won the English Premier League and proved that little teams could beat big teams all season long. Against the odds, and despite a slump in domestic form, the new Blues are undefeated in the European Champions League.

More inspiration came from the Cleveland Cavaliers. With LeBron James leading from the front, the Cavs brought joy to a city starved of sporting success since 1964.

 

RACE AGAINST TIME

 

Who would have imagined that Serena Williams would have reached three Grand Slam singles finals but would win only one, Wimbledon? She is 35, and even though she manages her playing schedule brilliantly, time is against her. The Grand Slam - wins in one calendar year at the Australia Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open - is the only real target she has left. It won't be easy.

In table tennis, Swedish maestro Jan-Ove Waldner played his last match at age 51. Career-long rival Jean-Michel Saive of Belgium once described J-O's best attribute.

"When he's good", Saive told Sports Illustrated in 1996, "he reads your mind. When he's really good, he reads the ball's mind," said the Belgian of the Swede who was Olympic, twice World Champion, and European Champion.

In the end, death stains the memories of 2016. An aeroplane crash doomed 71 passengers including the Chapecoense football team from Colombia. The suffering and eventual passing of iconic boxer Muhammad Ali still haunts the sporting world. Surely, that sport will continue to do more to protect boxers from themselves and the dangers of being hit too often.

Closer home, the same goes for those two young boys. ISSA and Team Jamaica Bickle have already stepped up with new rules and equipment respectively to help. The next step will be to ensure that coaches and team managers have emergency first aid training to respond if such incidents happen on the training field.

Had Ali, James, Ramsey and the Chapecoense football team survived the year in good health, then 2016 would have been a perfect sporting year with the Olympics as a centre piece and with all the other highlights. As things stand, the broken hearts can't wait to see it end.

- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.