Hubert Lawrence | How Close Was It?
No one could quarrel with Usain Bolt and Elaine Thompson being named Jamaica's 2016 Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year last Friday. Still, as awards season fades into the distance, I can't help but wonder how close the decision on the men's award was. The numbers put up by Olympic 110 metre hurdles champion Omar McLeod just make my head tick.
Injuries slowed Bolt in a season when I thought he was really going to speed. When he stumbled at the start, early in the 100m at the Racers Grand Prix, recovered, zoomed past Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell, and South African flash Akani Simbine, and won with something to spare, he looked ready to run really fast. Sadly, injuries made him bob and weave to find enough fitness to get the 100m-200m double done at the Olympics.
In a season where records didn't matter for the tall man, he ran 10.05, 9.98, 9.89, and 9.81 seconds in his four completed meets in the 100m, and in the 200m, he clicked to times of 19.89 in London and 19.78 seconds twice in the Olympics. Those statistics made him the second-fastest 100m man of 2016, by 0.01, and third fastest of the year in the 200m.
To conclude an undefeated three-meet indoor campaign, McLeod equalled the world-leading time of 7.41 seconds in winning the World Indoor Championships 60m hurdles title for Jamaica. Outdoors, despite two falls after the National Senior Championships, McLeod was the only man to break 13 seconds in the 110m hurdles. He backed up that 12.98 clocking with the number-two time of the year - 13.01 to win the National Senior Championships - and overall, six of the fastest eight.
Bolt had three of the fastest eight times in the 100m and two of the fastest eight in the 200m.
Throw in the first sub-10 second 100m clocking by a sprint hurdler and McLeod has a sparkling 2016 portfolio. Perhaps the difference was found in the comparative win-loss ratios. Bolt won all his races while McLeod lost three times in his prime event. That may have been the decider.
Sport, like life, isn't about 'what ifs', but I wonder where the award would have gone if McLeod had stayed on his feet in Budapest and Monaco, where he fell and finished them in times under 13 seconds.
That's all stat-nerd speculation. Bolt, McLeod, and Thompson now face the more critical matter of replicating the success of the Olympic year in 2017. The tall man is a past master of rising to the challenge, and you can bet your bottom dollar that he will be ready to roll at the World Championships in London this August.
The circumstances are new for Thompson and McLeod. She debuted at the high level with a silver in the 200m at the 2015 Worlds behind Dutch rival Daphne Schippers, but McLeod's Olympic gold was his first honour in such company. They both can learn from the greatest sprinter of all time and the way he wins, wins, and wins. To be truly great, that's where they have to aim.
- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.