Foster's Fairplay | Big up to Bernard!
Who remembers the former Munro College athlete Claston Bernard, who heaved implements at Boys' Champs for the St Elizabeth school during the late '90s? Jamaica, in those times, was nowhere near as proficient in that discipline to attract the offer of scholarships to US colleges - for sure not close to what obtains since the turn of the century. Along with two other student athlete/throwers from his school, he was fortunate to be part of a pioneer group in that area. At the Louisiana State University, Bernard started on a path to being a world-class decathlete and was the US National Collegiate champion in 2002, taking the Commonwealth Games crown later that year.
At the global level, he was selected for the multi-sport event at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, but he experienced the misfortune of a 'did not finish' result. That was erased when he was a finalist at both the 2003 World Championships in Paris, and the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Foster's Fairplay had its first encounter with Bernard at the 1998 World Junior Championships when he was the first decathlete to represent the country at a world event. This was during the customary post-competition interview. Immediately, his mild-mannered demeanour impressed. He said that despite not medalling, his prize came from just being there. That sentiment resonated well with this journalist, as there was no recollection of an athlete from his school representing the country at that level. Bernard was one of four at the championships.
There was to be another meeting in Manchester, England when he won the gold medal previously mentioned. Apart from a significantly greater degree of maturity and self-assurance, nothing else had changed. He was clearly focused on a career which he hoped would bring further recognition and glory to the track and field profile of the country of his birth.
Over the past weekend, there appeared an article on the popular track and field exclusive website, trackalerts.com by the now-retired athlete that warmed the heart of this journalist. It started: "Away from the glare of the media, the lights, and the adulation, many track and field athletes seem to disappear, never to be heard of in the public sphere."
Bernard spoke eloquently to the role of the sport that he had embraced in the development of young athletes, highlighting, especially, those who did not make it on the track, saying, "What people tend to forget is that only a few
(athletes) in this world ever truly become the greatest at whatever task or event the world has to offer." He continued, "Track and field has given many young and poor Jamaicans more opportunities for success off the playing field than any other sporting event. We tend not to focus on the kid who is now a teacher, a professor or doctor who would never have had that opportunity otherwise." Take a bow for that thought, Claston.
commendation and gratitude
Bernard proceeded to urge young athletes to "spend time developing their academic abilities, too. This is something most injuries cannot take away." He ended with commendation for and gratitude to Jamaica. "I applaud Jamaica, for taking the time to invest and develop this wonderful sport. It is truly a wonderful testament. I am happy to be the beneficiary of such a great Jamaican product. Jamaica, please continue to nourish and develop this wonderful event.
"Thank you again, Jamaica."
Foster's Fairplay is obliged to take the time to congratulate this former athlete who has publicly admitted what his participation in track and field has done not only for him but for so many of his contemporaries. Jamaica will remain a better place for the administrators, officials, coaches and supporters of this sport, whose input, oftentimes voluntary, has been pivotal to the high achievements of our youth in and out of the classroom.
The final word goes to these same individuals who have made the sacrifice that has stimulated Bernard's mind to write as he has. Many more have benefited but for one reason or another, have not opened up to give credit where it is due.
Keep up the good work. Jamaica's marginalised and challenged youths need you even more now.
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