Wed | Sep 20, 2017

The Wright View | Are our athletes properly conditioned?

Published:Tuesday | August 8, 2017 | 8:00 AM
Elaine Thompson of Jamaica crosses the line in 5th in the Women's 100m final at the IAAF World Championships in London, England, on Sunday.

Sometime after 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, I got a WhatsApp message from a friend wishing me "Happy Independence Day". I was aghast. Did my friend not know that Elaine Thompson, had just lost the finals of the women's 100m race at the IAAF World Championships in London, England? What could he be "happy" about?

On Saturday, the World's greatest athlete, Usain St Leo Bolt, lost in his final 100m race at the same venue. Moments after the loss, the heavens opened up in Kingston, and it rained and rained. I was convinced that the rain was really tears from the eyes of angels who were just as shocked and saddened as were every member of the human race who had heard of or seen this great man run.

My distress (and I was sure, the distress of others) on Saturday was tempered by the confidence that on Sunday, the 55th anniversary of the Independence of this small Island nation, our sprint queen and double Olympic sprint Champion, Elaine Thompson, would put it all right. She just could not lose the finals. She was her usual imperious self in the preliminaries, winning was just a formality. The race would be for the silver, Ta Lou, or Bowie.

Then on Sunday, the unthinkable. Our queen was defeated. Fifth, in a time considerably slower than her time in the semi-final. "Wha happen? Gatlin won on Saturday, and now Bowie won on Sunday. Was there no balm in Kingston? Could the end of Usain Bolt's fantastic career signal the end of our dominance in sprinting? I think not. The "factory" that is Jamaica will continue to produce champion sprinters of both sexes. Our formula did not suddenly become "fake". However, something went wrong, with our stars in London.

 

SIMILAR LOSS

 

Elaine Thompson, had done something similar some months ago. She lost in a similar manner, while running in Eugene, Oregon in May of this year. As it was in Oregon, so it was in London. Impressive credentials, on top of her form, seemingly unbeatable, then, the early speed of Bowie and Miller-Uibo, and poof, no smooth transition to the drive phase of her race, therefore defeat. At that time, I postulated that she had shown signs of fatigue, lack of that vital spark of energy that became a staple in her repertoire. I was publicly lambasted on national television, and told to "stay in my lane". Fortunately, however, there was a dramatic change in her schedule, and a decision to only run in the 100 metre race in London was made.

Voila! Our queen was back to good form after a well-earned rest. Then on Sunday, in the finals of the 100m race in London, the same thing happened again, her transformation to the drive phase of her race was characterised by an inability to run in a straight line! The usual "kick" was missing and she ended fifth! In her post-race interview, she took her loss well (some say too well) but offered no explanation of her failure to challenge the Games record and win.

Sports medicine dictates that after a maximum expenditure of energy, let us say a sub-11 second 100m race, with another race scheduled for two hours later, the body's energy stores MUST be replenished within 30 minutes of the effort. That means refuelling with a mixture of carbohydrate and protein. Thus, the human body is sufficiently refuelled for the next maximum effort, the finals in two hours' time.

 

LONDON SUPPORT STAFF

 

I am wondering if the support staff of our athletes in London, were appraised of this medical truism, and if they were, did they ensure that our athletes in London had the best available medical advice DURING their stay in Birmingham and London? Just asking. Our national representatives must be recognised as national treasures and treated as such. They must have available at all times the best that we have to offer, from experts who are experienced and not to have travelling with them support staff who (apparently) know very little about the intricacies of medical assistance to elite athletes. We deserve to know "what happened" in London. Will we?