Follow The Trace | Let us keep it real
The 2017 IAAF World Championships of Athletics, thankfully from a Jamaican perspective, is now history. By any stretch of the objective imagination, a medal haul of four, comprised of one gold and three bronze, is disastrous and embarrassing by recent Jamaican standards.
Context and perspective are always crucial to credible analysis, and outside whatever technical administrative and individual flaws that contributed to Jamaica's worst World Championships haul in three decades, the element of luck certainly did not go our way. There were a couple of injuries which directly cost Jamaica a couple of medals in the men's sprint relay with Usain Bolt, and in the women's mile relay with Anneisha McLaughlin-Whilby. These unlucky moments may have slightly exaggerated the comparative ordinariness of the Jamaican performances, but even then, it was a cruel championships for Jamaican fans to endure. Our athletes have brought us overall joy and great pride in recent times, but it is safe to say that for London 2017 overall, they brought us great disappointment.
During the unravelling of the Jamaican team in London, and as the post-event analysis of the championships begins there is a dangerous trend emerging where many in and around the sport are overtly suggesting that Jamaicans must not criticise our national representatives. One friend went as far as to suggest that these national representatives all went out there and did their best and no matter the results, we ought not to criticise them.
Implicit in that line of thinking is that we should not be honest in our analysis of the team and individual performances, as well as the management and coaching decisions taken. This attitude seems to permeate even the mentality of the athletes themselves as reflected in a couple of the interviews coming out of London, where sentiments to the effect that they, the athletes, would like to thank the "real fans" and the "genuine fans" who have stuck by them through thick and thin, suggesting that those who dared to be critical of them at any point, and for whatever reason, are not real or genuine fans.
Historically, Jamaica and Jamaicans do not have a culture of accountability, but if ever there is an urgent need for us to buck that trend, and being able to hold people accountable, then it is the analysis of what took place in London. With balance and objectivity, let us address all the issues openly and forthrightly.
At this critical crossroads for Jamaica's most successful international sport, let us begin the honest analysis now and let the chips fall where they may. If Elaine Thompson had a meltdown in the 100 metres final, let us, and her, face it head-on and move forward. If the technical team, by their inept, miscalculated decision-making for the men's mile relay heat, let us hold those at fault accountable and ensure we do not repeat these mistakes. If it was indeed 'politics' that kept Elaine Thompson out of the women's sprint relay final, which effectively cost Jamaica a gold medal, let the facts hang out and who deserve to be embarrassed, be embarrassed in the nation's interest. If there was really a fight between MVP clubmates Shericka Jackson and Stephenie-Ann McPherson in the moments leading into the mile relay final, then that kind of action should be roundly condemned and criticised. If the MVP track club, or any other track club, continues to make decisions regarding their athletes which are detrimental to the Jamaican cause, let us call them out and criticise those who deserve criticism.
Absolutely, our athletes, and to a lesser extent our coaches and administrators are heroes, but they are human and they do make mistakes, wrong decisions, and are guilty of indiscretions. Let us not, as Jamaicans and as fans, quiver and neglect our precious duty to hold our national representatives accountable.
Just as they are heralded and congratulated when they lift us up with their performances, we must let them know, in no uncertain terms, how we feel when we are let down by their subpar performances.
Criticisms are generally directed towards those from whom a lot is expected, and while there is a clear distinction to be made between being critical, being disrespectful, and being abusive, let us not get it twisted - absolutely nothing is wrong with justified and constructive criticism.
The notion that our national representatives should be treated as sacred cows which renders them immune from deserved criticism is ridiculous. As we lick our wounds and ponder life after Usain Bolt, in tandem with the fallout from London 2017, let us begin the analysis not with dishonesty and hypocrisy, but with truth and honesty.