Thu | Feb 25, 2021

Hubert Lawrence | Jamaican athlete of the whole season

Published:Wednesday | September 13, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Omar McLeod
Ristananna Tracey
Elaine Thompson

It's a no-brainer. Omar McLeod is the best candidate for the title of Jamaican Male Athlete of the Year. Dominant through 2017 and deadly at the World Championships in London, McLeod is the only reasonable choice for the award this time. By contrast, Solomon may need to choose between Elaine Thompson and Ristananna Tracey for the women's award.

Tracey hit the target in London with a personal best - 53.74 seconds - in the 400-metre hurdles to take the bronze medal. Hampered by injury and illness, Thompson floundered to fifth in a 100 metre final she seemed certain to win. For those who reckon that the World Championships was the most important meet of the year, that's the end of the matter. For them, Rista is the Jamaican Female Athlete of the Year.

Open the lens more widely and the superior quality of Thompson's entire season appears. That London loss was her only 100 metres defeat of the year and was surrounded by eight wins, six of which came during the IAAF Diamond League, and a world-leading time of 10.71 seconds to win the National Senior Championships.

Injury forced her to downplay the 200m, but she nevertheless won that event in Doha and at the Jamaica Invitational, placed third in 21.98 seconds in Eugene and second in Brussels.

Rista peaked brilliantly for the most important meet of the year, but her season included a second-place finish at the Nationals and below-par races in the European circuit. Those who adjudicate the award will have to decide whether Rista's superior Worlds performance outweigh Thompson's high-level season. What will they decide? Your guess is as good as mine.

In the eyes of the awards people, Rista's hard-earned medal will probably outweigh Thompson's season-long excellence. The culture favours what the athlete achieves in championships wearing black, green and gold over their records on the circuit of Diamond League and World Challenge meets. Yet, in a season where that fifth place was Thompson's only non-top-three finish, the 400m-hurdles bronze medallist crossed the finish in seventh and eighth place at big meets in Lausanne and London.

In fact, while Thompson was one race away from an undefeated season in the 100 metres, Rista lost seven of her nine 400-metre hurdle contests. That's the tiebreaker.

That World Championship third place time made Tracey the seventh-fastest woman of the year and showed that Tracey had come of age. Noted as a fine prospect in her days at Edwin Allen Comprehensive High School and revitalised since her move to Sprintec Track Club two years ago, she deserves the highest commen-dation for peaking on time in London. It's just that Thomp-son's season, on the whole, was too good for her to not to be the top Jamaican Female Athlete of 2017.

HUBERT LAWRENCE was wearing pharmacy-issue reading glasses when he wrote this.