Mon | Jan 21, 2019

Hubert Lawrence | Looking back to look forward

Published:Thursday | February 1, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Technical director Rene Simoes is hoisted after Jamaica drew with Mexico in their CONCACAF final-round qualifier at the National Stadium in 1997, which marked Jamaica's qualification for the 1998 World Cup Finals in France.
Usain Bolt celebrating his gold medal and world record run in the men's 100-metres final at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.
Arthur Wint winning Jamaica's first Olympic gold medal at the 1948 Games.

We're not too keen on historic sporting anniversaries. As evidence, I submit the 20th anniversary of the 1996 Olympic gold medal performance by Deon Hemmings. Though she became the first Jamaican woman to win at the Olympics, the landmark passed quietly.

The same can be said of the 40th Anniversary of Donald Quarrie winning the 200 metres at the 1976 Olympics. It was Jamaica's first gold in a sprint event and the first in any event since Independence. Other landmarks, like the miracle on grass, the upset victory over Mexico in Mexico for gold in women's hockey at the 1990 Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC) have slipped and slid away into the mists of time.

This year comes with some anniversaries we shouldn't treat the same way. This time 20 years ago, the Reggae Boyz were on their way to France to play in the World Cup. A celebration of that wonderful achievement would surely invigorate the football family.

The current Reggae Boyz could do worse than take advice in closed session from the assembled 1998 team. I can see them sharing their experiences with national teams of every age group and gender. Gathered together, they could visit and hold practise sessions with school, club and parish teams.

It's irresistible. After all, they are the only Jamaicans to have ever played in the World Cup.

Maybe the 1998 Boyz should meet Conan Osborne and his team before they make history by being the first Jamaicans to play in the Rugby Sevens World Cup. That tournament takes place in San Francisco in July so we've got to hurry.


Golden era


A decade has passed since Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, Melaine Walker, Veronica Campbell-Brown started a golden era in Jamaican athletics at the Beijing Olympics. Bolt starred with a stunning world record sprint triple, but the highpoint was probably the unprecedented 1-2-2 finish by Fraser Pryce and joint silver medallists Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart in the 100 metres.

Believe or not, an even more important milestone arrives this year in August. 70 years ago, Arthur Wint put Jamaica on the map with a gold medal run at the 1948 Olympics. With Independence 14 years away, the long striding Wint ran past his compatriot and world record holder Herb McKenley to grab the gold medal in the 400 metres.

It may seem quaint now, but that was Jamaica's first ever trip to the Olympics.

These are moments we must never forget. Even as we plan for the future, these moments of magic contain stories of triumph over the odds, brilliant strategy, and the realisation that this country could compete with the best and win.

You can't live in the past, but you can learn from it. That's why we mustn't let 1948 and 1998 pass. They are far too important.

- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.