Paul Wright | Jamaica Invitational delivers spectacular moments
Last Saturday's Jamaica International Invitational Meet at the National Stadium lived up to the promotional hype as a spectacle to witness. Not only did the meet achieve a world -leading performance in the Women's Hammer throw, it provided another moment when local track and field fans were able to see and celebrate victories by our home-grown athletes, defeating world-class athletes who made the trip here.
I think that it is safe to say that the relatively poor times posted by our local winners paled in significance to the fact that they won! In this "Post-Bolt-Retirement-Depressive-Era", any victory over an American world-class athlete is a good reason for the celebrations witnessed on Saturday night. The victory of our teenage phenom, Christopher Taylor, over Lashawn Merrit and other star sprinters was, to me, the victory of the night. That vote of mine in no way diminishes the victory of Elaine Thompson, who, despite not going below 11 seconds in the female 100 -metre sprint, overcame a poor start to regale us with an extremely smooth and easy victory.
It is just too much for us to be expecting world-leading times in what is, essentially, an "off" year as far as major track and field activities are concerned.
Most athletes seem to be using these early meets to establish a presence that will be rewarded with a Diamond League invitation, which is where the opportunity for earning beckons. Shericka Jackson's victory in the 200m event on Saturday was followed by her statement of possibly not running her favourite event, the 400m, this year.
Her 200m speed augurs well for a possible assault on the local record in 2019. There were also disappointments in the meet on Saturday. Jaheel Hyde's run in the 400m hurdles was 'shocking' to me. Hopefully whatever the reason was for his below-par effort, we hope that it is something easily and readily corrected. My next major disappointment was the performance of some of our icons and 'legends' of past Olympics and World Championships.
As I watched them struggle to be relevant in competition, I am reminded of the demise of the great Muhammad Ali as he continued to fight long after it was obvious that he should have retired.
Kerron Stewart's run in the 100m event, in what she has stated is her last year of competition, looked awesome. I believe that I speak for all of the Jamaican fans when I say that maybe, just maybe, the 'old' Kerron is back. What a lift this nation would get if this proven warrior and icon was to be a Diamond League winner later on in this her final year. Go Kerron!
Finally, the repeated stated responses of the invited International athletes when asked to reflect on their time here irrespective of their place in the event of their choice was the reception afforded to them by the fans. I don't believe that enough is being said about the sophistication and genuine respect that we have for International track and field competitors, whatever their nationality or ranking in the world.
This response of our people to visitors is the bedrock of our tourism success, along with the natural beauty of our island and the world-wide respect and love of our icons, Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley and Usain Bolt. The 64-million-dollar question seems to be: "Why is this national welcoming feature of our people not reflected in how we respond to each other?"
The answer to that question, to my way of thinking, would be the basis for a programme designed to reduce inter-personal violence and murders in this our native land. Maybe the new Faculty of Sport at the University of the West Indies could adopt this idea as a priority study? Just asking.
- Dr Paul Wright is a noted sports medicine specialist and media personality.