Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Hubert Lawrence | World Junior Wonderment

Published:Wednesday | July 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM

With a record medal haul of four gold, five silver and three bronze medals at last week's IAAF World Under 20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, the Jamaica junior team has answered one of the nation's most persistent sporting questions - What will happen in the post-Bolt era? The response is simple. A Jamaican senior team is coming that could be hugely successful.

Led last week by gold medallists Briana Williams, Damion Thomas and Kai Chang, the team showed prowess in sprinting, hurdling, jumping and throwing. Through Thomas, Jamaica won the 110-metre -hurdles for the first time. Similarly, the long jump bronze garnered by Wayne Pinnock was Jamaica's first in the horizontal jumps since the World Under-20 Championships began in 1986.

One can't help but wonder how many medals Jamaica would have won if the team had been at full strength. Missing were injured sprinters Kevona Davis, Michae Harriot and Sashieka Steele and ailing ace discus thrower Roje Stona. It boggles the mind.


The Davis factor


A fit Davis could have doubled the haul in the girls' sprints given her ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls Athletics Championships Class Two double winning times of 11.16 and 22.72 seconds. 18-year-old Harriot, the 2017 Carifta 200m champion, and the speedy 17-year-old Steele would have guaranteed advancement in the 4x100 metre relay, with Williams and Davis, both 16, to lift the clutch in the final. With a 100 per cent team on duty, the world junior record of 43.27 seconds might not have been safe.

Stona's personal best of 66.41 metres was the longest in the world for 2017 last year and he has rarely lost in two seasons.

Add the reported hamstring strain endured by national junior double sprint champion Michael Bentley in Tampere and you see the possibilities.

It's great that they chose Jamaica as British-based Marilyn Neufville did in 1970, when she set a world record to win the Commonwealth Games 400 metres. Their Tampere triumphs are bound to encourage others to seek to wear black-green-and-gold.

The results of the IAAF World Under 20 Championships and the Commonwealth Games, where US-bred Aisha Praught won the steeplechase, are clear signs of a bright future.

Nothing is guaranteed but like England, the 2018 World Under 17 and World Under 20 champions in football, Jamaica can look ahead with optimism. Surely, it is better to have a strong hand than no hand at all.

- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.