Oral Tracey | Male sprinting crisis looms
As Jamaica continues to search for a post-Usain Bolt athletics identity, the fallout in male sprinting since the legend walked away continues to rise to crisis proportions. The long-heralded heir apparent, Yohan Blake, despite dipping under 10 seconds in London over the weekend, is still grappling with life after serious injury and is struggling to keep up with the new class of big boys.
Of the other emerging pretenders, which includes the likes of Jevaughn Minzie, Kemar Bailey-Cole, and Julian Forte, it is actually Tyquendo Tracey and the younger Nigel Ellis who appear to be making steadier and more consistent progress but still not yet enough to get us excited.
The clear distinction must, however, be made that this looming crisis is limited specifically to our male sprinting as the women remain well-represented with the return of that warrior and champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce from childbirth, who is evidently getting closer to her imperious best.
Double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson, despite her current consistency woes, is still just 25, while a deeper glance into the cupboard reveals emerging phenomenon Briana Williams, the newly crowned World Under-20 double sprint champion at 16 years old, with another huge bundle of potential in Edwin Allen schoolgirl Kevona Davis lurking in the wings. The present, and indeed the future, of our women sprinting programme is in good hands, which is absolutely not the same with the men.
While our male sprinters continue to struggle relative to what obtained over the last decade, other Jamaican male athletes have emerged big time in other events, namely the sprint hurdles, where we currently boast the Olympic and World Champion Omar Mcleod, with 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Hansle Parchment and Commonwealth Champion Ronald Levy hot on his heels. The Under-18 World champion is De'Jour Russell, with the current World Under-20 champion and world record holder being the Jamaican Damion Thomas, with another Jamaican, Orlando Bennett, copping the silver medal in that final. So a credible case can be made that Jamaicans are now the kings of men sprint hurdles.
Fedrick Dacres has begun to realise his potential, steadily blossoming into a dominant force in the discus event with consistent world-leading marks and top finishes on the Diamond League circuit. Young Jamaican Kai Chang is now the newly crowned Under 20-World Champion in the discus event.
If things continue on this trajectory, it is conceivable that Jamaica will be able to match, or indeed exceed, our previous medal returns at the World Championships and Olympic level, and as happy as we will all be to win medals in the sprint hurdles and discus events, it will not quite be the same as dominating the prestigious sprint events. The 100m race continues to be the most high profile and influential event in the sport. The fact that Jamaicans had, basically, owned this event for so long probably has spoilt us rotten in expecting us to maintain even some semblance of relevance, if not dominance, in this event going forward.
The notion that at the top level, medals are medals and titles are titles is a mere clichÈ consolation in admitting that things will just not be the same with the exit of Bolt. The emergence of Jamaicans in other events might be a victory for the diversity of our programme and our coaches, but it should most certainly remain our mission and focus to salvage our struggling male sprinting programme . At the moment, the male department of the sprint factory is apparently closed for business. We need to have it reopened ASAP.