Laurie Foster | Saying thanks to those who have served
There is nothing new about some opinions being brought into the public domain about a few of the country's most experienced athletes. It has been for some time a favourite pasttime of so-called fans to attempt to point these old faithful towards the exit door, when their performances appear to be on the decline. It is as if they are being told that "we have no further use for you."
In the not-too-distant past, administrators have themselves echoed those farewell words. They appear to conveniently forget that it is the athletes who give credence to their expansive privileges. The unfortunate practice which is usually heard when the athlete is round about age 33-34 should not be the manner in which the sport says thanks to those who have served it well, making all the sacrifices that high-level competition demands.
There are two athletes in the targeted age sector who come immediately to mind, as we approach the end of another season. They are former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell, and many-time global gold medallist Veronica Campbell-Brown, affectionately called 'VCB'. Foster's Fairplay is hearing some unkind words from those who feel that the two have outgrown their usefulness. Adding further fuel to the call to leave the studio coming from this set of track and field enthusiasts is the inescapable fact that younger campaigners have called time on their careers, so why not Asafa and VCB?
The reference here is to the legend Usain Bolt and Kerron Stewart. The latter has said that her new role will be in the coaching arena while Bolt has earned the right and has the ability to engage in, and is doing, whatever makes him happy and more wealthy.
Another factor - and this could be the main platform for the argument - is that these particular athletes have had performances this year which are somewhat off their usual brilliance. Foster's Fairplay has little time for these arguments, and the reasons are quite simple.
Having said that, it is believed that there is a consideration which is being overlooked by these doubters in coming to what should be deemed short-sighted and lopsided views.
The sport of track and field is not blessed with a wide window of opportunity to perform at optimum levels. It therefore behoves the participants to make the best out of the limited time period afforded them, as life's expenses will not cease when the fast times or other measurable marks do. Another matter being sidelined by the individuals who seek to show a 'thumbs down' on the performances of the more mature stars is this. Thankfully, some sponsors are prepared to continue their financial support, albeit reduced, even though the exposure for their brand is on a downward spiral. The athlete still has a value whether or not it is translated into the sub-10 or sub-11, dependent on the gender of the performing athlete. Are Asafa and VCB to walk away from these perks?
There is little difficulty in understanding the feelings of fans who have every right to see and glorify world-class performances. This is expected as they, too, have devoted significant portions of their own lives to the spectacle. It is the form of entertainment that excites their interest and enriches their existence. However, it is hoped they will recognise that the athletes, at whatever age, should be allowed to maximise their legitimate intake from their life's journey, if the sport is where they find it.
Let us not begrudge Asafa or VCB or any of our athletes what they are able to eke out from their final days before they, by their own judgement and volition, come to face their retirement. They deserve what they are getting, and that which they continue to enjoy coming to the end of their careers should be seen as an added incentive for the better times in the past. It would be disappointing and disrespectful to them to be made to feel that they are not appreciated for their efforts, past or present, in bringing joy to us.
All entertainment comes at a price. That provided by these athletes is no different.