Laurie Foster | Dr Warren Blake's warning
With the recent history-making advance of the Reggae Girlz to the global finals of football, Jamaica can legitimately claim that status for its women in a third sport. It was track and field which first achieved that honour on the back of the stalwart, Merlene Ottey, who took the 200m silver medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. The country's netballers have soared to bronze medal recognition or better on several occasions when the best of the best is on show. It will always be a pressure situation for all who have conquered to maintain their shape, as the saying goes, "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown." Nothing can be taken for granted, especially when there are so many means, legal or otherwise, for teams to sweep by their rivals.
Dr Warren Blake, president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, has sounded a warning. It should be part of a plan to keep the world beaters coming. It came during the president's address at the recent unveiling of the statue to celebrate the sprinting achievements of world icon, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. According to the release, carried by this newspaper, he called on the "Government and the private sector to help make the University of the West Indies' plan to build a sport science facility a reality".
Dr Blake is interpreted by Foster's Fairplay as saying that such a facility should be pivotal to Jamaica maintaining its image as a "dominant force in athletics." The Bolt/Fraser-Pryce train cannot afford any derailment at this time.
What the local track and field boss actually emphasised was that, "If we do not do that which is being suggested, others will use science to close the gap between our sprinters and theirs." He added, "It is the plan to enhance the raw talent that we have here, and this facility will help us do that."
Dr Blake appeared to have made the call from the background that the University of the West Indies had last year launched a Faculty of Sport at the Mona campus, and this would include a facility for sports science. The fact that nothing has to date materialised gives rise to the thought that there is a lack of adequate funding.
It should be appreciated that the world had fallen behind Jamaica in the area of sprinting. From 2008, the country has been the absolute boss of that aspect of the sport. Things have changed. Now, the absence of the retired legend, Usain Bolt, is already being felt as the double-digit medal count at the majors is no longer assured. Gone are the days when fast tracks and superior equipment were enough to promote and maintain excellence. The role of science, utilised within the rules, is crucial.
Foster's Fairplay supports the president's call. The fruition of all this is a major plank in the route going forward.
As Dr Blake ended, "We need this so that many more Shelly-Anns can be nurtured."