Mon | Sep 23, 2019

Paul Wright | A woman’s fight

Published:Tuesday | July 23, 2019 | 12:21 AM

The approach of Emancipation Day and the celebration of our anniversary of Independence juxtaposes nicely with the performance of our women at the London Diamond League meet last weekend.

As we celebrate these two important decisions, I have noticed a paucity of recognition of the role our women play in the development of our nation.

The death of former Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Edward Seaga brought forth calls for his instillation as a national hero. This, as expected, revived calls for the late Michael Manley to be similarly recognised. Yet, when it comes to national recognition of the role our women play in helping us on the way to recognising and developing our instinctive ability to lift our psyche, only men seem to fit the bill.

I can recall an effort to make Barbara Gloudon our governor general and a discussion to install the late Louise Bennett-Coverley as a national hero petering out after a few initial ‘skirmishes’.

The controversial disqualification of our hurdling queen, Danielle Williams, from the finals of the 100-metre hurdles at our recent National Senior Championships and the ‘null and void’ ruling of the event, by the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, resulted in Williams being faced with the prospect of having to win the Diamond League, thus gaining a IAAF ‘wild card’ entry to the event to fulfil her dream of representing the land of her birth in another international competition.

With the Diamond League field including the best of the rest of the world and Kendra Harrison, the path is difficult but possible.

However, the ‘men in suits’ who orchestrated the chaos and controversy at the National Senior Championships would have none of it. A ‘memo’ from the authorities sought to pooh-pooh any such possibility as they had to show that ‘We run things, and if you feisty, we can stop you’.

How did our national treasure Danielle Williams, respond? First, beat the possible heir-apparent in their next meeting. Done.

Then, keep improving at every opportunity in the quest for Diamond League championship. Plus, there is a groundswell of support for the athlete as the frequent misssteps of the starting crew at track and field events at the National Stadium left a bad taste in the mouths of most Jamaican track and field fans. On Saturday, Danielle Williams broke the national record of 12.41 seconds with a winning time of 12.32 seconds at the London Diamond League.

This victory also propelled her to the top of the standings making a start in the Diamond League final a real possibility. This, coupled with expert opinion from legal luminaries in the field of sports that the wild card from the IAAF ‘guaranteed’ her entry at the World Championships, made any decision to deny our hurdles queen from competing in Doha, fraught with the possibility of major disruptions.

So, the president had to backtrack.

A statement was released “clarifying” the previous, clear statement that Williams ‘coulda deal’ she was disqualified from representing us!

Now, the president says: “We (the JAAA) can allow her to run in Doha, if she gets the sought-after wild card.”

The gesture of Danielle Williams as she won Saturday’s race in London reflects her indomitable spirit, as she battles perceived injustice! No cry on the street corner or the blocking of thoroughfares with placards of “we want justice”.

Instead, a steely determination to correct a perceived wrong and to show the authorities that the spirit of Nanny, our sole female national hero, lives in the bosom of marginalised and disrespected women of our fair island.

It matters not if Danielle Williams fails to win the coveted wild-card entry to the World Championships in Doha. What the fighting spirit of this national treasure reveals is that the continued marginalisation and non-recognition of the contribution of women to our national psyche needs recognition!

Her fight, coupled with the difficulties that Cedella Marley and the Reggae Girlz have endured in getting men to assist in allowing our women to express their God-given talent in international competition, should, for the first time at last, alert our female Minister of Sport, the Honourable Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, that something drastic needs to happen at the helm of sporting organisations that seem to have a problem with women, who show fight and determination.

There is no ‘Danielle Dilemma’. There is a need for major changes in the way our sports is administered in Jamaica.

Dr Paul Wright is a sports medicine specialist and commentator.