Thu | May 28, 2020

Paul Wright | Williams decision the right one for all concerned

Published:Tuesday | August 20, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Considering the role they play in the development of men, I am always amazed and, indeed, confused by the hostility that is meted out to women, who assert themselves by their speech and actions in our daily lives.

I have discovered that the typical Jamaican man is offended by assertive women who speak up and don’t take ‘foolishness’.

These women have often been portrayed as ‘feisty and forward’ which are not good epithets in our local parlance. The case of the world’s leading 100m hurdler, Danielle Williams, comes to mind.

This national treasure since her time as an outstanding schoolgirl athlete, has developed an attitude of speaking up and not taking foolishness from anyone. This attitude, along with her natural talent, has propelled her to the top of the world in her chosen field of endeavour.

At the National Senior Championships this year, incompetence and arrogance of officials at the starting “stand” resulted in them curiously refusing to acknowledge the antecedents that occurred before the gun was fired, designating the start of the finals. The technology attached to the starting block of Ms Williams did indeed signify what is determined to be a ‘false start’.

I am informed that the ensuing protest by the athlete and her support group regarding a ‘sound’ from a nearby spectator that resulted in the premature reaction from Ms Williams, was ignored, and she was disqualified. The race was scheduled to be rerun, but, to my interpretation, the other participants, contrived to ensure that there was ‘no race’. Instead of declaring that the race was abandoned, an official of the JAAA, lacking the requisite skills of the command that English speakers require, boldly stated that the race was “null and void” , hopefully cementing the fact that no matter what, Ms Williams could not even think about going to Doha for the World Championships later this year.

Familiar chest thumping

Then came the chest-thumping and chauvinistic report that even if our national treasure won the Diamond League and gained the much-coveted ‘wild card’, her participation in Doha rested solely in the discretion of men, who had already decided that as far as Doha was concerned, she had the chance of a snowball in hell of representing the country of her birth.

This show of strength was saluted by some very vocal and prominent sport presenters and talk show hosts, who for weeks pooh-poohed any suggestion from members of the public, who tried to come up with different scenarios that would allow our hurdling queen to compete at Doha.

The statement from the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) last week outlining a 360-degree turnaround, regarding her eligibility for the World Championships, caught our erstwhile pundits with a lot of ‘egg’ all over their collective faces.

However, instead of accepting the joy felt by the majority of sport fans in Jamaica and indeed around the world, out came an attempt at embarrassing the authority that now confirmed her eligibility.

Words like ‘bow’ was used to describe the decision of the JAAA, fully aware of the local connotation of men ‘bowing’ to women were thrown out in the public domain. But, as all good things eventually prevail, the decision of the JAAA stands, and this fact, coupled with her emphatic defeat of the reigning world record holder at the Birmingham Diamond League on Sunday, means that Jamaica will have our best current female hurdler representing the country of her birth at the World Championships later this year.

Could we ask for anything more?

Congratulations to the men in suits at the JAAA. You did not ‘bow’.

You made the best decision in the interest of fairness and legality, after a series of blunders at the National Senior Championships, originating with a starting crew with a long and undistinguished history of error after error at the start of meets, from schoolboy/girl level to international meets.

The next step should be a review of the membership of the ‘crew’ at the start of races in track and field meets.

Until then, let us now relax, along with Danielle Williams and her coach, and enjoy the performances of all of our national treasures at the World Championships in Doha.

Dr Paul Wright is a leading sports medicine specialist and radio personality.