Laurie Foster | MVP deserves a lasting honour
At the time of writing this column at the end of Day Three of the XVII IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Doha, Qatar, Jamaica has already secured two gold and one silver medal. The top-of-the podium positions have come through a breathtaking effort by the Stephen Francis-coached Tajay Gayle, in the men’s long jump, and a sparkling 100m run from the evergreen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, also from Francis’ MVP camp. The respective marks were a massive national record of 8.69 metres and a season’s best 10.71 seconds, both carrying a world lead tag. The second place went to the team of Nathon Allen, Roneisha McGregor, Tiffany James and Javon Francis who came home behind the United States in the first-time staged event, the mixed 4x400m relay.
Foster’s Fairplay sees this three-day tally as more than commendable in the absence of the legend, Usain Bolt, who in the last decade of global events formed the habit of setting off a golden trajectory. After Gayle’s stunning victory, the nation was looking forward to equalling the record of four medals for the period, which was set at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with Bolt and Fraser-Pryce (100m – gold), with Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson in a 100m dead heat for second. This number was repeated at the 2009 Berlin World Champs with Bolt and Fraser-Pryce duplicating their golden feat, Asafa Powell (100m bronze) and Stewart (100m silver). However, this was not to be as the reigning double Olympic sprint champion, Elaine Thompson, failed to medal.
One cannot give too much praise to the almost unknown Gayle, who had been recording distances which showed promise from the beginning of the season. The same should be said of coach Francis who spotted him from high school when he saw the potential and told his then coach, Shanikie Osborne of the Papine High School, of his desire to work with the youngster. At 23 years old last month and just a stripling of a lad, Gayle has a far way to go with his physical development.
Looking at what the MVP programme has contributed to the country’s track and field image, he is where he needs to be, and one should be assured that what happened in Doha is only the start of great things for him under the MVP umbrella. He just needs to maintain his focus and enjoy the good fortune that has befallen him, while accepting that this is only a start. Providing he can do this, with the guidance of the MVP crew, there could be more applause for his deeds in future elite competition. The MVP train rolls on.
Once again the MVP organisation, inclusive of its Florida-based affiliate, MVP International, continues to demonstrate its ability to produce at the highest level. It is the second time that it can boast having three athletes in a global final. Thompson, Fraser-Pryce and Christania Williams were in the final eight at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and here in Doha, the trio includes Jonielle Smith instead of Christania, of whom nothing is currently heard. This is a remarkable achievement, and their efforts to produce quality athletes who are fine-tuned for brilliance at the time of asking should be recognised.
A number of Jamaica’s outstanding athletes are being hailed for their excellence with statues being erected in their honour at Independence Park. Has the MVP not done enough that, as a group, it merits some lasting honour, so that generations to come might be aware of the contribution this track and field giant has made to the country in this area of sport?
It is left to the powers that be to decide which form it should take.
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