Sat | Aug 8, 2020

Orville Higgins | Those 2009 track and field experts!

Published:Saturday | October 5, 2019 | 12:00 AM

In 2009, I took on a whole cadre of so-called track-and-field experts on radio. I also earned the wrath of some senior sports personalities in Jamaica that year.

It is now well-known that 2009 was a year that Jamaica “gwaan wid a bag a tings” at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin. This was after that break-out year in Beijing in the Olympics in 2008.

The reasons behind our sprinting dominance came thick and fast from the local experts. The theories include, first and foremost, the argument that Jamaicans were born with more fast-twitch muscle fibres than anyone else. Then there came this interesting one that we were fast because of our origin in West Africa. Who remembers the one that the toughest and most rebellious slaves were left in Jamaica and that was why we got fast because we were always running from slave masters? There was also the theory about the curvature of our spine and our ‘cock’ bottoms. Oh, lest we forget, the eating of yams was a prominent one, too.

I challenged all that crap on my local radio show in 2009 and clashed with some well-known names. My argument was simple: Jamaica does well in sprinting simply because, as a nation, we were very passionate about running fast. Why we have that passion is as unexplainable as why we have (had) a passion for cricket or dominoes or jerk chicken. As a result of this passion, our youngsters love sprinting. ‘Champs’ provided a ready outlet for this passion, and our recruiting system means that no real talent ever fell through the cracks. The passion also made us develop some great sprint coaches. The year 2009 also provided us with a golden generation of sprinters that was more coincidence than anything else.

The critics came at me in full force, but I held my ground. I pointed out then that between Raymond Stewart in the late 1980s and Asafa Powell, there was a decade and a half gap where we had nobody really special in sprinting at the world level. Did the fast-twitch fibres disappear in the 1990s? Were we eating less yam then?


Fast-forward 10 years after 2009. We cannot medal in Doha in the 100 metres for men. We hardly have any Jamaican men running below 10 seconds nowadays. We cannot get any man to make the 200 metres final at the World Championships in Qatar. The Jamaican sprint factory is apparently closed for business. We are now just a regular nation where male sprinting is concerned. So what happened to all the theories that claimed we had some built-in advantages to run fast? Where are all the people who said that we had a natural predisposition to go faster than the rest of the world?! Nutten neva guh so! That golden generation in 2009 made some of us lose all sense of rationality. Now, I am having the last laugh. We may produce world beaters in male sprinting again, but it will be because of special talents who are motivated and driven, and might I add, expertly coached. It will NOT be because we have some divine right to go faster than the world. To all my detractors from back then, I am hoping you all have come to your senses.