Sun | Jul 5, 2020

Paul Wright | Doha gives us a lot to ponder

Published:Tuesday | October 8, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Shericka Jackson crosses the line to anchor Jamaica to victory in the women’s 4x100m final during the penultimate day of the IAAF World Championships at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday.

The IAAF World Championships, held in Doha Qatar, is over. Two weeks of enthralling competition revealed the best and worst of athletics, which will encourage some, and (unfortunately) discourage some from the watching and taking part in the sport. To begin with, the climate conditions in Doha proved to be a challenge to the competitors, and the fans stayed away.

The four-year ban announced by the United States Anti-Doping Agency on Alberto Salazar, a famous long-distance coach and the coach of some of the athletes participating in the Championships, for doping-related malfeasance didn’t help. The organisers saved face at the end by giving away entry tickets, but the decision to follow the money proved to be a mistake. While the funding of sports is important, when the overall health of the competitors is compromised, someone has to admit that in the future, the athletes’ health and well-being has to be the priority.

Jamaica’s performance at these championships underlined the inherent superiority of the genetic make-up of humans from this tiny Caribbean island. Jamaica won 12 medals at these championships, three gold, five silver, and four bronze. Of further significance is the fact that we had 22 finalists in individual and team events: Four fourth place finishes, and one in fifth, three sixth, one seventh and two in eighth place. Those statistics were made available by the great Zaheer Clarke. This rich haul of world-defeating results places us third in the medal table, behind the USA and Kenya, despite finishing with more medals that Kenya. They finished with 11 medals, but because of their five gold medals, they are ranked above us. It is with a wry smile that I recall the fall of Omar McLeod and the poor start of Danielle Williams in the obstacle course known as ‘hurdles’ when looking at the final ranking of nations that entered the Championships. Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which had £27 million pounds (almost J$4.5 billion) to spend in their build-up to the Olympics in 10 months’ time, could only gather five medals, four from their female athletes and three from their new poster girl, sprinter Dina Asher-Smith.

Giving kudos where due

If their financial and technical support is compared with what Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) president Dr Warren Blake and his team have to work with, kudos are beckoning. Their numerous foot-in-mouth missteps have dampened the obvious good work done in assisting the principals who are behind the 12 medal haul in Doha, but praise, muted though it must be, is necessary.

And so it is on to Tokyo in 10 months’ time. There is a lot to learn and reflect on after Doha. The selection of and bringing to the fore of the “next generation” has got to be a priority.

There are warriors of the past (who we owe) who, although still managing to return faster times and distances than younger athletes, should be made to realize that although we as a nation cannot begin to thank them for what they have done in the past, the time is now, move on, lobby for a statue or a national honour, but give the youth a chance.

I do believe, quite strongly, that the JAAA should look very seriously at the workload and training methods that our young prodigies are subject to from Champs, to Carifta, to Penn Relays, and RESCUE some great children from injury and burnout.

There are just too many children who return mind-boggling performances as children only to fade into obscurity when transferring to adult competition. Once we rescue these children, 30 medals at a World Athletics Championships is very realistic. Over to you, JAAA!

Welcome home our national treasures. You brought a smile and a lift to the psyche of this nation with your efforts in Doha. Thanks. We owe you!