Sun | Sep 27, 2020

Laurie Foster | Change in scenery needed for Blake, Thompson?

Published:Wednesday | October 23, 2019 | 12:00 AM

A hot topic swirling around in the country’s track and field circles concerns the future of two of Jamaica’s elite sprinters.

Neither 2011 100m world champion Yohan Blake nor the Rio 2016 double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson can be satisfied with their recent performances at the Doha World Championships. They could well be asking themselves if they are where they need to be as preparations for the Tokyo Olympics have either begun or is about to do so.

When athletes of this calibre underperform, a major consideration should be whether or not they are under the care of the best coaching option to unearth the talent that they possess.

In the case of Blake, it is true that long-standing injury concerns have stymied his progress to being the best in the world after the exit of Usain Bolt. Thompson has had similar issues which it was hoped had been fixed, only to have her Doha competition cut short after a lacklustre 100m finish. It would not be surprising if their thoughts are now focused on finding a new coaching environment.

During the just-completed season, it was reported that Blake had switched from the tutelage of Glen Mills, who bosses the Racers camp, which used to host Bolt as well. Also surfacing was talk that the former St Jago High School standout did not feel that he was given adequate attention during the period that the multiple world record holder was under the Racers flag. One can recall the year of the 2012 London Olympics, when he thrashed Bolt in both sprints at the June Trials at home, only to have his hopes for double gold dashed a few weeks later on the real stage. That outcome could have fuelled any doubts he was harbouring along those lines.

The real problem with Blake taking coaching instructions from Patrick Dawson, as he was said to be, up to Doha, is that Dawson is also a part of the Racers camp. With this, Blake would be sharing facilities with athletes who remained loyal to coach Mills. This is the dilemma which now faces him and explains any thoughts he may be having of making a total move elsewhere.

As far as Elaine Thompson goes, it is quite understandable if, in fact, she is having similar thoughts of moving elsewhere. There seems to be uncertainty as to the extent of her injury woes. Added to that is the fact that she shares the expertise of coach Stephen Francis at the MVP club with five-time world champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. After her excellent showing in Doha, Fraser-Pryce is being hailed as the greatest female sprinter of all time. The worry here is that this could threaten the advance and earning power of Thompson and lead to a decision to pack her bags and proceed to another environment.

With all this in mind, one can readily see a reason for discomfort where both Blake and Thompson are concerned. It will call for serious thought and sturdy support from the handlers of both athletes to arrive at the correct decision. For Blake, it could be a tougher situation, as he has less time on his clock than Thompson does. They both should look at the full implications of their suspected intended moves, as the sport is known to be very unkind to some who take similar decisions. As has happened before with an elite 400m hurdles female athlete, an about-turn such as those being discussed can be a call full of hazards. One has only to follow the circumstances of former MVP athlete, Melaine Walker, to confirm this.

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