Oral Tracey | Dennis’ right to choose
St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) principal Keith Wellington’s words regarding whether his school’s star sprinter, Sachin Dennis, will be switching allegiance from Jamaica has only fanned the flames of the ‘will he, won’t he’ talks about the youngster’s future over the last week.
“The young man is not currently, was not in the process two years ago, either of changing allegiance or making any attempts to represent Bahrain. When the time comes, if he is qualified and able, he will represent Jamaica,” Wellington said.
Dennis’ mother has also fuelled the speculation in making undenied claims that she was called to a meeting in 2016 by STETHS coach Renaldo Walcott to discuss the Bahrain move. She also said that the youngster actually travelled to the Middle Eastern nation in 2016. But in this light, Wellington’s continued denials can, at best, be seen as strategic.
Raw emotionalism has fully taken charge of the narrative surrounding this issue. Dennis is one of the most promising young Jamaican male sprinters; he was at one point regarded as the fastest 15-year-old in the world and was a 10.2-second 100m runner at the Class Two level. To have such a bright prospect potentially turn his back on Jamaica is a hard pill to swallow for every single Jamaican.
Emotions aside, this scenario pits two perspectives squarely against each other: the nationalistic Jamaican perspective and the individualistic freedom-of-choice perspective. The life of a professional athlete is relatively short, especially for sprinters, with an average of six to eight years at optimum performance levels. It is therefore the prerogative of professional athletes and their support teams to make decisions which are absolutely in their personal interest. It is fair to assume that with Sachin Dennis as a bargaining chip, any offer from Bahrain would be substantial, with the increased possibility of significantly greater earnings if the progress of the athlete is commensurate to his supreme talent.
A move like this would have to be worth the while of all involved, which, at minimum, would mean immediate financial security for the athlete and commensurate compensation for his support team, as well as trickle-down benefits to all involved, including his now disgruntled mother.
Conversely, the Jamaican athletics fraternity, and indeed the Jamaican public, can only offer emotional support and love to Dennis with the desperate hope that he will fill that gaping void left by the retired Usain Bolt. Young Dennis certainly fits the bill as perhaps the greatest prospect for reigniting those fleeting emotional feel-good moments when we would all jump and shout his name for a few seconds and then go back to our everyday lives.
The reality is that those bursts of emotion and nationalism will not pay the bills of Sachin Dennis and his family in the short, medium or long term. Importantly, Dennis’ pending or possible defection to Bahrain will not stop or derail Jamaica’s rich history and tradition or current and future status in the sport.
Let us, therefore, accept that Sachin Dennis, via those entrusted with plotting his professional future, has the right to choose his path and that no one should seek to restrict them making that choice. It would, however, represent valid openness and closure if those immediately around Dennis came forward with forthright honesty and laid the cards on the table. Most, if not all, Jamaicans would understand.