Paul Wright | The tale of two talents
This year, 2020, is the year of the Olympics. The quest, the zenith of every athlete.
The months of preparation now move into a different phase: competition. So there are international meets – indoor and outdoor – as coaches and athletes assess their preparation and make the necessary adjustments. For our local youngsters, ‘Champs’ is our Olympics, so these development meets are important in the preparation for Champs.
Kevona Davis opened her season with a run of 22.86 over 200 metres. “I came to run 24.00, so this is a surprise,” was her immediate reaction. Her coach, when he looked at his stopwatch, replaced it in his pocket as he thought that he had missed the start of her race. The time is real – 22.86.
Her return to active competition with a time like this confirms to even the casual watcher that Kevona Davis is special. Her rise to greatness was supposed to be confirmed with a race against another young Jamaican phenomenon, Briana Williams. That never materialised.
Williams was tenderly handled by her coach and support group, while Davis helped her school to victory and glory in the annual Champs. She was not by any criteria ‘tenderly handled’ and eventually succumbed to the medical reality of overuse injury.
The highly anticipated clash reminded me of a clash some years ago in a 400m race at Champs. A young star, Jermaine Gonzales, was up against a gangly upstart from a no-name school in Trelawny, William Knibb. The athlete was Usain Bolt.
I was there, and I was very sure that Gonzales would confirm his athletic superiority. Bolt won the race and Gonzales never finished the race due to injury. Bolt was tenderly handled by his handlers while Gonzales, after recovering from this injury, never really returned to the pre-injury state that his ability promised, and Usain went on to become, well, USAIN!
Williams continued her preparation in competition with a personal best of 7.15 in an outdoor 60 metres run on Saturday. The question that faces some fans and observers of track and field in Jamaica is: will the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association and/or Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association suggest a change in her preparation for Champs and a possible space on our team to the Olympics in Japan, or will we watch (and cheer) her every victory on the road to Champs? Will there be a need for ‘tender handling’ of this national treasure and athletic phenomenon? It is too early to label Kevona as a ‘female Bolt’, but the temptation is real. A discussion regarding tender handling versus the requirements of helping her school to Champs victory needs to begin – and soon.
SUNSHINE GIRLS’ RETURN
Our Sunshine Girls returned to the island after a poor showing in the Netball World Cup (NWC) last year, beaten and chastened. The coaching staff was fired and there was additional fallout with several members of the team.
Then came the appointment of Connie Francis, a former player and coach who was able to calm everybody and convince some members of the team to return to national duty. A truncated preparation programme preceded our ladies to England to take part in a tournament, playing against some of the teams that they faced in the NWC.
They started by defeating South Africa, a team that threatened to replace Jamaica who was always ‘sometimes third, most times fourth’ in International competition. Then came defeat and humiliation by New Zealand. That the ladies were able to regroup and defeat England 70-66 in the next match says a lot for their character and the quality of the coach who literally lifted them to a satisfying result.
The final against New Zealand was next. At the end of the first quarter, New Zealand had 16 points to Jamaica’s 15. At half-time, the score was 30-30 while at the end of the third quarter, New Zealand led 49-41 before going in to win 67-56.
This trip and tournament cannot be termed a failure. We beat England and South Africa, but there is still a lot of work to be done. As is now the norm, we start well but faded as the game progressed. We can beat the perennial champions. We have the talent and expertise.
What we need is unity and a realisation by the administrators that the ones that matter are the players, not the egos of administrators and officials. So let us welcome home our Sunshine Girls with the pomp and ceremony that they deserve. Dare we hope that a new and different dispensation in how netball is administered will result in the results that we know are possible and is taking too long to come?
Dr Paul Wright is a radio personality and sports medicine specialist.