Goodbye 2011 - Glittering promises for next year
The road from Daegu to London has already been decorated by indelible memories. Many single out the silver medal by Melaine Walker in the 400-metre hurdles. Others pinpoint Yohan Blake's blistering post Daegu 19.26 seconds in the 200 metres in Brussels. Some treasure Veronica Campbell-Brown's victory in the 200, giving her a first world title in that event to go along with two Olympic victories.
You may not want to recall Usain Bolt's shocking false start in the World Championships. Blot that out and you'd have to erase Blake's nation-saving 100-metre win in the aftermath. Those moments can't be separated.
I guess that the magic of the 100 metres has made people forget that Bolt bounced back to win the 200. His time - 19.40 seconds - was then the fourth fastest ever; and came in his sixth start in one week and from lane three.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the governing body of international athletics, is probably patting itself on the back. It moved the 4x100m relays to last on the World Championships and it worked. Though Asafa Powell was absent due to injury, Jamaica closed the show with a World record run of 37.04 seconds.
Some track experts think that was expected. They reason that even without Asafa, 100m-finalist Nesta Carter, the reliable Michael Frater, Blake and Bolt have so much speed that the record was still in danger. So it was.
The road from the World Championships to the Olympics had potholes too. Remarkably, many cursed Asafa for running in Zurich to wrap up his win in the Diamond League 100-metre standings. Perhaps they didn't realise that the World Championships paid US$60,000 for first, US$30,000 for second andUS$20,000 for third in individual events, with US$100,000 bonuses for World records.
A similar misunderstanding surfaced just before the Worlds. Shot putter Dorian Scott had to withdraw from the team because he was taking up a new job and moving from Florida to California to do so. It perhaps isn't clear that many of our national representatives in track and field make so little money from the sport that they have to work.
The Worlds finished with an unspoken worry. The medal count was nine, down from 13 at the Beijing Olympics. No one said it out loud, but the whispered worry was that the golden era, begun at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, might have reached its peak.
A closer look provides comfort. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Kaliese Spencer and Jermaine Gonzales finished fourth in their respective events, with Shelly-Ann off by just 0.01. In addition, Blake is just 21 and leads a young brigade that includes World Youth discus champion Federick Dacres and World University Games winners Jacques Harvey, Hansle Parchment, Anniesha McLaughlin, Carrie Russell and Odayne Richards.
Jamaica Administrative Athletics Association (JAAA) president Howard Aris died suddenly at 75 after a lifetime in the sport. Just last week, Leo Jones, equipment manager at the Commonwealth Games in Kingston in 1966, was laid to rest. He was a man of letters, an educator, a coach and a gentleman given to service.
Earlier in the year, we lost Olympic sprinter and coach Pablo McNeil and teacher/coach/starter Delroy 'Zuggu' Francis. All four are immensely painful losses.
Many of us saw and spoke to Zuggu at the Jamalco development meet and at the Western Relays and were devastated to learn of his end just days later.
On the plus side, Ray Harvey, director of those long-running relays, won a national award on Heroes Day.
This year ended with Usain as the IAAF World Athlete of the Year and with Yohan and Veronica as local winners of the coveted Man and Woman of the Year titles.
The year 2011 didn't match the 13-medal bonanza of 2009. What it did have was Bolt, Blake and Campbell-Brown leading the way into what could be a triumphant return to London where our Olympic history started in 1948.
Hubert Lawrence has covered athletics since 1987.