Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer
When 2012 dawned, almost 12 months ago, our eyes turned towards London. In 1948, our heroes went there and presented Jamaica to the world with a one-two in the men's 400 metres and a silver medal for 400-metre champion-to-be Arthur Wint. Sixty-four years later, the Olympic clock had come full circle.
Today's heroes responded with aplomb. Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and the rest of the Jamaican 2012 Olympic team did more than just win four gold, four silver and four bronze medals. They seemed to light a fire inside the hearts and minds of compatriots in other sports.
The Reggae Boyz beat the USA for the first time at senior level in World Cup qualifying. Jamaicans Marlon Samuels and Chris Gayle starred as the West Indies won the T20 World Cup. And Nicholas Walters made history by being the first Jamaican to win a world boxing title at home.
In the meantime, London stayed in our minds as Alphanso Cunningham won gold in the discus at the Paralympics.
To cap everything off, inspirational Alia Atkinson won two silver medals at the World Short Course Swimming Championships. She showed that she is a special girl in London. While everyone else swam three times in pursuit of medals in the 100-metre breaststroke at the Olympics, she swam four times. She was involved in a tie on time after the semis and the rules required a swim off. Tireless and undaunted, Alia set national record after record to just miss the bronze medal.
Remarkably, she comes from a country which, for all intents and purposes, has just one functional Olympic-size pool.
The Boyz are under the gun now, but they played with Olympic fervour in Kingston to defeat the USA, for the first time. It was a key step in Jamaica's progress to the next round of World Cup Qualifying. It was a heady night reminiscent of the great times during the 1998 campaign and of the 2002 World Junior Championships, when the National Stadium was filled with gold shirts and supportive voices.
Our cricketers carried the baton at the World Cup with Marlon and Chris at the helm. A similar Olympic effect seemed to boost the Trinidadians on the team. A surprise gold medal by World Junior javelin champion Keyshorn Walcott, the twin-island republic's first since 1976, seemed to rev up Samuel Badree, Ravi Rampaul, wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin and Keiron Pollard of Trinidad and Tobago. With both countries celebrating 50 years of Independence, there was a new energy in the team.
london paved the way
The stage for all this was set in London. Had there been no Bolt of 2008 and 2009, this version would have set a world record in the 100-metre final, at 9.63 seconds.
We mark him hard because of the standards he has set, but just imagine 9.63 on a cool London night. Had the race been run somewhere warmer, he'd have broken 9.60 and 9.58 wouldn't have been safe.
In the 200, his London time of 19.32 would have won every Olympic final outright, but two.
Fraser-Pryce doesn't get the respect she deserves. Yet, she won a rare defence of the Olympic 100-metres title. Only Wyomia Tyus and Gail Devers had done the deed before. To join this elite club of sprinters, the little Jamaican had to hold off the redoubtable pair of Carmelita Jeter and Veronica Campbell-Brown (VCB).
Not satisfied, she went for the double. Denied over 200 metres by super-American Allyson Felix, Fraser-Pryce nevertheless set a new Jamaican standard. Among Jamaicans, Juliet Cuthbert and Merlene Ottey have done Olympic silver medal sprint doubles - 1992 and 1996, respectively, and VCB had bronze and gold from Athens in 2004. In London, the MVP ace surpassed them all.
Take away the banner performances in cricket, boxing, football and swimming and this would still have been a year to be proud of. But with Alia, Alphanso, the Boyz, Chris, Marlon and Nicholas in the mix, 2012 is a sporting year you just don't want to let go.
Hubert Lawrence is co-author of 'The Power and the Glory - An Illustrated History of Jamaica in World Athletics'.