Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's performance at the 14th World Championships can be viewed in at least two ways. If the glitter of gold catches your eye, you'd be pretty happy. If, however, your Jamaica medal prediction ran as high as 14, 15 or 16, your cup is only half-full.
Jamaica won six gold medals in Moscow, host city of the championships. That's massive. In the nation's 65-year Olympic and World Championship history, only once has Jamaica won more gold. That was 2009 when an awesome World Championships team took seven gold medals in Berlin.
The Moscow feat ties with the six gold won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
However, Jamaica took home only nine medals overall from Moscow. That compares to 13 in 2009, 11 in 2008 and 10, with just one gold, from the 2007 Worlds.
The gold medal column of the Moscow ledger was filled mainly by super sprinters Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce. The tall man set world-leading times of 9.77 and 19.66 seconds to win the men's 100 and 200 metres, respectively. Few recalled that those marks were world records when they were first run, by Asafa Powell in 2005 and by Michael Johnson at the 1996 US Olympic trials, respectively.
Instead, fans yearned for him to challenge his own world records of 9.58 and 19.19 seconds.
In the 100m, Nesta Carter ran steadily to third place to erase the memories of the 2011 final when he suffered cramp and ended in eighth place. In the 200m, Warren Weir blitzed a personal best-equalling time of 19.79 seconds from lane eight to take the silver.
Fraser-Pryce destroyed the women's 100m field to start her double, and her winning time of 10.71 seconds missed her Jamaica record by just 0.01. The win made her the most successful 100-metre women's sprinter of all time, as no one else has won two Olympic titles and two World titles.
She finished the double with a solid run of 22.17 seconds.
My own guess, outlined in the preview article '8 safe medals', fell one short, as only seven of those prospects were realised. The safe bet included three relay medals, and that was sort of right. I reckoned one gold, silver and bronze medals in the men's 4x100m, the women's 4x100 and the women's 4x400 respectively. Reality had the relay numbers right, but the details wrong.
With Bolt and Fraser-Pryce on anchor, Jamaica closed the World Championships with back-to-back wins. The safe women's 4x400 medal was lost to a lane violation in the heats. Remarkably, it was replaced by silver in the men's event.
Stronger as a group, Rusheen McDonald, Javere Bell, Edino Steele, and schoolboy Javon Francis qualified strongly with a run timed at 3 minutes 00.41 seconds. Omar Johnson came in for the injured Bell in the final, but big legs by Steele, 44.2, and Francis, 44.0, stopped the clock at 2.59.88 and secured the silver medal.
Disqualifications for the 4x400m women and Kaliese Spencer in the 400-metre hurdles hurt chances of more trips to the podium. There were some near misses too. A 100m finalist, Nickel Ashmeade just missed third in the 200m and triple jumper Kimberly Wiillams was three meagre centimetres away from the bronze. That's how tight things can be at the highest level of competition.
Stephenie McPherson of the University of Technology did exceptionally well in her first major championship. A little naivété at the end of her 400m semi-final cost her a prime lane for the final. Despite a swift run of 49.99, she was adrift of the medals in fourth place. Novlene Williams-Mills was eighth in her fourth World final.
Long jumper Damar Forbes and 400m hurdler Nickiesha Wilson reached their respective finals but were never in contention.
A badge of honour must go to Olympic 110-metre hurdler Hansle Parchment. Injured on the darkened Stadium East field during warm-ups for the Jamaican championships, Parchment went to Moscow without a race under his belt since early June. By race time, he was without his coach too, as veteran track and field tutor Fitz Coleman had left Russia because of illness.
The tall man from St Thomas gave his all in the semi but crashed into a mid-race hurdle and was eliminated.
The results embellished the choices some athletes make to train mostly in Jamaica. Our individual medal winners, Fraser-Pryce, Bolt, Weir and Carter, are all home based. In the relays, it was the same story. Ashmeade was the only overseas, based member of the six-man squad that saw action in the 4x100m, while Johnson was in a similar position with the 4x400m.
The mix was more even with the women. Kerron Stewart, a finalist in the , and Sheri-Ann Brooks, who anchored the 4x100 in the heats, are US based. The other three - Carrie Russell, Schillonie Calvert and Fraser Pryce - are based in Kingston.
Finding the perfect balance between those who go and those who stay is a quest that must continue since local infrastructure is limited.
The nine medals and third place overall are achievements worth celebrating. But for two missteps in the women's 4x400m, the total medal count might well have been 10. That's the benchmark now. It's the minimum Jamaica always has to target.
Hubert Lawrence has been making notes at trackside since 1980.