Wed | Dec 1, 2021

The real measure of our Beijing 2015 success

Published:Saturday | September 5, 2015 | 12:00 AMDon Anderson
Elaine Thompson
Glen Mills
Stephen Francis
Usain Bolt
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Jamaica has had a fantastic year of sports achievement to date and the year is by no means finished. We have had amongst other successes, excellent performances by the track and field team and our swimmers at the Pan American Games in Toronto, the Paralympians have again done us proud at their Pan American Games events, the badminton team has excelled in the recent Pan American championships with several gold medals, the men's squash team was dominant in the Caribbean.

Our martial arts competitors continue to demonstrate its world class, the Special Olympians came out on top in many of their events, the Reggae Boyz have had two excellent tournament performances which have catapulted them to 52nd in the world ranking, the Netball team maintained their fourth place in the world rankings and Alia Atkinson capped it all by equalling a world record in her pet event.  There were others too whose performances simply serve to reinforce the notion that in the world of sport, we are indeed a dominant force to reckon with and frequently "punch above our weight class."

But all of these tremendous performances were before our recent excursion to the Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing for the eagerly awaited IAAF World Championships.  This Stadium evokes very pleasant memories for all Jamaicans and for me holds a very special place in my own heart, having been the head of the Olympic team when we drew a line of demarcation between our consistently good world class performances at the Olympic Games since 1948 and the sharp elevation to the top of the world with the superlative triumphs of legends Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser- Pryce amongst others in the 2008 Olympics Games.  
We have become accustomed to excelling at these major Games to the extent that we now tend to take these performances for granted.  We now quite often expect that we will repeat the 1,2,3 positions in many of the events we compete in, forgetting even momentarily that these were achieved against the best in the world in those events. This is not a good thing as when we don't achieve this and don't live up to the expectations, the disappointment is great amongst both players and supporters. The netballers can attest to this. 

The recent World Championship performances in Beijing have filled us all with a significant degree of national pride and joy and again fostered a temporary halt to crime and violence in the society. There is a need for more events and performances like these that can bond us together in this way.      

But I want to cast a different perspective on the Gold Medal winning performances of our team at the World Championships in Beijing, by putting the achievements in the context of medals won versus population size.  When we do this, it will be truly obvious to all that as a country, Jamaica is indeed "punching well above our weight class".

Overall Medal count Beijing 2015
KENYA 7 6 3 16
JAMAICA 7 2 3 12
USA 6 6 6 18
BRITAIN 4 1 2 7
ETHIOPIA 3 3 2 8
POLAND 3 1 4 8
CANADA 2 3 3 8
GERMANY 2 3 3 8
RUSSIA 2 1 1 4
CUBA 2 1 0 3

Jamaica's performance in the IAAF World Championship meant we ended up second to Kenya, on the basis of them winning more medals overall, despite the two countries being equal on the gold medal count.  This placed us above the mighty USA who, although winning more medals overall, had one less gold medal than Jamaica.  Incidentally, if we needed anything to convince us that we are indeed the sprint champions of the world, we should note that Jamaica won six of its seven gold medals on the track, compared to the two that the USA won on the track.  Only three countries earned more than 10 medals in the championships - Kenya, Jamaica and the USA. 

But whilst these data are convincing enough, a calculation of Jamaica's performance can only be considered superlative when the achievement is measured in terms of medals won by size of population, more specifically by per 1,000,000 population.

JAMAICA 2,800,000 7 2.5 1
CUBA 11,270,000 2 .177 2
KENYA 44,400,000 7 .158 3
POLAND 38,500,000 3 .077 4
BRITAIN 60,000,000 4 .066 5
CANADA 35,200,000 2 .056 6
ETHIOPIA 94,000,000 3 .031 7
GERMANY 80,600,000 2 .024 8
USA 318,900,000 6 .018 9
RUSSIA 143,500,000 2 .013 10

Jamaica by virtue of its seven Gold medals and smallest population amongst the top 10 countries, (2,800,000) won 2.5 gold medals for every 1,000,000 of its population to rank above all other countries on this scale.  No other country closely approximates even one gold medal per 1,000,000 population with Cuba ranking second, significantly below Jamaica at .177 gold medals per 1,000,000 population.  Where is the United States with its 318 million people?  The USA won .018 gold medals per 1,000,000 population to rank not third on this scale but ninth overall.  Put another way, Jamaica won more gold medals per 1,000,000 population than all the other countries ranked in the top ten combined, as these nine including Cuba, Kenya, Poland, Great Britain, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, United States and Russia were only able to amass .607 gold medals per 1,000,000 population compared to Jamaica's 2.5 gold medals per 1,000,000 population.      
When this data is examined against the background of the total number of medals won by each country, irrespective of colour, the data is no less convincing.
With our 12 medals won overall, just one less than our all time high of 13, Jamaica won 4.3 medals per 1,000,000 population again significantly better than the second ranked country on this scale, Great Britain with 1.16 medals per 1,000,000 population based on its 60,000,000 persons.  In stark terms, the question must be asked what is it that makes a country with 2.8 million persons so much better at track and field than other countries whose population sizes are so vastly greater than Jamaica.  

JAMAICA 2,800,000 12 4.30 1
GREAT BRITAIN 60,000,000 7 1.16 2
KENYA 44,400,000 16 .360 3
CUBA 11,270,000 3 .266 4
CANADA 35,200,000 3 .227 5
POLAND 38,500,000 8 .207 6
GERMANY 80,600,000 8 .099 7
ETHIOPIA 94,000,000 8 .085 8
UNITED STATES 318,890,000 18 .056 9
RUSSIA 143,500,000 4 .027 10

At 4.3 medals won per 1,000,000 population, Jamaica not only again ranks comfortably  first overall, but that number outstrips the 2.49 medals won per 1,000,000 population in total across all the other nine countries in the top ten.  The United States and Russia with a combined population of close to 500,000,000 earned a total of .083 medals won per 1,000,000, far less than  one-tenth of a medal per 1,000,000 if one can use this measure.  So let us examine some of those performances that contributed to these record breaking an truly amazing statistics.
Usain Bolt (2), Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce (1) and Danielle Williams (1) all won individual gold
medals.   Bolt, in particular, is undoubtedly already a legend and in my books Shelley-Ann is fast approaching this status.  Bolt is a phenomenon, a one of a kind athlete that comes along once every 50 years.  But the entire team, including those who did not earn a medal, performed magnificently and based on our performances since Beijing, the consistency with which we are now producing these results has cemented us as the top sprint country in the world, bar none.  There is no disputing this.   But what do we attribute this to?  The jury is still out.

Greatest coaches

We have undoubtedly the greatest track and field coaches in the world in Glen Mills and Stephen Francis.  No debate. Any coach who has presided over the achievements of Usain Bolt, (the greatest athlete of all time), over the last eight years as Mills has done, has to be given the accolade of the greatest coach. Argument over.  You may not always understand Francis but there is no other coach that gets the best out of the athletes like he does.  I for one seriously questioned his judgement, even his motives when he pulled Elaine Thompson from the 100 metres at the trials, but in retrospect all credit must be due to him for this decisive action, seemingly against all good sense and foresight. Such is the genius of the man.  Maurice Wilson, perhaps not as well known to the sporting world as these two, is close on the heels of these greats and he and the rest of the coaching staff and management team deserve all our accolades for a job excellently done in maintaining harmony and team spirit throughout and laying the groundwork for our magnificent performances..  These are never easy tasks in this highly charged environment and they deserve the credit for minimising any negatives that existed and to foster the level of peace of mind for the athletes to deliver as well as they did.   

The way forward

Rio de Janeiro is the next big stop, with the 2016 Olympic Games.   Whilst track and field athletics represent our flagship sports, I have long maintained that we can achieve much better success in other sports with a greater commitment to growing these sports both by the national federations and by corporate Jamaica.   The national cupboard is full of extremely talented athletes that are simply waiting to explode on the international scene.  Based on the standouts that we saw at the 2015 Boys and Girls' Athletics championships, we may very well see some of them in Rio.  The future of our sports is secure.  Adequate return on investment is guaranteed. I urge corporate Jamaica to "buy" into the sports brand Jamaica now with a mind to reaping significant returns in the near future. 
     Sports is a major, massive positive for Jamaica.   Government with its limited resources must be the facilitators of this growth and expansion, with the private sector being the real engines of growth.  Sports should be treated as any other investment option.  Corporate Jamaica would have watched with excitement and financial interest over the last two weeks and must now be ready to pump funds to gain satisfactory reward on their investment.

The case for a National Sports Museum

Which leads me to my final point.  Despite our tremendous consistent performances at the track and field level since 1948, the undeniable dominance over the last 10 years or so, as well as world class achievements in a number of other sports where we have had world champions and other outstanding world class athletes, Jamaica does not yet have a National Sports Museum to showcase these achievements. This is unimaginable.
   A National Sports Museum would be an amazing attraction for locals and tourists alike.  Just think of the sporting treasures collected through over 80 years of  international sports excellence that could be displayed and interactively mounted. Government has now made concrete moves to establish this Sports Museum with a location now identified within the Stadium complex, next door to the Bob Marley statue, that in itself a major tourist attraction. Cabinet approval has been obtained and initial funds allocated for this purpose.  Official announcements have been made to this effect.  But there are sceptics who will not believe this will happen until they see more concrete steps.  Well, the government is moving swiftly to tie up more initial sponsors for the realisation of this National Sports Museum.  This is a golden opportunity for corporate Jamaica to show it fully understands the tremendous Investment that is sports and for them to help build this significant monument to our legends and heroes in sports.  We hope that the private sector/corporate Jamaica will speedily embrace the concept and move without reservation to strongly support its completion.  Look at it from the perspective of an investment that can only pay rich dividends over the medium and longer term. The extent to which sports has placed Jamaica on the map deserves no less.   

- Don Anderson, CD has been a team official for Jamaica at seven Olympics Games, head of delegation to the last five of these Games and a former vice president of the Jamaica Olympic Association for 32 years.