Usain Bolt made me a modern day Prophet. In 2006 I had a disagreement with a professional associate that almost turned into a major argument. This person and I disagreed about the potential, capabilities, and abilities of the Jamaican Track and Field athlete. I said, that if the Jamaican Track and Field athletes obtained the resources available to those of other Nations they would be the fastest on the planet. By Resources I meant modern Equipment and Nutrition. That comment was not well received by the witnesses to that discussion.
Words cannot explain how I felt after the Olympics in 2008. Usain Bolt’s accomplishment in the last three Olympics can be summarized accordingly. In 2008 it was good morning. In 2012 it was good afternoon. In 2016 it was good night. I am certain that the individual with whom I had the disagreement witnessed the truism of my claim. To Mr.Usain Bolt I proudly say, thank you.
Track and Field in Jamaica and not Athletics as some would have you think, has evolved. Athletics is a broader concept and would include Soccer, Cricket, Basketball, Boxing, etc. In essence any activity that satisfies the definition of Sports played by Humans excluding Horse Racing. Regardless, the IOC continues to expand the field of events to include all the aforementioned except Cricket to date.
While Track and Field has evolved, it appears very little has been done to increase the participation and popularity of other sports in Jamaica. That is the Historical make up of Jamaica. Jamaicans have always had a fascination for running fast.
I could be reflective and talk about Heroes such as Arthur Wint and Herbert Mckenley who will always deserve mention in any discussion about Jamaican Track and Field. However, I will focus on modernization, speculation, and definitely exhortation that will impact the future of Jamaican Track and Field.
From my perspective the modernization of Jamaican Track and Field began with Donald Quarrie in the 1976 Olympics. In 1976 Donald Quarrie won the 200 m at the Montreal Olympics and finished second in the 100 m. Therefore, while we applaud Usain Bolt for his incomparable achievments let us remember that Donald Quarrie laid the foundation and inspiration for Bolt.
Usain Bolt has thrown down the gauntlet to his fellow Jamaican Athletes. Winning the 100 m and 200 m in three consecutive Olympics is a feat that is unparalleled. Just as I was certain of my position in 2006, winning the 100 m and 200 m in three consecutive Olympics is a feat that will not be repeated.
Track and Field in Jamaica has attained new heights. The sport and its participants and future Stars will be well respected by the world. You will hear phrases like, “the great sprinting nation”, and “sprint Capital of the world”. Athletes from all parts of the Globe will descend on the Island Nation to train and prepare themselves to compete in the Olympics and World Championships.
There will be no time for aspiring Track stars in Jamaica to rest. You are now the hunted in this game. Thanks to Usain Bolt, Track stars in Jamaica Male or Female, your mission should you choose to accept, is not Hold, Fold, or Walk away; it is Run.
Let me give a shout out to Johan Blake, Shelly-Ann Fraser – Pryce, Elaine Thompson, Omar McCloud, Shericka Jackson, and the Relay teams both Male and Female. Their performances indicate the continued need for all around effort. It matters not if it is the Olympics or World Championships. Every time Jamaicans perform as a team they will be required to give an all around effort.
Now then let’s talk about the speculative phase of this modernization of Jamaican Track and Field. Omar McCloud Rio 2016 performance was stellar. He took the challenge. The challenge was and is, the 100 m, 200 m, 400 m, 800 m, 400 m Hurdles, 110 m Hurdles, and both relay events are sprints. I could argue that the Mile or 1500 meters is also a sprint. If you wish to be a force to reckon with in the aforementioned events, you had better start training and preparing to compete with a sprint mind-set.
I was very proud to see Omar McCloud jump those Hurdles, barrier after barrier to victory in Rio 2016. To be the first Jamaican to win that event in the Olympics is a Herculean achievement. He has never seen a Jamaican win that event and he wanted to. Therefore, he decided I will win and then watch the video. He decided, I can (Jamaican).
Winning the 100 m, 200 m, and relays – Male and Female is not enough. Therefore, Omar McCloud stepped it up. He took competing in the Olympics to another level. If you can sprint but not as fast as Usain Bolt then re-tool, meaning find another event. I think there are other Jamaican sprinters who should follow Omar McCloud example. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) gives medals for all events.
Let me assist in encouraging the re-tool decision. If as an aspiring Track Star, your training includes running the sand, stairs, steps, hauling a carriage, repetitions, and lifting weights but cannot achieve a time of 9.80 for the 100 m, or 19.50 for the 200 m; then it is time to consider another event. If you prefer the 100 m distance then think about re-tooling for the 110 m Hurdles. If you prefer the 200 m then you should try to make the adjustment for the 400 m.
However, be very careful because the 400 m is the most grueling of the sprints. To be world class as you saw in Rio 2016, you will need to be able to run between 43.0 and 44.0 to earn a medal at the Olympics or World Championships. If luck is on your side and it is a slow day you will still need to run sub 45.0 to earn a medal.
If you are diligent but find the 400 m punishing then try the 800 m or 400 m Hurdles. My point to all aspiring Track Stars is do not try to be another Usain Bolt. Be yourself and be the best you can be. There is and will only be one Usain Bolt. Listen to your coach and work hard. There is an event on the track for everyone. It is no different than there is a woman or man, or a car out there for everyone.
Imagine you are now less than 30 Years of age, how would you like to be the first person to run 8.90 for the 100 m or 18.90 for the 200 m or 42.90 for the 400 m or 1:30 for the 800 m or 46.50 for the 400 m Hurdles. I am guessing you would.
Things are going well on the Track and the future looks bright. However, it appears that the Field is not attracting the needed participation. Field events such as Long Jump, Triple Jump (Hop, Skip, and Jump), Javelin, Discus, Shot Put, Hammer throw, and High Jump are languishing and in need of the equivalent of a booster shot.
Participation in Field events appear to be in need of promotion, attention, and focus. Things are not looking well. Forget about the future, the present is not bright. The Jamaican Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) may have to incentivize participation in Field events. A boost is necessary. In the end someone with the drive and tenacity equivalent to Omar McCloud, will step up and compete at a high level.
World class performance is possible in the Long Jump and Triple Jump events. These two Field events utilize speed. Speed increases Jump height off the Board and follow through into the Pit. The Long Jump and Triple Jump events are opportunities for someone with descent speed but not necessarily Olympic 100 m Gold material. Any Long Jumper who can average between 25 and 31 Feet into the Pit has a reasonable good chance of winning the event on the World stage. Any Triple Jumper who can average between 48 and 52 Feet into the Pit has a reasonable good chance of winning the event on the World stage.
Rio 2016 was the prelude to the changing of the Guard in Jamaican Olympic Track and Field. Tokyo will be the actual changing of the Guard. Most of the current Stars will not make it out of the Trials in Kingston. Some may not even be in the event or make it beyond the Heats. I could go so far as to insert names but it would not be fair to the individuals. Therefore, suffice to say that some of the current Household names in the Jamaican Track and Field sport will not be in Tokyo in 2020.
There could be a drop in the level of individual performance on the Track but the Quartets Male and Female should remain strong. In fact, I am ready to see the Men 4 x 400 relay team step it up and give a better account of themselves. I am expecting improvement in the performances in the Field events particularly Long Jump,Triple Jump, and High Jump. Usain Bolt will depart from competition well before 2020 but I know there are many Speed Merchants out there. New names will emerge and I am certain Usain Bolt is in search of a protégé.
The Era of Speed Merchants has begun. Whereupon you say “Speed what”. To which I reiterate, the Era of Speed Merchants has begun. Men and Women who can run fast will be identified in the Sport as Speed Merchants. Equally important, persons will migrate and some will change Nationality in pursuit of their Sprint dream. Historically and Politically they will become Track and Field Mercenaries.
Some will snicker and others will laugh at the idea. Remember, that I was the one in 2006 who dared to stake claim regarding the potential, capabilities, and abilities of the Jamaican Track and Field athlete. Therefore, in lieu of the fact that Jamaica is only allowed to have three persons represent the Nation in the Olympics for each event, there will be individuals who will feel disenfranchised. As a result Athletes will seek inclusion by migrating and Countries will recruit others in search of Track and Field stardom. Countries will recruit Speed Merchants. Every Nation will seek strong representation in the Men and Women 100 m at the Olympics.
What is the ultimate, zenith, or pinnacle of the above thought. In Jamaica the man on the street would say “ you think say me done”. No I am not, here is where that thought is leading. Yes, I am about to make another Bold prediction.There will be an Olympics in this Century, sooner than later, where all 8 or 9 Finalist in the 100 m will be of Jamaican extract of one kind or another. They will be Jamaican by birth or of Jamaican parentage and representing multiple countries including (we hope) Jamaica. Take note that Jessica Ennis is of Jamaican parentage.
“We hope”, should not be taken lightly. That scenario could happen but for those who hold Jamaica dear to the heart, we hope that is not the case. If all 8 or 9 men in an Olympics 100 m Final are of Jamaican extract of one kind or another representing multiple countries and Jamaica is not in the Line up, that would be tragic for the JAAA but also Jamaica. However, the more likely scenario will be that multiple countries are represented including Jamaica. Do not assume that the Athlete representing Jamaica will win.
Many see Andre De Grasse of Canada as the Olympics heir apparent to Usain Bolt. There is anticipation he will be the star in Tokyo 2020. However, I think the person to watch is Asuka Cambridge of Japan. My pick is interesting since he will be home for the Olympics. Equally interesting is, Asuka Cambridge is of Jamaican parentage.