The island has experienced its greatest period of athletic achievement; from its borage on the record books in Beijing to a complete redefining of track and field’s standards at the 2009 World Championships by Usain Bolt. As a result, Jamaica has not only adopted track and field as its national pastime, the island has incorporated this sport within local culture and folklore, so much so that our athletes aren’t just celebrities, they’ve become heroes.
But over the last two years, track and field has become more than just Bolt and who else as a proverbial ‘beast’ has descended upon the sport with a vengeance as Yohan Blake ascended into instant superstardom. After an unimaginable false start but Bolt in Daegu last year, Blake took advantage of his compatriot’s mistake and has unleashed an assault on every stopwatch within his reach; posting times that made track experts wonder aloud if this new blood could truly topple the old guard within track and field.
Going into the 2012 Summer Olympics the Blake vs. Bolt debate has gradually intensified; maybe to dangerous levels as fans and even analysts seem to be picking sides, which take away from the very objective of Jamaica’s track team in London. This is our golden anniversary of independence right? When Jamaica’s supposed to showcase a united front and come together in its most important period to date?
So why are people bickering over two spectacular sprinters who are clearly worthy of the high-end accolades they’ve earned in recent times? Instead of wondering about legacies and who’s more worthy of a golden moment on August 5 and 9 respectively in the English capital, Jamaicans should be looking at the bigger picture: That we have two legitimate chances to bring home gold in the two biggest Olympic events of these games.
However, I must admit, any hopes that we could sweep the medals in the 100m for men would frankly be unrealistic given the track record of Asafa Powell in major tournaments and the hugely talented field in this year’s race, including American sprinting juggernauts, Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin. A more plausible expectation would be Bolt and Blake finishing 1-2 in both events, and maybe even swapping gold medals in the two sprint races.
On the female side of things, the pools for both the 100m and 200m races are extremely deep; once again highlighting the fierce rivalry between Jamaican and American sprinters. Also like the men, we have a pair of sure bets in both those races in 100m world record-holding sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser and two-time defending 200m champion, Veronica Campbell. Fraser’s recent double at the National Trials in Kingston leads me to believe that, like Bolt four years ago, she could achieve the sprint double on sport’s biggest stage. Her form has never been better and despite the strong challenges that Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix produce, Shelly-Ann Frazer may be the sprinter to watch for both races.
Nothing’s a lock for us in these games but Melaine Walker should secure a repeat in the 400m hurdles while our male and female relay teams in both the 4 by 100m and 4 by 400m are more than culpable of securing top honors. Also, there’s a soft spot for some of our runners who’ve yet to enjoy success at the Olympic level, especially veteran 110m hurdler Brigitte Foster-Hylton, who’s seeking her first medal at the summer games in what will be her final go-round at an athletics tournament.
Like Cedella Marley’s designs for our Olympic team, there will be several hits and misses amongst our athletes during this competition but at the end of the day, only one goal matters; that our team represents the colors well, looks good doing it and puts the ‘Golden’ in our Golden Jubilee.
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