Local track and field fans who have not so far seen the Games supplement published in the Sunday Observer, Jamaica at the London Olympics, should get hold of a copy. It provides a wealth of information on the Olympics in general and Jamaica's prospects in particular. Readers will note that the supplement attributes a prediction of 15 medals to me in the article, "Can Jamaica Improve on Beijing?" This is at least one more than anyone else, which may at this stage seem optimistic but based on solid information as provided in the supplement.
It is now more than two weeks since I wrote that article, and the form and fitness levels of our athletes continue to be paramount considerations. I remain confident that my projections are well within the ability of our track and field team. Naturally, these are also based on the assumption or hope that all goes well with our team, as there are so many variables to consider. Besides form and fitness, there are other possibilities such as disqualification for false starting, lousy baton changes and impedance during a race. I refuse to even think about the possibility of any of our athletes getting a negative doping test result.
While all the medal predictions that have come to my attention involve track and field athletics, there are three other non-track athletes on the team: equestrian Samantha Albert, Kenneth Edwards in Taekwondo and swimmer Alia Atkinson. We have been kept reasonably abreast of the achievements of Atkinson over the years; however, very little has been divulged in the media about the other two representatives. The Jamaica Observer's Dania Bogle has done readers a service by introducing Albert and Edwards to us, but nothing in those pieces published on Sunday, or before, gave any reasonable indication of the class of these two team members in terms of international ratings. Bogle, like many others, seemed more hopeful of Atkinson's chances. There is no doubt that this swimmer has the class and has put in tremendous work in preparation for this her third trip to the Olympics. We sincerely and fervently hope that she will be third time lucky in terms of her goal to make it to the medal podium. Still, there can't be many outside of the swimming fraternity who are prepared to bet on her so doing.
It has been more than three decades and eight Olympics since Jamaica won its first and only non-track medal. That was David Weller's bronze in cycling. Michael McCallum went very close to repeating that feat in 1976 at the Montreal Olympics when he was probably robbed of at least a bronze medal. The real shocker that may well result from these games is if and when Jamaica again achieves a non-track medal. If we do, it is my view that our Taekwondo team member Kenneth Edwards is the one best poised.
From what I have heard, the martial arts camp is guardedly optimistic about Kenneth's chances of medalling. Already a groundbreaker by being the first Jamaican to qualify for that competition, Edwards has an unblemished record in his form of martial arts according to his brother "Shihan" Keith. It depends on how much and how fast he has learnt in training for the Olympics World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) martial arts form. A novice to this style of competition, Kenneth is used to competing under the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) rules, under which he has campaigned for the past 17 years. The fighting styles of both differ: the WTF requires reliance on the hands rather than the feet as the main artillery. But Kenneth is said to be a fast learner and a competitor who is used to winning. Even if he does not achieve a medal, expectations are high that his exit will not be in the first round of the competition. I plan to be at ringside, at least for the start of that competition scheduled for August 8.
Those who follow Ed Wallace's Sprint Factory production on the internet may by now have heard the panel discussion involving former Olympian and celebrated T&F coach Dennis Johnson, sports writer/broadcaster Hubert Lawrence and myself giving our perspective on the Olympics which was taped on Saturday last. During that discussion, I was less confident about the chances of Veronica Campbell-Brown in winning a medal in the 100 metres, contrary to the article in the Sunday Observer in which I had her achieving a bronze. My previous prediction is based on knowledge and confidence in VCB's proven ability to deliver on the international stage. It has been difficult to draw any strong conclusions from her less than convincing appearances at and since the national trials. While I suspect that she ran conservatively in placing third (11.70) in her last Diamond League meet, we have no way of knowing her true form and must wait until the preliminary rounds of the 100 metres to be better guided. I still have her winning the 200 metres silver medal based on her class and proven ability. Only Felix has run faster and these are the only two athletes at the Olympics to have dipped below the 22-second barrier to date. Felix, of course, did so more recently at the US trials and appears on fire. Whether she can hold that form is the large question. I suspect that she will.
Undoubtedly, these Olympics will be hugely competitive. Besides form and fitness, our athletes will need to demonstrate mental toughness. Dennis Johnson describes those who do as not merely "winners" but "champions".
Congrats to the Jamaica Information Service on the launch of their photo album, Our Golden Jubilee, which highlights key milestones in Jamaica's journey since Independence. The publication was launched at a classy ceremony at the Jamaica Pegasus last week. Given the timeliness of its launch, I expect that sales will go well. I also stumbled on another excellent coffee-table publication - Golden 50 Moments 1962-2012 - published by Ian Randle in collaboration with The Gleaner Company Limited and which is well worth the price. Both publications are excellently produced. The Golden 50 Moments, as its title states, is a selection of 50 photographs some of which, the publishers state, are not necessarily celebratory but are included as they represent defining moments in the nation's history.