Much has been said, and much will be said, about Javon Francis's amazing relay leg in the 4x400m finals in Moscow last week. It is the kind of story that deserves telling over and over again as those who saw it speak in awed tones in years to come of the mighty deed of Francis of Jamaica.
I try to avoid the superlatives, but what a thrilling and unforgettable sight, that moment when we saw him on the TV screen blazing past Russia, Belgium and Great Britain to command second place in a situation where all seemed lost.
But it did not stop there, for surely we saw him, (wipe my glasses again) could it be that he was going after the first-placed LaShawn Merritt of the USA who was comfortably in the lead?
The experts will say how Javon used technique, balance, breath control, and timing to pull Jamaica into second place but, beyond all those basics, in my mind, the young Jamaican just "run down the man dem" with his sights set squarely on winning the race.
An impossible and a moving target, so it would seem, but for just a few incredible seconds he had us dreaming with him of a fantastic comeback for a Jamaica that had been trailing for three laps, and we all held our breaths.
Well, the impossible did not take place, yet Javon showed us in those unforgettable metres how "impossible" is only a word; and that if you believe in yourself, you can do it.
Never again should we ever say it can't be done, because the young man took us and the world by surprise, took us to heights of human endeavour where he strove "with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable star".
Now the world knows not only of the accomplished golden performances of Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and the relay teams, but also of the sterling qualities we possess that can make us perform against the odds. Those few seconds around the bend on the last leg of the race are the ones that are photo-frozen in our memories, the story to pass on to generations to come, that stark reminder of, "Up you mighty race, accomplish what you will."
Jamaicans have done it before. We have exhibited the endurance, tenacity, and ability to
Our National Heroes are Jamaicans who faced enormous challenges and exhibited fortitude and defiance to overcome overwhelming odds in their lifetime.
Sports has provided an ideal avenue for us to pursue excellence in a field where mastery comes to us in a natural way born out of a combination, some might say, of peculiar genetic factors and even the wild assaying of yam as a roots food for our athletic superiority.
The Jamaica Observer's editorial of August 19 zeroes in on a contributory factor.
"In all of this, the importance of tradition cannot be overlooked, as it has been established that all dreams are possible, a fact proven by pioneer athletes like Messrs Herb McKenley and Arthur Wint.
"Their victories, dating back more than half-a-century to the colonial era, have been consolidated into a tradition by their successors such as Messrs George Kerr and
Donald Quarry and Merlene Ottey."
The exploits of Francis have an interesting parallel in the 4x400 relay performance of the great Herb McKenley at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.
Herb had experienced bitter disappointment when he was denied a gold medal in the 100 after being declared winner on the first call.
It was one of the most dramatic finishes ever, with the top four in the race, McKenley, Trinidad's McDonald Bailey, and the United States' Lindy Remigino and Deon Smith all credited with the same time -- 10.4.
To make matters worse, McKenley was actually being congratulated and photographed by the press corps when news came that Remigino had been declared winner by 'an eyelash'.
The irony is that Remigino had already congratulated McKenley. Herb was devastated.
The next day he was denied a second chance at a gold medal when he was beaten into second place by his teammate George Rhoden in the 400.
It was on the final day of the meet that the 30-year-old Herb was to show the grit and determination that we saw mirrored in Javon Francis's performance, when he, Rhoden, Wint, and Les Laing stunned the world with a record-breaking victory in the 4x400 relay.
Getting the baton some 10 yards behind the USA's Charlie Moore, McKenley ran the third leg in 44.6 seconds, the fastest ever recorded for that distance, and the greatest race ever run for Jamaica up to that time. He collared Moore at the baton change, handing over while ahead to Rhoden for the fourth leg while Moore handed over to Mal Whitfield. Jamaica clocked 3:39, chopping 4.3 seconds off the World and Olympic record.
The four young men prayed together on the field before and after the race. As the Observer's editorial said, "we have seen that almost all our leading athletes acknowledge that their accomplishments are not solely due to their own efforts, and express their gratitude to God."
This is typical of many Jamaican teams when they go abroad. I have seen the Under-14 Alpart-sponsored Essex Valley football team from St Elizabeth in Norway at the world's largest soccer tournament — the Norway Cup — do just that. They consistently had devotion in the mornings and said grace before meals, to the amazement of the 30,000 competitors from 50 countries that were in the competition.
We need to preserve this praise and worship on the sports field. Let us give thanks to God for the many accomplishments of our athletes, by holding a day of national prayer for them.
In all things God's hand plays a divine role, and the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow provides the lift that Jamaica needs at this time.
Lance Neita is a public relations and communication specialist. Comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org