Building champions


Building champions

Saturday, October 05, 2019

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Younger Jamaicans, spoilt by athletic success, may be surprised to hear there were major games when this island nation went without a single medal.

That was the case for the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia and again in Tokyo, Japan, eight years later in 1964.

The big-hearted sprinter Mr Lennox Miller gave Jamaicans reason to cheer at the Mexico Games in 1968 when he took silver in the 100m final the only Jamaican Olympic medal that year.

Mr Miller was back four years later in Munich, West Germany, again winning the only Jamaican Olympic medal this time a bronze in the 100 metres.

During that medal drought, Jamaican athletes were always expected to do well not just because of the obvious talent, but also because the Caribbean nation, while still a British colony, had 'wowed' the world at its first two Olympics.

In 1948, and again in 1952, athletes such as Messrs Arthur Wint, Herb McKenley and George Rhoden covered themselves with glory in the 800m, 400m and 4X400m relay, in particular. Mr McKenley added a surprise 100m silver medal in 1952.

Flops in 1956 and 1960 notwithstanding, the early achievements established Jamaica in the minds of many as a track power.

Yet, after the 400m relay gold medal in Helsinki 1952, Jamaica would not see Olympic gold again until 1976 24 years later when Mr Donald Quarrie won the 200 metres.

Many will be shocked to learn that victory for Ms Deon Hemmings in the 400m hurdles in Atlanta 1996 represented the first Olympic gold medal for Jamaican women.

This, despite the heroics of Ms Merlene Ottey, Ms Juliet Cuthbert and Ms Grace Jackson, et al.

Jamaica changed to a much higher gear in the 2000s with what can be loosely termed as the era led by the superlative sprinter, Mr Usain Bolt.

Women sprinters, including the great Mrs Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Mrs Veronica Campbell Brown, et al, stand shoulder to shoulder with Mr Bolt as flag bearers of that era.

We have said all of the above to place in proper context the achievements of Jamaica's athletes at the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, now approaching its end.

Many will feel disappointed that Jamaica's athletes have not achieved more in the sprint events, in particular.

Yet it would be unrealistic in our view to expect to continue the dominance of the Bolt era.

More to the point, Jamaica's athletic success has broadened to such an extent that we could celebrate a long jump gold medal for 23-year-old Mr Tajay Gayle and a silver medal for Ms Danniel Thomas-Dodd in the women's shot put.

Back in the Moscow 1980 Olympics when Mr David Weller won bronze in cycling the first non-track Olympic medal for Jamaica everyone was stunned.

It is a rich tribute to the growth of Jamaican athletics that in 2019 the public took Ms Thomas-Dodd's achievement in stride.

At the close of yesterday, Jamaica was fourth in the medal table in Doha two gold, three silver, two bronze. That's impressive, we think.

It's appropriate, we believe, to hail those involved in the administration of Jamaican athletics.

Most of all, we salute the coaches and support staff, from the grass roots development to elite stage, who give of their all in the never-ending drive to create champions.

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