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Strategising, planning and unity vital to Olympics success

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Yesterday's back page story said it all: 'Targeting Usain! US plan to topple Ja's sprinting dominance'

Not that those of us who have been paying attention would be surprised that the United States athletic fraternity are bent on reclaiming their dominance of the sprints snatched by Mr Usain Bolt et al at the Beijing Olympics four years ago.

Speaking ahead of this week's US Athletic Trials, Ms Sanya Richards-Ross, the great American quarter-miler who just happens to be Jamaican-born, said: "We want to take that (dominance) back. The US team wants to run well."

The Americans aren't just talking. Outstanding performances by a number of individuals over the last two years underline their intent.

While Jamaicans like to think of our small country as a kind of 'sprint factory', US athletes have a rich tradition in the sprints going back many decades. In fact, the success of US sprinters and sprint teams in international competitions, going back the better part of a century, is second to none. The legendary Messrs Jesse Owen and Carl Lewis are perhaps the most famous of the great US sprinters, but there are many, many more who have bossed international competition at every level down the years.

Against that backdrop, US pride suffered a serious blow when their best so often had to play second fiddle to Jamaicans at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and again at the Berlin World Championships a year later.

As Jamaicans look to their own National Trials next week at the National Stadium, our athletes, their coaches and other minders must recognise that it's not just about impressive one-off performances and fast times ahead of the London Olympics in a few weeks' time. Success in London will be largely dependent on the level of physical and mental preparation, planning, analysis, and strategic thinking.

That analysis and planning must apply not only to the performances of our own athletes, but in relation to the perceived strengths and weaknesses of opponents.

Mr Dennis Mitchell, the former US sprinter who now coaches Mr Justin Gatlin, is clearly thinking along those lines as he plots victory for his athlete over Mr Bolt in London.

"With Usain, there's a stride pattern," says Mr Mitchell, "It's not a number of strides thing. It's about what you do throughout the race. We have to look at that and everything has to be tied together. My job is to break down the math. I bring back that mathematical equation of what we need to do ..."

Mr Mitchell is planning and strategising. All being well, Jamaica's coaches will be doing the same. That said, all stakeholders must bear in mind that there can be no place for distractions and disunity which, on occasions, have seriously impaired Jamaica's performances at major games.

There can be no place for petty spats such as the latest involving accreditation for coaches and support staff.

For our athletes to be at their best in London in this Jamaica's 50th year of Independence, it behoves all around them to be marching in step.

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