VIDEO: J'cans urged not to pressure athletes for London Olympics

VIDEO: J'cans urged not to pressure athletes for London Olympics

BY PAUL A REID Observer writer

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

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OFFICIALS of the local technical coaching team to the London Olympic Games are urging track and field fans to moderate their medal expectations of the Jamaican athletes despite a number of outstanding performances at last weekend's JAAA/Supreme Ventures' National Senior Trials at the National Stadium.

Early expectations are that the Jamaican athletes should surpass the 11 medals — six gold, three silver and two bronze — won at the Beijing Olympics four years ago, when double sprint champion Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Veronica Campbell Brown, referred to as VCB, led the charge that left the world talking about Jamaica.

Yesterday, technical leader of the Jamaican team, former Olympic 200m champion Donald Quarrie, noted that "we are expecting to get quite a few medals" based on the "outstanding championships (which gives an) expectation of what is to come." However, he cautioned that we should be careful of "overdoing things".

Speaking at the weekly Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue offices, Quarrie said not only are our fans excited, but other athletes from other countries were also looking on and would be motivated by what they saw as well.

"They saw the performances and the crowds. They saw the joy on the faces of our athletes, and that overflows," he pointed out.

Quarrie, who took a break from national duties for last year's IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, warned that "we are going to have to be aware that we don't overdo ourselves by expecting too much. My philosophy is that I will count each medal after we get them; and we are expected to get quite a few".

He said that the pressure on the athletes will be tremendous, given that "we will be in London and there will be a lot of Jamaicans around". In addition, he pointed out that many journalists will be seeking to interview the team.

The athletes, he said, would be shielded from all this to the extent that one day — a light training day at the camp in Birmingham — will be reserved for the media. However, he warned that extensive interviews will not be allowed, as an official team press conference will also be held in London.

Quarrie said the advice to the athletes, especially those who will be competing at the Olympics for the first time, is to "focus on their preparation, focus on what you have to do and the best that you can and let the medals count themselves".

He said that the pressure from outside has already started to mount as the "feedback so far is that Jamaica is the team to watch, but we know we are going to have a lot of competition; rivalry in sprint is going to be fierce", Quarrie predicted, adding that six lanes in the August 5 men's 100m finals could be occupied by runners from Jamaica and the USA.

Maurice Wilson, a member of the coaching staff and the head coach to Daegu last year, concurred with Quarrie and said based on what he saw last week, "the times in the men's 100m final in London could go into cartoonish realms".

Wilson, who guided Holmwood Technical girls to multiple Girls' Championship titles and is in charge of Sprint Tech Track Club and the GC Foster Sports College track team, said Yohan Blake's blazing 9.75 seconds run in the 100m at the trials on Friday night — the leading time in the world so far — and performances from the top US men were an indication of the fast times that were to come.

Wilson reasoned that "based on recollection, when Bolt ran his World Record 9.58 seconds he was not running 9.75 seconds" at this time of the year.

Additionally, he said American champion Justin Gatlin's 9.80 seconds and Tyson Gay running under 9.90 seconds, in only his second meet of the year, suggested they will run faster come early August.

"Most times these guys will run much faster at the championships, so we expect phenomenal performances," Wilson said.

Throwing an improving Asafa Powell into the mix, he said things will get even more interesting. "We heard Asafa was hurt last weekend and he still ran excellent times. We saw his execution in the semi-finals (where he ran 9.92 seconds to beat Blake) and this shows he has improved in his mental approach to races," said Wilson.

But even with all this, Wilson said the fans must put their expectations in perspective.

"I am not going to make any predictions either, as we all need to understand that Jamaica is not the only team that will be in London. We have good coaches and naturally talented athletes, but the resources available to the USA athletes, for example, could give them an added edge, not in their performance, but making them that bit more comfortable," he said.

Wilson thinks, however, that the Jamaican sprinters are going to "do extremely well", and pointed to Fraser-Pryce's sprint double, including a National Record 10.70 seconds in the 100m and personal best 22.10 seconds in the 200m to make his point.

"Shelly-Ann has laid down the gauntlet, and we can't write off VCB who always gets it right when it matters most," said Wilson.

He said the USA Trials had been "competitive" and hailed Allison Felix's superb 21.69 seconds in the 200m, calling it "something special". However, he said we must "take each day one step at a time before counting medals, and this is the frame of mind we have to take into the camp, then to the Olympics".

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