The highs and lows of Jamaica's London Olympics

BY KARYL WALKER online news editor

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 | 2:23 PM    

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Without a doubt the historic 'double triple' by the legendary Usain St Leo Bolt must be considered the zenith of Jamaica's performance at the 30th Olympiad in London, England.

The inimitable showman successfully defended his 100m and 200m Olympic titles and anchored a star-studded Jamaican sprint relay team to a world record 36.84. The time represents the first that any relay team has gone below 37 seconds.

In addition, Bolt broke the Olympic 100m record 9.63 in the process.

But Bolt's exploits aside, for most Jamaicans the most precious moment was the 200 metres men's final, which saw Bolt, Yohan 'The Beast' Blake and Warren Weir sweep the longer sprint. 

The sweep drew scenes of jubilation all over the island and broad smiles on most Jamaican faces.

Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce, the 'Pocket Rocket' also successfully defended her title against the world's top sprinters. 

Fraser-Pryce became the third woman in history and the first non-American to repeat in the Olympic 100metres after her historic win in Beijing, China four years ago.

She also made a valiant effort in the 200m, which earned her the silver medal.

Veronica Campbell-Brown epitomises the strength of the Jamaican woman and has given valuable service to the Jamaican athletics cause. 

Only Merlene Ottey has more championship medals than VCB and she should be commended for her bronze medal in the 100m, a race in which few gave her a real chance of making the frame.

Although VCB was not able to create history by successfully defending her title in the 200m she fought to the end on a day when her rivals were clearly in better shape than her and did well to finish fourth.

Jamaica's sprinting future looks bright as Yohan Blake and Warren Weir will be waiting to fill any void that may be left when Bolt decides to hang up his spikes.

It would be a grave injustice not to mention Alia Atkinson, whose spirited performance in the pool must have served as a great motivation to the rest of the team. Although she did not earn a medal, Atkinson's effort was a true display of the Jamaican fighting spirit and it was truly heartwarming.

Hansle Parchment is a special talent and will be a force to reckon with in the future when he irons out the kinks. His bronze medal placing is one of the highlights of the Jamaican Olympic effort as most pundits wrote off his medal chances, even before he departed to London. 

Parchment ‘s historic achievement is even more special because, apart from the University Games in Russia, the Olympics was his first real performance in  a major tournament.

Like Warren Weir, Parchment has displayed true grit and determination and his performance is one of the high points of the Jamaican effort.

But as we celebrate the four gold, four bronze, four silver medal haul, Bolt's "Double Triple", a world and Olympic record and the 200m sweep, it would be remiss of us if we do not admit that all is not well in the Jamaican camp.

The Jermaine Gonzales fiasco, which saw the athlete throwing the baton to the ground and grimacing as he watched the chances of his 4X400m team go up in smoke, encapsulates the miscommunication that must have clouded that issue.

Minutes after finishing a pedestrian sixth in his heat, Gonzales told reporters that he was not in the best shape and did want to run in the relays. It is an injustice to the Jamaican people that he was allowed to run. 

Jamaica is now under the world's microscope and the administrators must ensure that measures are in place to ensure that athletes who have injuries, or have expressed their unwillingness to take to the track, don't participate.

Gonzales apart, there were too many injuries to too many athletes during the games.

Names like Maurice Smith, Kenia Sinclair and Latoya Greaves readily come to mind.

It was also tear jerking to see the queen of Jamaica's sprint hurdling, Bridgitte Foster-Hylton, hollering after her dismal failure in her 100metres hurdles. 

Many Jamaicans cried along with the darling of sprint hurdling who has represented her country with aplomb.

To hear Foster-Hylton tell reporters that this year was her last on the track was also a major disappointment. 

Perhaps those close to Foster-Hylton can convince her to call it quits after next year's world championships in Russia. 

It would be fitting to see this stellar performer leave the sport in a blaze of glory.

Another heart-rending moment was the performance of the defending Olympic champion Melanie Walker in the 400 hurdles semi-final. Walker was clearly out of sorts and there are serious questions to be answered about that uncharacteristic effort.

Lastly, the lowest low of the 30th Olympiad was Asafa Powell's injury in the blue riband 100m final.

Powell has been the lone flag bearer for male Jamaican sprinting for years and, at age 29, must be coming to the realisation that time has run out for him to earn that elusive individual Olympic medal. 

Most Jamaicans were rooting for him to finish in the top three in the 100m and redeem himself.  But the athlete aggravated an old groin injury and was unable to finish the race.

Powell is too great an asset to Jamaican athletics for him to bow out of the sport under a dark cloud. Fix that injury fast.





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