Is a J'can sweep possible in London?

From the Sports Desk

Hartley Anderson

Sunday, December 25, 2011

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AS we begin a period of reflection commensurate with this time of year, a peek into the succeeding seven or eight months in what will be an Olympic year is both inevitable and delectable.


For, subsequent to the phenomenal performance of our athletes in Beijing, China, four years ago, one cannot help but be excited at the prospect of the dedicated Jamaican stars again taking on the best in the world — this time in storied London.


While it will be a real test to supersede the final medal haul of 11 (comprising six gold, three silver and two bronze) achieved in the famous Bird's Nest, Jamaica is expected to be in the thick of things in the athletic competition in Europe.


As has previously been articulated in this space, Jamaica is realistically positioned to have a genuine shot at a clean sweep of the men's 100 metre event, provided the trio of Asafa Powell, Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake steer clear of injury and remain focused on history which frantically beckons.


The very thought of this is enough to evoke the proverbial goose pimples, but simultaneously reminds us of the changing face of world track and field which currently pits Jamaica as the nucleus around which sprinting revolves.


In this light, many of us still revel in the one-two-two finish engineered by the female trio of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson in 2008, which is a real testimony to what can be achieved.


I, personally, still watch that tape over and over again, impelled by the emergence from the frustrating decades when we floundered in the shadows of the Eastern Europe and United States sprinters, with the elusive gold medal appearing to be a mere stone's throw away.


As the build-up to the 2012 showpiece moves apace, we can also expect the mind games to begin. Already, foreign journalists and others are creating a mythical rivalry between Bolt and Blake that extends beyond training partner status.


Most recently, former Olympic 100m champion Maurice Greene asserted that Blake will beat Bolt in London next year. Green, who won the marquee event in 2000 in Sydney, maintained that Bolt has "trouble in close races".


"If everybody competes like they did this year, I'd say Yohan Blake is going to win," Greene told BBC Radio 5 live. "He (Blake) is the world champion, so his confidence is getting higher and higher all the time," Greene posited.


"Remember, they train together and the way it sounds to me, he [Blake] seems to be the dominant person in the 100m in their training group. So every day they are training together, his confidence is getting bigger and bigger. When they come to the Games, if Usain is still having those problems, Blake's confidence level will be through the roof and he's going to be hard to handle.


"Usain has trouble in close races. If you think about the close races he's had, he's lost [them]," he added.


If Greene is indeed right, there's nothing to worry about from a Jamaican perspective. However, the aforementioned may also be interpreted as an attempt to expose an imagined chink in the Bolt armoury.


On the other hand, perhaps there is some merit in Green's argument, especially if the Stockholm Grand Prix meeting of two seasons ago when Bolt lost to Tyson Gay over the shorter dash is considered.


However, it must be borne in mind that at that point in time, Bolt had health issues and subsequently aborted his season to address those challenges.


While it is a well-known fact that Bolt's Achilles heel is his start, I find it difficult to subscribe to the notion that he falls away in close races. In fact, as Powell will verify, the double world record-holder battled back from another horrible start to pip him at the line at a meet in Europe last season, though some will attribute this defeat to Powell's own shortcomings in the face of genuine competition.


On local soil, a popular view in the aftermath of the Daegu World Championships is that fans missed a glorious opportunity to see the Blake and Bolt go head-to-head over 100m and that the latter's false-start may be directly attributed to the threat posed by his younger rival who often outshone him at training and is known to possess a bullet start on his day.


Since the match-up never materialised, all this is mere speculation. Yet somehow, strains of the legendary rivalry that existed between Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley, who both competed in the sprints for Jamaica, can be heard echoing in the distance.


In this mould, a number of fans hold the view that if Powell can get his act together, he can salvage some respectability and in giving his compatriots a real contest, prove once and for all that he can come good at the big events.


When one considers the consummate sprinting machine that is Asafa Powell, his remarkable record of sub-10 seconds clocking and immense potential, it would indeed be letdown if he rides off into the sunset of a respectable career without giving it his best shot at a major meet.


To my mind London 2012 is the perfect platform to do just that.



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