Sport

Jamaica's athletics mill will forever grind out champions

BY CLARE FORRESTER

Sunday, August 19, 2012    

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As Jamaica basks in the reflected glory of our considerable athletics success in London questions are emerging about what the future holds.

The decline in medal output from the women (Eight medals in Beijing including three golds, to five medals in London with only one gold) and the ageing of some of our major champions including Veronica Campbell-Brown and Melaine Walker has many worried that our athletics is on the downturn.

Oh ye of little faith! Tsk tsk! Fear not. The first thing to remember is that Jamaica has the most incredible conveyor belt of world-class athletes anywhere in the world, it's called 'Champs'. Every year some new shining star arrives at 'Champs' to let us know that worry is unnecessary and this shows no signs of diminishing.

Secondly, we have an incredible cadre of young track and field stars waiting in the wings for their turn. It is well established that until earlier this year, Jamaican had the male 100 metres world champion at every level, youth, junior, University Games, World Championship and Olympics.

But we forget that we have also recently produced a glittering cadre of young throwers including Frederick Dacres, Traves Smikle in the discus and jumpers including Kimberly Williams in the triple jump who suggest that the expansion of Jamaican dominance beyond the sprints may be imminent.

In the men's sprints future success is all but assured with the likes of Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Warren Weir, Asafa Powell, Nickel Ashmeade, Kemar Bailey-Cole, Dexter Lee, Odeen Skeen, and the members of the 53-strong sub-10.3 Jamaican sprinting posse.

In the women's equivalent, runners like Annesiha McLaughlin, Sheri-Ann Brooks, Schillonie Calvert and Jura Levy have the potential to step up.

In the men's sprint hurdles we have class in Hansle Parchment, Dwight Thomas and Andrew Riley, while in the 400 metres we have promise in Rusheen McDonald, and Errol Nolan, while Jermaine Gonzales and Ricardo Chambers still have much to offer.

Kaliese Spencer continues to shine in the 400 metres hurdles and Melaine Walker cannot be written off as she has the class to return to the top.

The reality is that we could continue to name names all day long, but that would be a waste of time. Be assured, the next big name may yet be unknown except to his or her coaches and teammates. With the proven ability of Glenn Mills and Stephen Francis to develop athletes at an accelerated rate, the next superstar may be today's also-ran, but we can be supremely confident that he/she is coming.

The success of Bolt, Blake and Fraser-Pryce ensures that somewhere in Jamaica, or in the Diaspora, yet another young athlete has been infected with the need to succeed and is planning for their day of Olympic triumph. Merlene Ottey is our most decorated athlete, but we survived her departure, so cry not for us Jamaica, we will be there, again and again, like a bad penny. Maybe Blake is right that Jamaican track stars are from Mars.

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