YESTERDAY evening at the Olympic Stadium I sat beside a journalist from the Commonwealth of Dominica who wanted to know if Jamaica was satisfied with its six medals so far.
Implicit in his statement was that the country had underperformed given past achievements. I told him that we were not, but that by the end of these Games, the count would have at least equalled the 11 won in Beijing, although fewer gold medals than we had initially anticipated. I also advised him of prevailing sentiments in Jamaica's camp that a sweep of the 200 metres medals was a distinct possibility given the amazing performance of young Warren Weir through the preliminary rounds. Bolt and Blake were already the confirmed favourites.
My response seemed to silence him for a bit, he was, however, adamant that while the men seem to have upped their performance, Jamaica had been far less prolific in recent years in the quality of female athletes it produced for the circuit. In his view, most of the women who headed the contingent would soon be departing the circuit, but there were few replacements in evidence. He had similar criticisms of the Bahamian team.
Although a long-time advocate on behalf of women in the sport, I could find little to counter that perception. Indeed, London 2012 has proven to be a comeback party in a very real sense for Jamaica's male athletes.
Led by the fabulous global mega star, Jamaican men have accounted for the lion's share of medals in these Games both in terms of quantity and quality. When Bolt, Blake and Weir crossed the finish line ahead of the field of 200 metres finalists, this ensured that Jamaica had by then won nine medals — three gold, three silver, three bronze. The women account for three of the nine (one gold, one silver, one bronze), while the men have doubled them up.
This is a big reversal from 2008 when the women won eight of the 11 medals and from the trend in recent decades for the women to bring home the bulk of medals. Moreover the three medals for the women were won by two athletes who were both already Olympic medallists, while the six medals for the men were won by four men, including three firsttime Olympic medallists (Yohan Blake, Hansle Parchment and Warren Weir).
In Beijing, Bolt was the only Jamaican male athlete who won the two individual medals. Clearly, London has represented a strikeback for Jamaican men.
Regarding that journalist/friend from Dominica, he claims that he has a daughter, presently residing in Florida, with amazing potential in the 200/400 metres who he wants to attend school in Jamaica, where he feels she would have the best chance of moving forward in a career on the track.