Now to Budapest
Televised sport in this uncomfortably hot northern hemisphere summer is about to reach crescendo with the 19th World Athletics Championships, which opens this morning in Budapest, Hungary.
Jamaicans, glued to their television sets with cooling fans and air-conditioning units at full blast, have already had much to celebrate over these last several weeks.
The highlight was surely the Reggae Girlz’s exceptional run at the FIFA Women’s Football World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. They broke new ground, regardless of gender, by reaching the round of 16 at a World Cup finals’ tournament — considered in some quarters to have been the top achievement ever in Jamaican sport, outside of track and field.
Also, Jamaica’s national netball team, the Sunshine Girls, claimed the bronze medal at the Netball World Cup in South Africa, twice defeating traditional powerhouse New Zealand.
Mixed in with all of the above has been a wide range of competitive televised sport, including cricket, tennis, and of course professional club football in Britain and wider Europe — now in full swing.
For the World Athletics Championships much attention is centred on whether Jamaica’s 65-member team can better the 10 medals — two gold, seven silver, and one bronze — at the 2022 Championships in Eugene, Oregon, USA.
A confident technical leader, Mr Maurice Wilson tells us that his athletes are “looking very good” following a recent training camp which provided “interesting performances”. He tells us that: “I’m just coming from the track and those athletes who I saw… are looking extremely sharp. And so [Saturday] we expect that the competitors should proceed to the next round and we’ll move it from there.”
“In terms of spread across all disciplines, and the age of the youngsters in relation to transitioning, I think this may be one of our better teams,” says Mr Wilson.
Yet, he also cautions that medals can’t be counted until they are won.
Our reporter in Budapest, Mr Paul Reid, reminds us that, after a glorious display in Beijing, China, in 2015 — winning 12 medals — the Jamaican team faltered badly in London in 2017 — taking home just four medals (one gold and three bronze).
Inevitably, the established stars and medal favourites are in the spotlight. How fast can the rapidly improving Ms Shericka Jackson really go? And what of the incomparable Ms Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, now surely very close to the end of her glorious career.
And, as Jamaica continues a determined push to diversify its athletics programmes, how well will our representatives do in non-traditional events, such as the throws and jumps?
From an organisational perspective, we welcome news of rule changes that will, we believe, make track and field more attractive to spectators and those watching on television and related modalities.
We particularly like the new system which will allow empty lanes to be filled in semi-finals and finals.
We are told that: “In Budapest, any lanes or starting position left empty due to the withdrawal of an athlete will, where possible, be filled by the next-best ranked athlete. This policy will apply to finals and semi-finals in all disciplines, including field events and relays…”
That’s very sensible and long overdue, in our view.