Adversity need not have the last sayMonday, August 02, 2021
Such is the drama associated with sport it's sometimes forgotten that it is just life in easy-to-see detail, bitter, sweet, and in-between.
So, Jamaicans were beside themselves with joy on Saturday as sprint queens Mrs Elaine Thompson-Herah, Mrs Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Miss Shericka Jackson thrilled the nation with their glorious one, two, three (gold, silver and bronze medal haul) in the 100m final. It was a magnificent gift for a people who, like other ex-slave societies in the former British Empire, are marking the anniversary of the freeing of ancestors 180-odd years ago.
Then came the other side of the coin with misfortune hitting hard, for some, their dreams of Olympic glory.
How to console hurdlers Miss Yanique Thompson and Mr Jaheel Hyde who stumbled and fell yesterday?
Yet, a constant for all those in Tokyo, whether they are happy or sad, is the hard work done and the sacrifices made in the face of adversity, just to get there, amidst a pandemic which has made these Games the most challenging ever.
Perhaps none of Jamaica's heroines on Saturday know more about personal adversity than gold medal winner Mrs Thompson-Herah. Like so many, she had first-hand experience of “hard life” while growing up in mountainous Banana Ground, Manchester, just over the border from north-western Clarendon. Always talented, Mrs Thompson-Herah's progress as a student athlete was disjointed at best.
Her becoming a champion athlete under the guidance of Mr Stephen Francis of the MVP Track and Field Club must be one of the great stories of our time.
Ultimately, it came down to her: The willingness to go the extra mile, to bear the pain as she pushed her body to the limit, believing always, even in her darkest hour, that reward will come.
When she won individual double gold medals at the Rio Olympics in 2016, Mrs Thompson-Herah was on top of the world. Then came injuries which threatened her career for years. There were probably times when she came close to giving up.
Back in late 2016, as Banana Ground celebrated her achievements as well as that of another native, male sprinter Mr Nesta Carter, Mrs Thompson-Herah explained the source of her strength: “Even though some people had doubts about me, I have confidence in myself. My family and the people around me push me, help me to be where I am today… Everybody can't be at the top. I had to work from bottom to be at the top…”
That thought process, alongside her strong religious faith, will no doubt keep Mrs Thompson-Herah going as she enters the 200 metres with an eye on a second gold medal.
The road trod by Mrs Thompson-Herah and her fellow Jamaican sprint queens should serve as an inspiration to others in Tokyo, not least those overcome by bitter disappointment.
Maybe that helped Mr Hyde as he picked himself up from the track and jogged through the finish line. He didn't have to do that. He could have simply walked away.
Perhaps, even in that moment of utter devastation, Mr Hyde recognised that adversity doesn't have to be the end. It can be the start of something great, once you are prepared to pick yourself up and resume the hard work.
The same is true for all of us.