Quarter-milers could rise, says Wilson

IT'S been a decade since a Jamaican male quarter-miler won an Olympic or World Championship medal.

With Arthur Wint, Herb McKenley and George Rhoden so brilliantly paving the way from the late 1940s to 1950s, it's a wait too long.

The challenges are likely to continue next year as athletes gear up for the 2012 London Olympic Games in the summer.

Head coach at the recent Daegu World Championships in Korea, Maurice Wilson, has an opinion on the current state of affairs in the men's one-lap event.

“At this point there are few standbearers. I do, however, have confidence that there will be a resurgence of youngsters coming to the fore.

“I can recall some years ago when our short sprinters were running 10.2s to win the National Trials and over time they have developed to be the best in the world,” he said.

Wint and McKenley were certainly ahead of their time at the 1948 London Olympics when they won gold and silver in the men's 400 metres.

At the Helsinki Games in 1952, Rhoden and McKenley finished onetwo, with Wint, who ran too fast in the semi-final, placing fifth in that one-lap final.

Mal Spence clinched silver at the 1958 Commonwealth Games and George Kerr went one better at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, with Mal and Mel Spence finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.

Over time — 21 years, to be exact — Bertland Cameron put Jamaica back on the world stage.

In 1983, the 23-year-old Cameron won the NCAA Division One Championship in a world-leading 44.62 seconds and triumphed at the inaugural IAAF World Championships, coincidentally in Helsinki, clocking 45.05.

Jamaica had to wait another 12 years for Greg Haughton, who grabbed bronze medals at the 1995 World Championships, 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2001 Edmonton World Championships.

Since then, Jamaica's quarter-milers have only climbed the medal podium at the Commonwealth Games with Michael Blackwood's golden run in Manchester in 2002 and Jermaine Gonzales' bronze in Melbourne in 2006.

This year, Gonzales was expected to medal in Daegu, having established a new national record of 44.40secs in 2010.

Not wanting to make too many excuses such as the food in Korea and not having sufficient time to recover from surgery, Gonzales was denied the bronze by European champion Kevin Borlee of Belgium.

Can Jamaica win a medal in the men's 400m at next year's Olympics.

“It is not impossible to happen,” said Wilson, “but it's going to be difficult based on what transpired at Worlds. Gonzales, based on his performance last year, is our best prospect... but track and field is a sport of glorious uncertainties,” he asserted.

With nine Jamaicans in the top 100 of the event this year, the coaching staff is hoping the resurgence takes shape next year.

Gonzales (44.69) is ranked at No 6, with Riker Hylton (45.30) further down at No 34.

Leford Green (45.46), Lanceford Spence (45.46) and Allodin Fothergill (45.51) are in the top 50, at Nos 43, 44, and 49, respectively.

Peter Matthews (45.62), Dewayne Barrett (45.63), Oral Thompson (45.65), and Dwight Mullings (45.87) round off the top 100 with placings of 63, 64, 67, and 96.

Michael Mason just missed the cut at 101 after clocking 45.91.

Meanwhile, some 30 Americans are in the top 100, with Grenada, The Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago ensuring a strong Caribbean representation.

Grenada, with world champion Kirani James (44.36) and Rondell Bartholomew (44.65), are No 2 and 3 in the world, ahead of Bahamians Demetrius Pinder (44.78) at No 9 and Chris Brown (44.79) at No 11.

Tabarie Henry (44.83) of the US Virgin Islands is at No 13, with Trinidadian Rennie Quow (44.84) at No 14.

Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt has expressed a willingness to run the 400m relay and if Ricardo Chambers can get himself together, Jamaica could be assured of a fifth Olympic medal in the mile relay.

According to Wilson, “Training at the highest level is all about perfection and performance is highly individual.” The next generation of male quartermilers, including Javere Bell, Waynee Hyman, Rushdeen McDonald and Jovan Williams, would do well to heed that advice.

BY PAUL BURROWES Observer writer

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