Since the end of Usain Bolt’s illustrious career in 2017, Jamaicans have had to struggle with a situation that they are not used to, that is, the sustained dip in quality of male sprinters. By extension, the world at large has not been the same since the departure of Bolt from the sport of track and field, no more 9.58s or 9.63s, no more 19.19s or world record sprint relay performances.
While Jamaicans have been depressed about the situation, other competing nations have stepped up to fill the void in world sprinting. In recent years, we have seen the likes of Marcell Jacobs, the first Italian to win the 100 meters at the Olympic Games last year, Fred Kerley, Trayvon Bromell, Christian Coleman and Canadian Andre De Grasse all fighting for the right to be crowned undisputed king since Bolt’s departure from the sport.
With that said, Bolt’s retirement seemed to have been the start of a very difficult period for Jamaica. The likes of Yohan Blake, Kemar Bailey-Cole, Julian Forte, Warren Weir and others have struggled to take the reins and for one reason or the other, have not been able to take that proverbial next step. But are we now seeing the rebirth of Jamaican male sprinting? Is Jamaica returning to take its rightful place at the pinnacle of male sprints on the world stage?
Over the last year, it seems as if the men have gone back to the drawing board and have conjured up a plan with hopes of retaking their rightful place at the top. Presently, we see a glimmer of hope in 20-year-old Ackeem Blake and 21-year-old Oblique Seville. Blake ran a personal best of 9.93 seconds for third at the Jamaica National Senior Championships last week while the Glen Mills-coached Seville ran 9.88 seconds for second behind the resilient Yohan Blake who won in 9.85 seconds. Yohan Blake’s win meant he captured his fifth Jamaican National title ahead of the World Athletics Championships, which gets underway in Eugene, Oregon in July.
For Jamaicans, this World Championships could represent the rebirth of male sprinting, a return to the glory days of what once was our forte’ being led by one Yohan Blake, who knows what it means to dominate at this level. But do the Jamaican sprinters actually stand a chance against their competition in Eugene?
Blake’s blistering time at the National Senior Trials puts him joint 3rd with Ferdinand Omanyala of Kenya and Marvin Bracy of the USA in the World Athletics rankings for the 100 meters this year, while Seville is ranked 6th. Both gentlemen are poised to nip at the feet of world leader Fred Kerley (9.76 seconds) and Trayvon Bromell (9.81s), but if they are to come out victorious it is believed that they may have to run as fast 9.72 seconds to crash the American party.
The Jamaicans will have to use the remaining two and a half weeks to refine their preparation for the World Championships and put themselves in a position to once again ‘rule the world’. Blake, who many thought would have been Usain Bolt’s successor, seems to now be over the lasting physical and mental effects of the hamstring injuries which derailed his career from 2013 onwards. Eleven years on from his World Championship debut in South Korea, Blake seems poised to lead a young sprint team in Eugene, in what could herald the rebirth of male sprinting in Jamaica.