Since the retirement of arguably Jamaica’s greatest ever athlete and the greatest sprinter of all time, Usain Bolt, many people have had doubts as to whether the state of Jamaica’s Track & Field would continue on the path of world domination, as it was during Bolt’s 9-year stint at the top.
Since Hugo’s retirement in 2017, it would seem as though we have failed to maintain the high standards that we have grown accustomed to across Summer Olympic Games and World Championships in recent years. However, experts like Tanya Lee, athlete brand manager and sports marketer, are adamant that the belief many Jamaicans have that the quality of the nation’s Track & Field athletes have fallen off dramatically is nonsensical at best.
In a recent interview done on 876Stream’s Behind The Lines, Lee stated that in no way has the standard of Jamaica’s Track & Field dipped and the future of the sport on the island is still very much in good hands.
“The idea that we are looking for a next Usain Bolt is not going to happen. He’s a freak of nature, he’s super human and what he did for the sport was special,” she pointed out.
“Jamaica’s Track & Field is in very good hands,” Lee continued. “Right now, we have the double-Olympic champion in Elaine Thompson and we have the world U20 champion in the 100m and 200m in Briana Williams. I think we are fine and I don’t think we have anything to worry about.”
She is right. Though there has been a visible dip in the country’s male sprint performances, we have improved excellently in field events, an area that Jamaica has not necessarily been synonymous with at the international level. Also, let’s not forget our women, who have continued to hold our standards high with impressive displays.
In the 2019 World Athletic Championships, the Jamaican athletes walked away with one of the biggest medal hauls at a major event in their history, securing 12 podium appearances (3 Gold, 5 Silver, 4 Bronze). This definitely does not sound like a nation that is currently experiencing a decline in the quality of their athletics.
Much of the talk about Jamaica’s uncertain Track & Field future surfaced, inevitably, after the retirement of Usain Bolt. Bolt was more than just a pioneering figure in the sport, he was a motivating force that inspired the other athletes to perform better at the highest level and, with that missing, it is fair to assume that perhaps the energy and competitiveness within the Jamaican camps would not be the same.
However, there has been an alternative effect that has taken place. Performances in other athletic disciplines have stepped up and thus the spotlight has shifted away from just the male sprints. There are athletes that have taken on the mantle of carrying Jamaica’s Track & Field forward, and in some cases, raising the standard and accomplishing feats that we have never achieved before.
For example, Tajay Gayle secured Jamaica’s first ever Long Jump gold medal at the World Championships while also simultaneously breaking the national record with a 8.69 meters jump at the World Championships only two years ago. Fedrick Dacres and Daniel Thomas-Dodd also deserve mentions for their remarkable efforts in the throwing events recently as well. Also, young sprinters like Shericka Jackson, Akeem Bloomfield, Nathon Allen and, of course, the phenom herself Briana Williams, are all supporting casts to Jamaica’s future generation of athletes who aim to continue maintaining the nation’s position at the top of world athletics.
Unfortunately, our current track stars were unable to be put to the ultimate test to see if we could still dominate at the highest level as COVID-19 forced the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to be postponed until 2021. However, with the performances displayed at the last World Athletics Championships, and the rise of stellar up and coming athletes, I am confident the argument that our standards have fallen on the track will be laid to rest.