Jamaica has consistently produced top track and field talent for decades, the last decade produced perhaps the greatest collection of athletes. At the very least the single greatest of those is Usain Bolt, and while Bolt and his pals Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell, etc. soaked up much of the spotlight, our women have been equally impressive over that time with the exploits of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Sherone Simpson and Veronica Campell-Brown. These days, specifically the days between July 26 and August 8, 2021, we’ve witnessed a significant paradigm shift as it’s women have taken centre stage.
Jamaica’s medal count – or more to the point where they’ve come from – validates the thoughts track fans have harboured in recent years, that there is a dearth of quality on the men’s side. To be clear, that assessment is aimed specifically at our sprinters; there are still quality athletes in other events. After all, Hansle Parchment and Ronald Levy won gold and bronze respectively in the 110m hurdles. There are a slew of young athletes that are not quite ready to take the world by storm; the likes of Jaheel Hyde, Chris Taylor, are on their way up. In the absence of a truly inspirational lead figure on the men’s side, our women are bearing the burden of Jamaica’s hopes and are carrying that weight of expectation admirably.
Jamaica ended Tokyo 2020 with 9 medals, and before anyone grabs their pitchforks and torches; bear in mind that prior to the Bolt era, Jamaica had never even had double figures for medals. In fact, between the 1948 edition up to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, Jamaica mined 44 medals in total. Since then, we’ve amassed 43 medals… So make no mistake, Jamaica did well by our usual standards
Of our 9 medals, 7 came from the women. What’s more besides the two male medalists, only Tajay Gayle, Rasheed Dwyer and Christopher Taylor made a final. On the other hand, our women showed up and showed off from start to finish! Sixteen different women made the finals at the Olympics. Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah both featured in the finals of the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m, while Shericka Jackson who was also in the 100m and 4x100m finals turned out for the 4x400m as well.
Of the 16 finalists we had, eight of them collected a medal. That’s a remarkable return for the women and Jamaica on a whole. And that’s not even considering the age profile of some of our athletes – Briana Williams at 19 ran a blistering first leg in the 4x100m finals, the soon to be 23 year-old Junelle Bromfield and Stacey-Ann Williams (22) did their part in the eventual bronze medal run for the 4x400m. There were also personal bests galore and a few nationally ranked times; all this from a number of athletes who were actually making their Olympic debut. The average age of our women (excluding Fraser-Pyrce who already confirmed this was her last Olympics) is about 25 years old. Broadly speaking, that means we have another one or two cycles of dominance left with these same women, nevermind the ones who would matriculate to this level in the coming years.
This all bodes well for Jamaica’s future in athletics, and our women have plenty to be proud of for their excellent displays in Tokyo. They put a smile upon our faces as fans and natives, and took us to a higher place on the medal table than we would have managed without them. And for the foreseeable future, there’d be few in the world that would underestimate the strength of our women.