Jamaica’s World Relay Performance: Transitioning from the Bolt Era

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Dear Editor,

The Jamaican Contingent to the recently concluded IAAF World Relays 2019 in Yokohama, Japan recorded arguably the most embarrassing performance in recent times by a senior team at a global competition. Despite the presence of several noted senior athletes comprising the male and female teams, Jamaica’s usual tenacity and dominance never even cleared the immigration gate in Japan. The imperative question on everyone’s mind following this ordeal is ‘what’s next after Mr. Bolt? Who is next after Mr. Bolt? And how do we get there?

Usain Bolt striking his signature pose after a much expected win.

Over the past two (2) decades, Jamaica has enjoyed extraordinary success on the Track with Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce, Veronica Campbell Brown and in Field events Trecia-Kaye Smith and Fredrick Dacre, among the few renowned millennials who have flown Jamaica’s Flag high at World Championship and Olympic Games. The sheer excellence demonstrated by our athletes can be attributed to an insatiable appetite to succeed, driven by the usual hard work and dedication. However, what has been a seemingly unnoticed formula in our success factor is the uniqueness of leadership from among the athletes. Take for example; the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Veronica Campbell Brown won two (2) gold medals and a bronze medal which was arguably the precursor to the build out of several great athletes. Her passion when she cried for that gold medal on the medal podium; she inspired many with her performances. This led to the birth of other leaders in the field, namely Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce in the Beijing, Olympics Games 2008.

The fact of the matter is, Jamaican performances have been greater at each stage because they were constantly inspired by individually excellent performances. Similarly, the Asafa Powell reign, influenced the Usain Bolt reign. However, the question remains why hasn’t this tradition of excellence continued? Are we at our saturation point? I put it to you that we aren’t saturated. However, we are yet to see the athletes of this generation step up to the mantle and let me hasten to say it isn’t for a lack of talent as is the case with Elaine Thompson and Yohan Blake but how well have they placed themselves to become world beaters and inspire those who wish to step up after them?
The answer lies within their mindset and their own self determination to be the best at their game. They need to understand that those athletes who have gone on before them and have set their mark did so because they didn’t limit themselves in mind or overly pressured themselves to perform at their best, but rather they understood what talent they possessed and saw themselves at the top, earning them leaders in their respective disciplines.

Fundamentally speaking, not every athlete will step up to this call to lead or destiny to inspire, however in order for there to be the transition into the next phase of track and field greatness for Jamaica, we need that torch bearer to come soon or else we may just move from fumbling exchanges to dropping the baton of greatness completely.

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