Western Grandstand : Our athletes deserve more respect

August 19, 2017
Usain Bolt grimaces after pulling up in the men's 4x100m final in London.

Western Bureau:

While I am not trying to psychoanalyse the persons who have been 'dissing' the great Usain Bolt for his failure to secure a gold medal at the IAAF World Championships, I believe their insensitivity and ungratefulness have crossed the line.

I find it extremely difficult to accept that after all that Bolt has done for Jamaica, I would hear him being described as a 'sell out' and people suggesting that he faked his injury in the 4x100m because he was feared he would not cross the finish line in front. I find such assertions quite shameful. Over the past 15 years, I have never had any reason to believe he has ever given less than 100 per cent.

There was a time when I used to say uncomplimentary things about Asafa Powell, which to be truthful, were more out of disappointment than a belief that he was not trying his best. Over time, however, I have come to realise that with almost 100 sub-10 second clockings for the 100m, he deserves commendation, not condemnation, and I have since used this column to apologise to him.

 

UNTOUCHABLE STATUS

 

While I am not trying to affix untouchable status to our athletes, I don't believe the fact that we got only four medals in London instead of the customary 11 and 12 should give anyone a licence to belittle them.

We need to realise that to be numbered among the best athletes in the world required the kind of discipline, dedication, and hard work to which many of us would not willingly subscribe. While many of us struggle to follow a simple doctor's order, these athletes are required to train for long hours, follow a strict diet, and pretty much put their social lives on the back burner during competition.

For athletes, such as those competing on the Diamond League circuit, it is even more taxing as they are constantly flying all over the world, living out of their suitcases as they go along. While the returns might be lucrative for the star athletes, it is the type of hard work that many of us would find impossible to handle.

I have seen instances where athletes have simply battled their way through injury because they know their success is like medicine to the Jamaican people they are anxious to please. I can recall the great Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce taking a decision to run with an injured foot because, in addition to having the heart of a champion, she just wanted to do well for Jamaica.

While nothing is wrong with having high expectations when our athletes go off to major championships, I don't believe we should place medals over the well-being of the athletes. When our athletes get injured, it should not be about the medals we missed, but more so about them getting the attention required to make them well again.

I believe we really need to find a way to get our people to be more respectful of the contribution and accomplishments of those who go out to seek glory for Jamaica because we are definitely not doing well in that area. Every time I heard the word, the Daren Sammy Cricket Stadium, and the realisation of what St Lucia has done for this cricketer whose contribution would amount to no more than ordinary here in Jamaica, it tells me that our penchant for giving no more than token appreciation to our stars is making a mockery of their accomplishments.

Personally, I would like to salute and thank generations of athletes, from the time of our first gold medal winner, Arthur Wint, down to the golden era of the iconic Bolt, for what they have done for Jamaica in terms of inspiration and giving true meaning to the term, 'we likkle, but we tallawah.'

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