Adrian Frater | Worried about our male sprinting
Having been spoilt by Usain Bolt's heroics during the era in which he dominated at both the Olympic Games and IAAF World Championship, I am deeply concerned about the future of Jamaica's senior male sprinting (100m, 200m and 4x100m), where we are currently struggling to remain a credible force.
While it is not every day that an athlete of the calibre of Bolt will come to the fore, it should be noted that even before Bolt came along, winning multiple gold medals and breaking world records, we were a respected force globally, with class athletes such as Lennox Miller in the 1960s and '70s, Donald Quarrie and Raymond Stewart in the 1980s, and sub-10 king Asafa Powell, who paved the way for Bolt.
While we still have quality sprinters in Powell, Nester Carter and Yohan Blake, in the scheme of what is happening globally today, they are not generating the kind of buzz that we are seeing from the exciting crop of young sprinters coming out of South Africa, Great Britain and the United States.
In fact, in watching the recent comical video with Warren Weir that went viral, I felt disappointed because instead of foolishly generating negative buzz, Weir should be one of the athletes stepping up as a credible replacement to Bolt. After being a part of Jamaica's stunning one, two and three (gold, silver and bronze) at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England, he should be the one right up there with South African Akani Simbine.
In looking at what has transpired with our male sprinting in the short time since Bolt's retirement, it is clear that we are no longer a feared force, leaving even the great man to be wondering if he had retired too early. I just hope that the JAAA is monitoring the situation with a view of seeking to do something about it.
Based on our recent history in track and field, it is no secret that our best athletes, to include Bolt and the great Veronica Campbell-Brown, have been coming out of places like Trelawny and Manchester. Yet, except for the excellent programmes in the high school, very little is being done to encourage our youngsters to gravitate towards the sport.
NO RURAL SYNTHETIC TRACK
While Kingston is chock-full of standard running tracks, to include the National Stadium, the UWI/Usain Bolt Track, and Jamaica College's and Kingston College's tracks, except for the worn-out all-weather track at the Catherine Hall Stadium in Montego Bay, there are no synthetic running tracks in rural Jamaica.
Surely, anybody with any knowledge of what is happening in track and field globally should realise that with almost every country now exposed to sophisticated training techniques and high-quality coaches, the era in which raw speed was enough to frighten the rest of the world is now over.
With sports a multibillion-dollar industry globally, I believe it would not be a bad idea if the Government started creating a few more facilities like the Catherine Hall Stadium across rural Jamaica. Such facilities would not only serve track and field, but would also be a boost to our football.
Just as how we are seeking to produce professionals in the various fields in academia, I see nothing wrong with seeking to create the right conditions to help our talented athletes to take on sports as a profession. Without doing very much, we have already produced top-flight stars such as Bolt, star cricketer Chris Gayle, and football sensation Leon Bailey.
While I have been focusing primarily on our male sprinters in this column, I must congratulate our female sprinters, who are continuing to hold their own. I must make special mention of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who, after taking a year off to start a family, is back as resilient as ever and looking quite capable of conquering the world again.