Posts from — May 2012
Heading into the 2012 London Olympics, fans of track and field are gearing up for some amazing contests across the spectrum. From the sprints to the middle distances, hurdles to the jumps, the competition has never been tighter and more unpredictable.
It is fitting that on the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence, the country is poised to continue its domination of the sprints that had previously reached a zenith in Beijing four years ago.
I watched a replay of the recent Penn Relays where an interview was conducted with the great Carl Lewis. As a young runner and fan of the sport back in the 80’s I was a huge fan of Carl Lewis. After the Ben Johnson scandal that rocked the entire sport, I supported his vocal opposition to cheating in track and field, particularly his pointed remarks about (among others) Florence Griffith-Joyner alleged use of performance enhancing drugs (PED’S.) As the greatest American runner since Jesse Owens, I felt he was sorely under-appreciated in this, his homeland.
When looked at in that context, I can understand it to some degree but I still have been more than slightly turned off by his continued bitterness towards every great runner to come along since he retired. He has been quite vocal in his skepticism about Jamaican sprinters and what he has said is their ‘sudden emergence’ on the scene. He stayed true to form at the Penn Relays interview, making another comment about the Jamaicans ‘coming out of nowhere’ before trying to backpedal and discuss ‘the long history of Jamaican runners.’
Now I could make the obvious statement about the multitude of American runners caught up in the BALCO scandal, and how the American sprinters have disappeared from the medal podiums since that saga came to light. I could also point at Lewis’ admitted failing a test for PED’s; an act that makes his comments seems more than a little hypocritical.
I won’t go to any lengths about that, rather I will merely highlight some facts that might shed light on the ‘sudden emergence’ Mr. Lewis referred to:
Since the middle of the 20th century we have been consistently well represented in the sprints, first our men and within the last thirty years, both our men and women. In a sport that had struggled with PED use for decades, we have been consistent winners with very few cheaters in our ranks.
Even before independence, starting with the 1948 London Olympics and through to the 1950’s, there was the golden generation of George Rhoden, Arthur Wint and Herb “Herb Mac” McKinley, the men who first showed the world the talent in our little island in the sun.
During the 60’s and 70’s Lennox Miller and Don Quarrie won medals on the world’s biggest stage.
The 1980’s and 1990’s ushered the women onto the podium next to the men; Juliet Cuthbert, Merlene Ottey (shown with her arm around Cuthbert) and Grace Jackson joined the great hurdler Winthrop Graham in winning medals wearing the green and gold.
In addition, the number of sprinters Jamaican born and of Jamaican descent furthered highlighted our status as world beaters; Donovan Bailey won gold for his adopted homeland of Canada, Linford Christie did the same for Great Britain and Inger Miller, daughter of Lennox, won several medals running for the USA.
That dubious part of Jamaica’s tradition continues today with Sanya Richards-Ross and Debbie Dunn representing the Stars and Stripes over their ancestral homeland.
It’s hard to make the argument that Jamaican runners have suddenly emerged when looking at that lineage.
Many will say Jamaicans have overachieved as a nation, stepping up on the world stage in a manner that a tiny country the size of Rhode Island and with less people than Brooklyn has no business doing. When you have been as consistently great as Jamaican athletes have been however, it is difficult to consider it overachieving. It’s most likely a case of being right where we should be.
With this current plethora of talent, what I will call the Greatest Generation of sprinters in our history, we are poised to stamp our pedigree once again. The Beijing Olympics of 2008 was a stunning introduction to the casual fan of what we can do. This time around there is no surprises, but 2012-our 50th year of independence-it will be an affirmation of who we are: World Beaters. And as we continue to rise, people like Lewis continue to shrink in stature.
To Mr. Lewis and those who question it as he has, I say this; Recognize greatness, Mr. Lewis. It’s always been there, maybe you just were too busy looking at yourself to notice.
May 23, 2012 No Comments
Oh, The Places You Can Go
A DOZEN WELL-TRAVELED SPORTS ILLUSTRATED WRITERS NAME THE NO. 1 FAN EXPERIENCES IN THE SPORTS THEY KNOW BEST
Sports Illustrated April 9th 2012.
The last weekend in April. Spring is in full bloom and the Northeast USA begins the annual reawakening from the winter doldrums. This year though, was a little different. The winter season, unusually warm and strangely devoid of snow, raced along, giving everyone in the region hope for an early Spring and great Summer.
Alas, the last weekend of April comes along and it resembles what the last weekend of February should have been. Rainy. Cold. Less track weather and more NFL on the television weather.
Against this backdrop, teams of boys and girls, men and women of all levels of competition and abilities congregated at Franklin Field for the 2012 Penn Relay Festival. The overall vibe was different. The London Olympics are a scant few months away, so while several countries trying to reach qualifying times sent teams to Philadelphia, other countries and their stars stayed away, preferring to focus on the upcoming Diamond League races and getting ready for London.
So on a rainy, chilly April Saturday, the caravans of track and field fans-most of them Jamaican-from near and far entered the stadium on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania for the penultimate day of the meet. Many of the fans were there to support their alma maters or support friends. Some came to support family members, running for schools in their new homeland, building new legacies. Others simply came to Franklin Field to soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the food and mingle with one of the greatest crowds you will ever come across at a sporting event anywhere.
Both of the USA versus the World 4×100 relays (L) were won by the USA over watered down Jamaican teams. Not even the presence of the Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller could brighten the fortunes at that point.
After the US victories, the large crowd awash in green and yellow was subdued and in need of reason to cheer. They got it in the first College men’s 4×100 relay as UWI won in a time of 39.94. Despite the weather, the buzz was coming back. That race was followed by UTech (39.46) running a creditable second to Auburn University (39.34.)
Wolmers Boys and Jamaica College (R) ran first and second in their race, putting the crowd-estimated to be the fourth biggest Saturday crowd all time-into a nice buzz.
That was extinguished quickly however, as Junipero Serra High from California took down both St. Jago and Calabar in their 4×100. Kingston College had the fastest times pre-meet in the 4×100, but in their final with an unbeatable lead, they dropped the baton on the last exchange.
The USA versus the World 4×400 further served to quiet the crowd, as Jermaine Gonzales basically jogged the second leg and the USA again won going away. Ditto the women’s race, with Sanya Richards-Ross running better than she has in a couple of years now anchoring the US to a convincing victory.
So it was left to UTech to try and get the crowd back into it, and they did, easily defeating Texas A&M in the College Men’s 4×200 relay, even as their third leg runner appeared to suffer a cramp before the handoff.
Quite possibly the best race of the day was the High School Boys 4×800 relays, and again the Jamaican schoolboys came up short, as KC, St Jago and Holmwood all fell to the number one US team, Westfield from Virginia. The anchor leg runners of KC and Westfield ran a stirring final 150 meters that had the entire stadium on there feet down the stretch.
What is usually the crown jewel event of track, the 4×400 relay, was the last stand for the Jamaican high schoolers. With the sun peeking out (just barely on what I can attest was the coldest day in recent memory) Munro College took it home, winning ahead of Kingston College, Lodge HS of Barbados, Manchester High, Calabar and STETHS. Delano Williams of Munro, who provided a stellar performance in the 100 and 200 at the recent Boy and Girls Championship, sprinted the anchor leg as if it were a 100 meter race to finish in an astonishing 45.8 split. He will be a force to reckon with in the future.
Despite the cold and the bleak weather conditions the Penn Relays did not disappoint, and as the season progresses and culminates at the Olympics, fans will be watching the stars of today on the world stage. And the next generation of young men and women who make track special and the purest form of competition known to man will be getting ready. People like Edward Cheserek, Delano Williams, Danniel Thomas and Mary Cain.
Ready for the next run, the next race, the next season and on the last weekend of April, their moment in the sun.
Thanks to Sportingeventsfotos.com for the great shots!
May 4, 2012 Comments Off