Jamaica suffered a cardiac arrest on Saturday afternoon. Bolt lost the M100m at the #LondonWorldChampionships2017. It was the anti-climax to the biggest farewell party, over 2 years in the planning, for an athlete that has single handed mesmerized the world with human speed.
The social ripples were far reaching. The economic even worse. Downing strong cues of #Wray&NephewAppletonRum, the nation tried to recover turning their attention to their new sprint queen #ElaineThompson who for sure would save face and restore the shine of the sprint power on the right feet. The King suffered a major set back on the left. We have a Queen. No worries. The name of honour is more important than death.
Sunday, August 6. Jamaica’s Independence Day, 55 years old. Jamaica suffered another cardiac arrest. Elaine Thompson fizzled in the W100m final and came 5th, not even earning a medal. The silence across the nation was deafening. I stood in Montego Bay and felt the silence as far as Kingston. Exactly 9 years after the coronation of the nation in Beijing as the #sprintfactory, the King and Queen was now dead. And technically, so did the Jamaican track and field program.
in 2008 after years of US dominance, the atmosphere putrid by swirls of drug incensed clouds in the US camp, Jamaica tipped the balance of power in their favour, led by #Bolt The King, and his cadre of team members and #Shelly-Ann Fraser, the newly crowned queen of track and field. The politics of power in athletics is like the global political game of present players, the US and the others. The US commands enormous political power in athletics. Amidst accusations of nefarious circumstances, their athletes are usually given the benefit of the doubt by their governing US body. And even if found guilty of using substances, deals are broken with the convicted, names are shamed, persons outed, suspensions reduced and voila, the athlete is back on the circuit in lesser time than other athletes of other countries that usually suffer stiffer penalties, including life bans.
Such was the case of the man who beat Bolt at the Championships, #JustinGatlin. His story is chronicled and followers of track and field have openly expressed their displeasure with him, including Bolt. So it was not at all surprising when the stadium. full of some 50,000 persons booed when he was declared the winner of the race. Why HIM? Anyone else would be easier to swallow, but not HIM!
Fresh wounds were open. The cheat won. The bastard of Athletics beats the boy wonder. A Russian journalist intimated in her question later at the presser with Bolt and Gatlin and Bolt surprisingly defended Gatlin. If you were watching this warm and fuzzy BBF moment between the two, you would have wondered when since these two were such close buddies?
In the geopolitical arena, Russia is no friend of the US. In the politics of athletics, the US is no friend of Jamaica. Can we say nice things to each other? Yes, we can. But Bolt was attempting to cross that sensitive line and incorrectly thought the journalist was casting doubt on his performances. Bolt should have known better. Each man should have spoken for himself when that ugly topic was raised. Gatlin basked in Bolt’s answer clearly happy that he didn’t have to relive and retry that case of his drug conviction and suspension.
Bolt did not do himself any favours then as he didn’t do any earlier on the track. For the first time in his long and storied career, Bolt was embarrassed. Genuinely embarrassed. His personal motto is ‘Anything is possible. I don’t think limits“. As a pro, he knows that possibilities are erased to certainty when hard work is put in the mix.
Bolt did not put in the hard work and it showed. Hard work was not mixed with need. Bolt did not ‘need’ this anymore. His lust for athletics died in Rio and through agonising pressure, he went on his final preparation but it was without energy, drive or feelings. His friend died as well, not having heard about it but was physically there when it happened. Bolt was mentally out of it. Bolt was not hungry but the champion that he is, performing with confidence is not his weakness. And so he appeared in London with his panache, knowing he had no clothes.
Bolt was half the man he was in 2008. Quarter the man he was in 2012 and not himself in 2017. #ElaineThompson, however, is still a shocker. Only she knows the answers and we hope her coach and her will have a come to Jesus moment in the next few days. Her sponsors certainly will. Losing is one thing for the country. It’s a totally different thing for a sponsor. Like any job, athletics has its stresses.
Athletics is a business. Period.
Athletes are paid to run and to be successful. Elaine lost thousands of dollars for her unexpected loss. Her coach will certainly have an answer but you can expect sponsors will be watching Frano’s camp closely as well as the Mills camp. Money goes where champions are bred.
Behind the glamour and spectacle lies a business and at this #WorldChampionships Jamaica has damaged itself. By not meeting their own standards The US has gladly taken the reigns once again and can now hang their banner reading “Sprint King & Queen”. The King is dead. There is no one to replace him. The Queen is dead. There is no one to replace her.Like a falling star, Jamaica tumbles into the abyss once again waiting for young talent to emerge. The effects will be devastating but nothing we can’t handle.
Soon, athletes will have to make hard decisions. Coaches too. The Governing body has to do a post mortem. and rid itself of the politics that strangles common sense decision making. Jamaica Athletics has been sitting on its lofty post for 9 years unaware that the World was coming after them. The US never stopped hating. Now we have South Africa, Botswana. Kenya. Bahamas. China and even Japan knocking at the gates. We cannot afford to mismanage this opportunity. Our economy is too fragile for carelessness.
This industry is too new for bad management and too fragile for mediocrity. Whenever our athletes put their feet on the world stage it has to be perfect. No errors. No excuses.
Bolt was asked at the presser what was it he is looking forward to when this is over. He replied, “..for me, it is just to live normal. To have no training. To do whatever I want. To travel whenever I want. I don’t know where my career will go or what I will do but I look forward to it and the person that I am I will do it at my best.”
He was confident when he said those words.
If only Jamaica’s athletics was as confident to say otherwise.
© 2017. Kwesi. All Rights Reserved.