By Teswayne Harris
Now that the JAAA National Senior Trials in Kingston, Jamaica have ended after a number of scintillating performances and a few surprises over the three day event, Jamaica nation is aiming to set an unprecedented medal haul and have its best Olympic Games in Beijing, this summer.
Beijing will be the 15th Olympics that Jamaica participates in. Jamaica earned 3 medals in its first Olympics in Helsinki, 1948, but only 5 at the last one in Athens, 2004.
Even though Jamaica has won a track and field medal in every Olympic Games, except for Melbourne in 1956 and Tokyo, in 1964, not much progress has been made in the medal count since then. Eight years ago, in Sydney, Jamaica had its highest medal tally: 7.
Nonetheless, the island-nation is looking to have a double digit medal haul at the 29th Olympiad in Beijing, equaling or bettering the 10 earned at last year’s World Championships in Osaka, Japan. If each athlete performs to his/her ability and barring injuries, this quest should not be a difficult one.
Usain Bolt, who ran a cruising 100m in 9.85 at the Jamaica trials, should anchor the Jamaican medal count in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m. His friend and former world record holder 100m, Asafa Powell, should also be in the running to pick up medals in the 100m and the 4x100m.
With a 100m world record of 9.72 under his belt and a national best of 19.75 in the 200m (both in 2008), Bolt could be the first Jamaican to capture the sprint double at the Olympics. No Jamaican has ever won an Olympic gold in the 100m; Donald Quarrie won the 200m in Montreal, 1976.
Also, Jamaican decathlete Maurice Smith should continue his impressive form from last year’s World Championships to earn his first Olympic medal. He finished second to world favorite, Czech Roman Sebrle.
Veteran 400m hurdler Danny McFarlane will seek to regain the same form he used to win a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Finishing in the top three will be a daunting challenge not only for McFarlane, but also for the men’s 4x400m relays team. Though not impossible, medaling here would be a hard-earned brawta for McFarlane and others.
On the women’s side, 100m world champion Veronica Campbell-Brown’s failure to secure an automatic entry in the women’s 100m came as a big surprise during last weekend’s trials. Her season best time of 10.88 was only good for 4th place. Each nation can only send 3 participants for each event.
Campbell-Brown rebounded to capture the 200m in a personal best time and world leading time of 21.94; however, she is still hopeful that the JAAA can use its discretion and allow her to defend the world title she won in Osaka, Japan last year.
“I will definitely be running some good 100 meters leading into [the] Olympics,” the world champion added, “but if it remains as it is, I will just focus on defending my 200m title.”
According to JAAA rules, only the 1st and 2nd place finishers get an automatic bid, the third place is awarded at the governing body’s discretion, even though it is usually given to the 3rd place finisher.
If Campbell-Brown doesn’t run the 100m, Jamaica is still expected to gain at least one medal in this race. Kerron Stewart won the Jamaica 100m trials in a world leading time 10.80; Shelly-Ann Fraser took 2nd place in 10.85. This was the same time that American Muna Lee, one of the main competitors for the Jamaicans, ran to win the U.S trials.
Like the men’s team, the women’s 4x100m relay team has been tremendously improved with the return of in-form sprinter, Sherone Simpson. With 10.87 at the trials, Simpson has gotten close to her 2006 form when she was the world’s fastest woman. With Simpson, Campbell-Brown, Stewart and Fraser, Jamaica should repeat as 4x100m Olympic champions.
In the 200m, Campbell-Brown and Stewart are expected to stay in close medal contention with world champion Allyson Felix and her compatriot Tori Edwards.
Another surprise at the trials was the ascendancy of Rosemarie White in the 400m. White defeated Novelene Williams, the pre-trial favorite and last year’s World Championship bronze medalist, in the one-lap event to claim her first national title. White’s ascendancy will definitely boost Jamaica’s chances to at least retain the silver medal in the 4x400m relay won in Osaka last year.
Another athlete who should be considered in Jamaica’s medal tally is 100m hurdler Brigette Foster-Hylton who returned to form to beat Delloreen Ennis-London, the seasoned favorite and Osaka bronze medalist.
Beijing 2008 should not only be Usain Bolt’s and Veronica Campbell-Brown’s best Olympics, but Jamaica’s best, if all goes well.Every country is great, especially Jamaica.
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.
See you in Jamaica.