To be fair, it was like a nightmare. The London World Championships was a disaster for Jamaica.
Everything that could go wrong did, and it left thousands, perhaps millions, of spectators scratching their heads with a large number turning to pressure pills, alcohol and crying for days. It was like watching your favourite team crash out of the FIFA World Cup.
Jamaica claimed only four medals, 3 of which glistened with the wrong colour in the eyes of the fans. Two years earlier in Beijing, Jamaica collected 12 medals, seven gold, two silver and three bronze. What went wrong this time? A lot of things apparently and the infectious norovirus was not one of them.
The great Usain Bolt, who usually starts the gold rush, was defeated in his final individual 100m race. You could hear a pin drop around the world. Here in Jamaica, it was like a category four hurricane making a direct hit on an unprepared island.
A day later, 6 August when the island was supposed to be celebrating its 55th year of Independence, the Jamaican fans were still in a numb state after witnessing double sprint Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, failing to secure a medal in the women’s 100m finishing an agonizing 5th. It was an inexplicable outcome, and the glory script for the London invasion was now truly shredded. The people never recovered.
I remember the indescribable facial expressions of my fellow track and field colleagues, who were working with me on a sports radio station covering the championships. Understandably, one of them lost his appetite for lunch. I felt the same way in 1996 after watching the women’s 200m Olympic final in Atlanta.
As the 17th edition of the World Championships in Doha, Qatar is fast approaching; there are no sanguine expectations in Jamaica especially on the men’s side where, for the first time since 2005, the legendary Usain Bolt is missing. Notwithstanding, the cupboard is not bare.
Fedrick Dacres has been a revelation and inspiration to field events practitioners in Jamaica. He is now one of the faces of Jamaican athletics, and the men’s discus will definitely be one of the most keenly watched events in Doha.
Omar McLeod can defend his world title; he just needs to abandon his recent habit of hitting the 9th and 10th hurdle and losing his balance. McLeod, the first man since Allen Johnson in 1997 to win the world title after becoming Olympic champion, cannot be written off as he possesses a warrior spirit that tends to switch on at global championships.
There is a need for speed in the men’s sprints, and sadly, Jamaica’s sprint factory seems closed for business until further notice.
Jamaica’s male quarter-milers have been struggling this season and breaking 45 seconds has been as difficult as keeping the 10 Commandments. Their pedestrian times when combined are much slower than what is required to win an international medal in the men’s 4x400m.
On the women’s side, Jamaica will welcome the return of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, a three-time world champion at 100m, who missed the London championships due to childbirth. Her son Zyon was born during the World Championships on 7 August 2017. Fraser-Pryce has been in pristine form this season and heads to Doha with supreme confidence.
Her training partner Elaine Thompson will be hoping to end her medal drought at global championships. Thompson has not won an individual medal, indoors or outdoors, since the Rio Olympics.
Shanieka Ricketts has been consistent and riveting to watch in the triple jump this season. The long-legged Ricketts is determined to make the leap from being a finalist to a medallist.
With the absence of Caster Semenya, the women’s 800m could be close and exciting. The contenders should be popping up like popcorn before the starter’s pistol. Natoya Goule, Jamaica’s standard-bearer will not be satisfied with making up the attendance register, but rather fancy her chances of winning her first world championships medal. Interestingly, Goule has never advanced beyond the heats at a world championship. Something feels different this time around.
Shericka Jackson has vowed to erase those painful memories of 2017 after her 4th place semifinal run, where she sat on the steps, with her heart in her mouth, looking at the giant screen and waiting an eternity to see if she had qualified for the finals in the women’s 400m.
Jackson, who eventually got 5th in the London final, remains one of the few women this season under 50 seconds. However, with such fierce competition in her event, she may have to produce a lifetime best to stand on the podium.
None of Jamaica’s three female 100m hurdlers advanced beyond the semi-final round in London. The road to Doha has not been without obstacles. Danielle Williams, the national record holder, got a selection reprieve at the 11th hour from the JAAA. Her inclusion is a major boost.
History shows only two Jamaican women have won the women’s 100m hurdles title at a World Championships. Brigitte Foster-Hylton was the first in 2009 before Williams joined the fray in 2015.
Jamaica has a great chance to improve on its London 4-medal performance, anything less or equalling will incur a national inquest. Let us hope Jamaica leaves the desert with dessert.