October 4 , 2000
THE 27th Olympiad in Sydney, Australia, has proven once again that this small island nation can produce world class athletes. The record tally of seven medals, out of proportion to our size and population, is a reaffirmation that the standard set by the likes of Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint et al some 60 years ago is still achievable.
Yet the underlying reality remains true. The Jamaican "sprint factory" still depends on the superior facilities of American universities, in particular, to develop and hone the remarkable talents we produce. They come from the schools as raw talent and blossom enough to earn track scholarships to some American campus.
That is the reality of what 'developing' status means even and moreso in the era of globalisation. For in the periods between Olympics and world championships, training and performance at international level proceed apace at track meets across the globe.
This scenario helps to explain the difficulty in maintaining what eventually becomes a national team. For unlike other sports, such as football and cricket, the competitors perform as individuals, with relays being an obvious exception. So that while we have criticised the management of the JAAA in the Ottey episode we do acknowledge the difficulties of cultivating team focus and esprit de corps in the run-up to the Olympics.
On balance, therefore, the achievement of the Jamaican contingent is worthy of the highest praise. Despite the initial hiccups they came through in the end to achieve the remarkable feat of qualifying for the finals in all four climactic relays.
The Ottey era has passed with some regrettable controversy; but it is noteworthy that talent for the future came to the fore in such names as Tayna Lawrence, Lorraine Graham and Janelle Atkinson, making waves in the swimming pool.
It was noteworthy also that for the first time a Caribbean flavour was given to the media coverage. The Caribbean Media Corporation gave the region professional television coverage, unlike the American network bias that drew so much criticism in the past.
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