England, Wednesday August 01, 2012 – Come Sunday, when the fastest men on earth
contest the Olympic 100 meters final in London, it will be a major upset if the
gold medal does not go to Jamaica.
starts or injuries aside, Usain Bolt will be the one to beat as he bids to
retain the title he won in Beijing in 2008, but if he’s even slightly off form,
Yohan Blake will do the honours. And it
could be a big mistake to underestimate former world record-holder Asafa
lightning Bolt is an even heavier favourite for 200m gold and 4x100m relay
success is pretty much in the bag with such a wellspring of talent to draw
the women's events, Jamaican domination is also virtually guaranteed, with
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce defending her 100m crown and Veronica Campbell-Brown
going for a hat-trick of golds in the 200m.
States sprinters have grabbed the most gold in the modern Olympics and the
likes of Tyson Gay will be keen to stall the Jamaican winning streak in London.
after all, represents a country with a population of over 300million people and
an enviable tradition in track and field through the eras of such stars as
Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis and Florence Griffith-Joyner.
for some unknown reason they are now running largely second best to athletes
from a relatively poor Caribbean island inhabited by fewer than three million
not only athletes who sport the now-famous gold and green of Jamaica who have made
their mark on the world, moreover.
100m champions Linford Christie (for England in 1992) and Donovan Bailey (for
Canada in 1996) were born and bred in Jamaica, as was Ben Johnson who also
what is the secret of this remarkable Jamaican sprinting success?
models factor heavily into the equation, and Usain Bolt drew inspiration from a
former Jamaican great Don Quarrie who won the 1976 Olympic 200m title in
Montreal and six Commonwealth Games gold medals.
me Don Quarrie was somebody to watch and to be amazed by," Bolt told CNN's
Aiming for Gold programme.
why I love the 200m so much because I've seen Don Quarrie and I said, 'I can be
that good.' Quarrie, (Herb) McKenley, these are the guys that I looked up
and Arthur Wint were the first Jamaicans to stamp their country’s name on the
Olympic map at the 1948 London Games.
Jamaica's contemporary women stars, Veronica Campbell-Brown was mentored by the
great Merlene Ottey, who won a record 14 world championship medals for Jamaica
in the sprint events and was still competing at international level for her
adopted Slovenia past her 50th birthday.
(Ottey) is a very positive person, very strong, very hard working, very
passionate and she is a friend," Campbell-Brown said.
went to the same high school in Jamaica as Ottey, Vere Technical, and both were
products of the fiercely competitive track and field schools competition on the
agrees that the key to Jamaican success is the intense rivalry of grassroots
athletics from an early age.
feel we push our young athletes," he said. "There is this thing
called the Boys and Girls Championships in Jamaica, which showcases the talent.
The level of competition is really high because it pushes you every day to be
the best in your event, in your class."
now, as Bolt gets down on the blocks at major championships, that early
experience pays off.
think it helped me to get past my fear of running in front of thousands and
millions of people because I'm front of a home crowd and we are under a lot of
four-day championships attract crowds of up to 30,000 at the national stadium
in Kingston, while a TV audience of over a million watch the live coverage.
Many of the top stars go back to hand out medals and inspire the next
shone in this mini-Olympics in 2003, winning the 200/400 double in 20.23 and
45.30 seconds -- times which would have been good enough to qualify for most
Olympic finals – when he was just 16-years-old.
talent was spotted and nurtured while she was still at primary school.
coach and teacher at the time said to me, 'You are very talented, I think this
is going to be a career path for you,' and he recommended Vere, which is still
a sprint factory."
claims he was unwittingly put on his course to Olympic glory by his
used to get us to to run errands to the shops and told us that she would spit
on the ground and did not want it to dry before we got back. It meant we ran
fast!" said the 52-year-old, who moved to England before he got the chance
to compete in the Boys and Girls Championships.
despite the ferocious competitiveness of the schools competition, even the most
talented athletes needed assistance and dedicated coaching to make it to the
Mills grew up wanting to follow in the footsteps of McKenley and Wint, but he
turned to coaching when he realized that was not to be. In his 22-years in
charge of the Jamaican athletics team, he presided over 71 world championship
medals and 33 in the Olympics.
quickly recognized that Bolt was a unique talent, but one who needed persuading
to work hard.
defeat to Gay over 200m at the world championships in Osaka in 2007 proved a
rest is history.
really dedicated myself to everything because I really wanted to be a
champion," said Bolt, who became a global superstar the following year
when he won the 100 and 200m in Beijing in record-breaking style.
stepped down from fulltime involvement with Jamaica in 2009, but still coaches
Bolt and Blake and some other up-and-coming athletes.
like many of Jamaica's sprint stars, comes from a rural background. He grew up
in Trelawny in a house with no running water and as a child he had to walk for
miles with heavy, loaded pails, building up a natural strength.
who also grew up in Trelawny, believes a rural background is a factor in
would fetch water from the river, so I did a lot of walking. I would walk to
school, there's a lot of hills," the 30-year-old said.
think it's just hard work, determination and all the things that we have to do
growing up as a young person that has contributed.
is full of so much talent. It just so happens that a huge number of those
talented people were born in Trelawny."
Johnson, too, lived in the area until
emigrating to Canada in 1976. His winning time of 9.79 seconds to win the 1988
Olympics 100m title was considered one of the greatest performances in the history
of athletics. A failed drugs test in Seoul for the banned steroid Stanozolol
nevertheless saw him stripped of the gold.
also had a rural upbringing, and tested his natural ability in unusual fashion.
grew up in the country where your only friends are animals. I find it funny,
once we were running with goats and stuff. I think the sprinting really starts
from there," he said.
off the land may also have benefits in terms of diet, with yams the staple
parents used to plant their own yams, it's very natural and often eaten with
fish," said Campbell-Brown.
agrees: "It's often said you are what you eat, and the Jamaican diet is a
really natural one, full of fruit and vegetables and protein."
it's through their backgrounds and lifestyles, their healthy diet and then the
rigors of early competition and training, Jamaica's sprinters have found the
key to success.
those factors are not unique, so what is the magic ingredient that gives them
that extra edge?
Christie has a novel theory.
is a Jamaican attitude," he says.
be a sprinter you need to be a little bit of showoff. Because like the
heavyweight boxing champions of the world, this is what sprinting is all about
and, you know, Jamaicans just love to show off!"
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