On this week’s episode of ‘The Commentators’, Donald Oliver and Ricardo Chambers are discussing Chris Gayle like everybody has.

For the past couple of seasons, the Wonder Twins, Tina and Tia Clayton have excited fans of track and field across the globe with their brilliant exhibitions of raw speed.

Wednesday marked the 66th anniversary of Roger Bannister's fabled sub four-minute mile.

Although sporting records are always there to be broken, some best marks will forever hold a special place.

Here, we look at some of the competitors whose defining performances will continue to echo through the ages.

 

ROGER BANNISTER

Helped by two pacemakers, Bannister thrilled crowds at Iffley Road, Oxford by clocking 3:59.4 for his four laps of the cinder track.

The record lasted only 46 days before Australia's John Landy shaved more than a second off Bannister's mark, while Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj is the current men's mile record holder with 3:43.13. But Bannister's name will always be associated with the distance more than any other.

NADIA COMANECI

Elite stars at the top of their sports will often contend there is no such thing as perfection in competition, although the great Comaneci can always beg to differ.

As a 14-year-old at the 1976 Olympics, the Romanian superstar became the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect 10 for her performance on the uneven bars. She went on to achieve the same mark six more times in becoming the youngest all-around Olympic gold medallist.

BOB BEAMON

Before the long jump final at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, no man had jumped beyond 28 feet. American favourite Beamon broke through that barrier and the 29-foot mark for good measure with a truly remarkable leap.

Beamon's 8.90 metres remained a world record until Mike Powell hit 8.95m during his titanic tussle with Carl Lewis at the 1991 World Championships.

JIM HINES

Another United States track and field star to revel amid the altitude of Mexico City in 1968 was sprinter Hines.

He took gold in the 100m final with a time of 9.95 seconds, making him the first man to dip below 10 seconds without illegal wind assistance.

PELE

Three World Cup wins as the shining star of Brazil's prolonged golden era mean Pele does not need statistics to burnish his considerable legend.

And yet, at the Maracana on November 19, 1969, the 29-year-old Pele slotted home a 78th-minute penalty for Santos against Vasco da Gama for his 1,000th career goal. Even allowing for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's phenomenal exploits, it is hard to envisage anyone ever matching the 'milesimo'.

ARSENAL

Arsene Wenger invited widespread derision in 2002 when he suggested it was possible for his Arsenal team to go a whole Premier League campaign unbeaten. The season after, they did just that.

Preston North End had their own "Invincibles" back in 1888-89, although the First Division season was a mere 18 games long in those Victorian times. Formidable Manchester City and Liverpool sides falling short of Arsenal's unbeaten exploits in recent seasons have only underlined the scale of the achievement Wenger masterminded.

BRIAN LARA

West Indies great Lara made the biggest individual score in Test history when he plundered a mammoth 375 versus England in 1994 – a record that stood until October 2003, when Australia opener Matthew Hayden hit a merciless 380 at Zimbabwe's expense.

Back at St John's against the same opponent as in his initial exploits, Lara took the record back into his ownership a mere 185 days after Hayden's heroics, bringing up 400 not out for the first quadruple century in cricket's longest format.

AL GEIBERGER

Golf's modern era is increasingly littered with players hitting hot streaks and low scores but going below 60 for a round still holds considerable allure.

It was a different time in 1977 when Geiberger became the first player to shoot 59 on the PGA Tour, illuminating the second round of the Memphis Classic at Colonial Country Club. No one managed the feat again on a major tour for 14 years.

Roger Bannister produced a feat most thought impossible on May 6 many years ago, while more recently Shaquille O'Neal was rewarded for a memorable debut season in the NBA

Bannister laid to rest the demons of Olympics heartbreak to produce a moment that would stand the test of history in 1954.

Almost 40 years later, NBA legend O'Neal was receiving one of countless prizes he earned during a sensational career.

Here are the best sporting moments from this day down the years…


1954 – Bannister breaks through the barrier

It was described as "sport's greatest goal" and there were warnings from physiologists that running a sub four-minute mile was impossible and dangerous to attempt.

Yet Bannister, a medical student who had suffered disappointment when finishing fourth in the 1500 metres at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, achieved what was deemed unthinkable.

Helped by two pacers, Bannister managed to do a mile in three minutes and 59.4 seconds at Oxford University's Iffley Road track.

The record stood for just 46 days before John Landy of Australia shaved almost a second off that time, but it was Bannister who broke the barrier.


1970 – Feyenoord's Dutch courage downs Celtic

Just three years previously, Celtic's 'Lisbon Lions' had become the first British team to win the European Cup in a famous triumph over Inter.

On this occasion, the Bhoys were favourites at Milan's San Siro stadium for European football's showpiece.

But it was Feyenoord's turn to make history in a 2-1 triumph over Celtic, who had overcome the heavily fancied Leeds United in the semis.

Tommy Gemmell's 30th-minute opener proved a false dawn as Rinus Israel equalised. Swede Ove Kindvall then scored an extra-time winner three minutes from the end as Feyenoord became the first Dutch team to win Europe's top prize.

 

1993 – Shaq's rookie reward

Big things were expected of the gigantic O'Neal when he was selected first in the 1992 draft by the Orlando Magic - and he did not disappoint.

The center averaged 23.4 points (eighth in the NBA), 13.9 rebounds (second) and 3.53 blocks per game (second) as the Magic finished 41-41 to improve by 20 wins, though they still missed out on the playoffs.

O'Neal was named Rookie of the Year and went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career.

He won three NBA Championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and another with the Miami Heat, while he was named Finals MVP three years running between 2000 and 2002.

Bruny Surin won gold in the 4x100m relay at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996.

The University of Texas-bound Kevona Davis said Jamaica missed something special this past March when the Inter-Secondary School Sports Association (ISSA) cancelled the annual Boys and Girls Championships because of the threat of the spread of the Coronavirus, COVID-19.

I remember it like it was yesterday; my anxiety at the beginning of races. I’d kneel in the starting blocks and timidly look at the finish line. I knew it would be out of reach. Running was difficult for me.

Though I wanted out, the races continued. Coaches would classify runners by age and gender. There were four classes for girls. Class 1: under 19, class 2: under 17, class 3: under 15 and class 4: under 13. For the most part, runners were free to choose five other competitors— as long as they were from the same class and gender.

I was in class two. Class two had really good runners- and by good, I mean fast. The athletes were dedicated and gave races a lot of effort. They were so good that they made running look easy. While I participated in the same exercises for the same amount of time and shared a similar diet as them (since we were told what and what not to eat), running didn’t come easy for me. This is how it actually felt:

Lonely

I remember vividly not having any friends. All the girls had something in common- they were fast runners. I’d watch them share tips about posture and form with each other. Other times they’d discuss the personal strategies they use to dominate the track. Meanwhile, I couldn’t relate.

Awkward

 I didn’t run like the others. The only similarity was my laser focus on what was ahead of me – everybody else. I was always dead last.

In addition, my hands did their own thing. It’s recommended that you keep your hands at waist level and run with opened palms. I never did that. It was natural for me to run with my arms in front of my chest and my hands in fists. I also shrugged. Sometimes my form made it difficult to see. My hands were too close to my face, which affected my vision.

Neither my feet nor legs did what they were supposed to either. I ran on my toes. Coach hated it. She wanted me to use more of my feet, almost flat. To make matters worse, my legs kept bending— putting me in a sitting position almost. While my hips were sinking, other runners ran tall.

Exhausting

I was always doing more work than others. It was obvious because I would breathe heavily during races. I would be so exhausted that I would forget how to breathe. Most times I breathed through my mouth instead of inhaling from my nose and exhaling through my mouth.

I also thought the 100 metres race wasn’t for me. It was way too long. A 50-metre race would’ve been more my speed.

Painful

Running was also painful. I couldn’t feel my legs at the end of races. Especially if I did multiple that day. My shoes weren’t tight or anything but my feet hurt. I simply wanted to give them a break and lie on the ground at the end of a race. I couldn’t and that hurt. Coach didn’t allow me. She’d shout, “walk it out!” I hated that. It took everything in me to comply.

Pointless

Frankly, running felt pointless. Especially because I wasn’t planning on sticking around to see if I would get any better at it.

And just like that, running led me everywhere but the finish line.

Please share your thoughts about track and field on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use the hashtag IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

Last week, Jamaica was flooded with much-needed good news regarding a number of its top high-school athletes accepting scholarships to a number of great universities in the United States.

Having signed for Mississippi State University (MSU) in the USA this past week, Kingston College star jumper Shacquille Lowe is looking forward to winning titles and battling with former teammate Carey McLeod when he begins his collegiate career, hopefully in the fall.

In track and field, breaking a world record is special. Breaking a world record at the Olympic Games is extra special.

Excelsior High School star Ackera Nugent and Holmwood Technical High School’s Kavia Francis will both be attending Baylor University when the next academic year begins this Fall.

World Athletics has launched a $500,000 fund alongside the International Athletics Foundation (IAF) to help athletes affected financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

The world of sport has been decimated by the outbreak of COVID-19, which has seen the Olympic Games in Tokyo postponed by a year until 2021.

That had a knock-on effect with the World Athletics Championships, originally scheduled for 2021 in Oregon, pushed back by 12 months, while the 2020 European Championships have been cancelled.

A World Athletics statement said the fund will be used to help athletes who have lost the majority of their income from the suspension of international competition.

Resources from the 2020 and 2021 budgets of the IAF, of which Prince Albert II of Monaco is honorary president, will be allocated to help athletes. 

World Athletics president and IAF chair Sebastian Coe will front "an expert multi-regional working group to assess the applications for assistance, which will be submitted through World Athletics' six Area Associations".

Olympic champion and 1500 metres world record-holder Hicham El Guerrouj and Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi are among the members of the working group, which will convene in the coming week for talks over how to award and distribute grants to individual athletes and to assess means of raising additional monies for the fund.

"I would especially like to thank Hicham for bringing this idea to us, and Prince Albert for his strong support of this project," Coe said. 

"I am in constant contact with athletes around the world and I know that many are experiencing financial hardship as a consequence of the shutdown of most international sports competition in the last two months. 

"Our professional athletes rely on prize money as part of their income and we're mindful that our competition season, on both the track and road, is being severely impacted by the pandemic. 

"We are hopeful that we will be able to stage at least some competition later this year, but in the meantime we will also endeavour, through this fund and additional monies we intend to seek through the friends of our sport, to help as many athletes as possible."

El Guerrouj added: "The pandemic is causing economic pain to people from all parts of society, including athletes, and this is a time when we must come together as a global community to help each other. 

"I am delighted that Seb and World Athletics reacted so positively to my suggestion that we create a fund for athletes, and have made it happen with the support of the International Athletics Foundation. 

"The suspension of competition has had a huge impact on many professional athletes because they can't earn prize money so I'm really pleased that we have found a way to assist them."

Prince Albert II said he hopes the initiative can help athletes continue preparations for next year's Games.

"I created more than 35 years ago the International Athletics Foundation with the late Primo Nebiolo to encourage and promote athletics and grant financial assistance to athletics federations and the most deserving athletes," he said. 

"Since its inception the Foundation has distributed for these purposes more than $30million. I am delighted that we can put our resources behind this initiative so we can make a difference to the lives of athletes who are suffering financially at this time. 

"We hope that this support will help those athletes preparing for international competition, including next year's Olympic Games, to sustain their training, support their families and that this will relieve them of some stress in these uncertain times."

The Olympic Games in Tokyo will be scrapped rather than postponed again if they cannot be held in 2021, according to event president Yoshiro Mori.

The Games were pushed back from July to next year due to the coronavirus pandemic following weeks of uncertainty as the IOC considered the best course of action.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise globally despite some of the hardest-hit countries having had some success in reducing the rate of transmission and the number of attributable deaths.

However, Tokyo 2020 president Mori says there is no prospect of the Games being delayed further if staging them in 2021 is unfeasible.

"No. In that case, the Olympics will be scrapped," Mori told Japanese publication Nikkan Sports.

The comments came after Yoshitake Yokokura, the president of the Japan Medical Association (JMA), suggested it would be difficult for the Games to go ahead if a vaccine against COVID-19 has not become widely available.

"Unless an effective vaccine is developed I think it will be difficult to hold the Olympics next year," Yokokura told reporters.

"I'm not saying at this point that they shouldn't be held. The outbreak is not only confined to Japan. It's a worldwide issue."

The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus has passed three million, with just over 13,600 of those in Japan.

Almost 212,000 people to test positive for the virus have died.

The United States collegiate and Jamaican Track and Field community are in mourning over the passing of former George Mason University coach, Dalton Ebanks, who died Saturday from complications of the Coronavirus Covid-19.

Retired Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt has listed the 2015 Beijing World Championships 100m struggle against American Justin Gatlin as one of his toughest ever races.  

Heading into the championships, Bolt, who was recovering from injury, was short on fitness with many doubting his capacity to hit top gear.  It would have taken a brave man to bet against the Jamaica sprint king but some were convinced an upset was on the cards as the American had looked imperious.  Heading into the event, Gatlin had dominated opponents all season to put together a 28-race win streak.

“I was totally not the favourite this time,  I could tell that,” Bolt said in an interview with India media outlet Power Sportz.

“This was the first time Justin Gatlin was going to have me chasing after him (wearing favourite tag).  But, when I knew he was nervous was when I went into the warm-up area and he was talking to me.  That was strange, he never speaks to me.  So, it clicked to me that he was nervous as well because this was the first time we were ever going to compete and he was favourite.”

In the end, Bolt only just came past a faltering Gatlin at the death to snatch victory by one-hundredth of a second.  Well short of his best, but good enough for gold.

“I happy but you couldn’t see it on my face because it was so much pressure that came off me.  I just thought, thank you.  For me, that was one of the hardest races I’ve run in my life.”

 

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