Competing at the American Track League meeting on Saturday was a release for Natalliah Whyte, the 2019 sprint relay gold medallist.

Decorated 100m champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, clocked a world-leading 11 seconds at the Velocity Fest meet in Kingston, on Saturday, as athletes slowly start returning to the track.

Running into a -2.2m/s headwind, Fraser-Pryce, the former MVP athlete, stopped the clock at 11.00 flat, well clear of Sprintec’s Shashalee Forbes who was second in 11.49.   Bahamas’ Anthonique Strachan was third in 11.84.  In the men’s equivalent, MVP’s Nesta Carter clocked 10.38 to only just edge out Tumbleweed’s Tyquendo Tracey and G.C Foster’s Romario Williams, who both clocked 10.39 for second and third respectively.

Over double the distance, MVP’s Shericka Jackson ran 22.89 to finish heat three ahead of teammate Elaine Thompson, who clocked 22.98, with Forbes third in 23.45.  The men’s 200m went to Julian Forte, who clocked 20.71 running into a negative headwind.  He finished ahead of Rasheed Dwyer, 21.06, and Romario Williams, 21.07.

In the women’s hurdles, Janieve Russell (57.29) dominated affairs, claiming the event comfortably ahead of Rhona Whyte (57.97).  In the 100m hurdles, Megan Tapper won the event in 13.25, ahead of Amoi Brown, who was second in 13.46s.

World long jump champion Tajay Gayle topped his pet event with a wind-assisted 8.52m (4.5m/s).  Doha 2019 triple jump silver medallist, Shanieka Ricketts, claimed that event with 14.11m.

 

 

Retired Jamaican sprint king, Usain Bolt, must have had a nervous moment, or two, when American Noah Lyes was recorded crossing the line in 18.90, in a 200m sprint, during the socially distanced Inspiration Games earlier this week.

It turns out, however, in a massive error, that the athlete had only run 185 metres after starting from the wrong spot.  The novel competition saw 28 athletes split into three teams, taking part in eight events, at seven different venues. 

Competitors were connected by a live video and timing link with a split-screen.  Lyles represented Team North America, and convincingly beat Team Europe's Christophe Lemaitre, in Zurich, and Team World's Churandy Martina, in Papendal.  The organisers at the Bradenton, Florida track while Lyles ran, however, didn’t get things quite right and he was later disqualified.

In a recent interview with Variety, Bolt, who will be featured in the upcoming Greatness Code Apple series, admitted that these days he was more focused on being a good dad.  He, however, still enjoys watching track and field but stays clear of any thoughts of picking his successor.  Bolt previously picked compatriot Yohan Blake and South African Wayde Van Niekerk to replace him as the new king of sprinting.  While Blake is yet to recover the type of form that saw him crowned the world’s second-fastest man, van Niekerk broke the 400m world record but then suffered a serious injury.

“For me, I’m just watching.  I think I tend to have bad luck in picking people.  When I say I like this person at times it doesn’t work out,” Bolt said.

Bolt's records of 9.58, over 100m, and 19.19, in the 200m, are now 11 years old.

Noah Lyles thought he had shattered the 200 metres world record on Thursday, but the American's joy was short-lived as it transpired he had not run the full distance. 

Lyles, running on his own in Florida as part of the Inspiration Games event, crossed the line in a rapid 18.90 seconds. 

It appeared the record of 19.19s Usain Bolt set at the 2009 World Championships had gone, but BBC commentator Steve Cram was among those to question the time. 

"That cannot be right," said Cram. "Even he has got his hands in the air wondering what is going on." 

It was then revealed that world champion Lyles had run 15m less than his opponents competing at other tracks, as he had started in the wrong lane. 

The 22-year-old subsequently missed out on a $10,000 winner's cheque, with Christophe Lemaitre taking victory in a time of 20.65 at Letzigrund. 

Lyles tweeted: "You can’t be playing with my emotions like this.... got me in the wrong lane smh [shaking my head]." 

Jamaican teen track star Briana Williams has signed a three-year deal to become a brand ambassador for Grace Foods, the company announced on Wednesday.

The world has been reacting with a mixture of celebration and admiration following the official introduction of Usain Bolt’s daughter to the world on Tuesday.

Olympia Lightning Bolt was born on May 17, 2020. Just over two months later, her mother Kasi Bennett celebrated her birthday and her world-famous boyfriend posted in celebration a photo of their beautiful daughter on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Among the hundreds of reactions were Miss Universe runner-up Yendi Phillips, Miss World 1993 Lisa Hannah, four-time World 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, 400m world-record holder and Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk, and Olympic silver medallist Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn.

“Absolutely lovely. What a blessing,” Phillips commented.

“Blessings,” was how Hannah, now a Jamaican Member of Parliament reacted.

“Beautiful big bro,” said van Nierkerk.

British 100m champion Dina Asher-Smith was smitten by the two-month-old Olympia. “So adorable,” she wrote.

Twenty-three-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, whose daughter is also named Olympia, sent heart emojis to the 11-time world champion.

On Twitter, Bolt-sponsor Digicel posted: “Congrats again to @usainbolt and @kasi.b on their baby girl. Also sending Birthday Blessings to Kasi on her special day.”

There were also reactions from Bolt's close fried Jamaican entertainer Chris Martin and former Barcelona player and coach Patrick Kluivert.

The eight-time Olympic medalist and double world record holder Bolt also posted a special tribute to his lady love on Instagram that read in part:

“I want to wish my gf @kasi.b a happy birthday and to let you know I am happy to spend your special day with you. Now we have started a new chapter together with our daughter Olympia Lightning Bolt.”

 

 

Olympic 110-metre hurdles champion, Omar McLeod, is now a PUMA athlete, making the move from Nike, with whom he had been contracted since 2015.

McLeod made the announcement himself on Instagram on Friday, saying: “happy to be part of the #foreverfaster family.”

McLeod burst onto the scene in 2015, lowering his personal best of 13.44 to 12.97, setting the national record for the first time and becoming the national champion.

A year later, McLeod was winning the World Indoor title, running the 60-metre hurdles in 7.41 seconds.

He would finish sixth at the World Championships. In another year, McLeod would make history for Jamaica, running 13.05 seconds to claim Olympic gold. He would add a World Championship gold to his Olympic title the following year, but was unable to defend that title in 2019 after clipping a hurdle.

There are those great singular moments in sports that often define how an athlete’s career is celebrated.

A goal in the 90th minute of an important football game, a six off the final ball to win a tight World Cup cricket match or a buzzer-beating three pointer in the NBA playoffs.

Such moments can really serenade one’s memory.

The name Carlos Brathwaite will not be forgotten for a long time to come, not because of any great consistency but because of one stunning performance where he hit four sixes in the final over to propel West Indies to the ICC World T20 title in 2016.

The satisfaction of such a performance tends to linger and endears the sportsmen and women to those they satisfied with that one amazing effort.

Some sportsmen are gifted enough to reproduce performances of that ilk but there are others whose careers are characterized by a single achievement – and that is perfectly fine.

Barbadian sprinter Obadele Thompson can be placed in that category.

It isn’t to say Obadele didn’t have a noteworthy career overall - because he did.

He won an IAAF World Indoor 200m silver medal in 1999, a Commonwealth Games 100m bronze in 1998, a World University Games Gold over 100 metres that same year plus multiple Central America and Caribbean Championships and Games Gold medals.

However those performances, by themselves, might have been lost on the regular track and field fan if not for one stand-out performance. 

Obadele competed at three Olympic Games between 1996 and 2004.

He made an Olympic final on all three occasions but it was the night of September 23, 2000 that defined his life’s work in track and field.

Stoned-faced and focused, there was a sense of determination as he lined up for another shot at glory.

But when the gun went, he slowly picked up from the blocks. It was exactly the type of start no-one wants in an Olympic final.

Thoughts of his narrow misses in global finals must have flashed through his mind but the experience of fourth place finishes in the Atlanta 1996 200m final and both the 100 and 200 metres at the 1999 IAAF World Championships must have aided his composure as he produce a strong last 40 metres to motor by more fancied rivals like Britain’s Dwain Chambers and Jon Drummond of the United States.

It wasn’t his fastest ever performance but those 10.04 seconds have been his most celebrated, certainly in Barbados where they will recognize it for generations to come.

Surprisingly there were no great celebrations on the part of Obadele. There wasn’t even a smile visible from the television shots.

A congratulatory embrace with the men who finished ahead of him, Maurice Greene of the United States and Caribbean rival Ato Boldon followed and then a glimpse of what it meant to the then 24-year-old.

As he walked away from those embraces, and further out of camera shot there was a quiet pump of the fist – He had finally done it, independent Barbados finally had an Olympic medal.

When one thinks of Obadele Thompson his consistency in making Olympic finals might be mentioned.

For the record he competed in four of them.

But what Barbados, the Caribbean and indeed the world will remember, is his bronz-medal-run in Sydney Australia.

That performance, and the many one-off stunners in the world of sport deserve to be honored just as they live on in the memories of many.

With COVID-19 keeping children all over the island at home this term, I began to make a link between them and student-athletes who, because of the changing nature of sports, move from school to school, resulting in a similar sort of dislocation.

Dr Sasha Sutherland, the Executive Director of the Caribbean Regional Anti-Doping Organization, RADO, says calling an athlete to alert them about the presence of a doping control officer goes against the international standard for testing.

Jamaica Olympian Maurice Smith has released a song, Revolution, which he says is his way of adding his voice to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement sweeping the globe as well as speaking out against the crime and violence in his homeland.

Olympic relay gold medallist Michael Frater said it hurt him badly that he had to give up the gold medal he won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics because of a teammate was determined to have been taking a prohibited substance.

Most people would jump at the chance of getting a second crack at getting something they initially get wrong, right. Veronica Campbell-Brown, one of the most successful female sprinters in history, is no different.

The 2004 Athens Olympics was my second watching on television but my first really understanding the stories behind the athletes who were representing my country.

Like the athletes had worked for four years, so had I in trying to understand the ins and outs of the sport.

I was only 14 years old, so there was still a lot to learn but I had by then learnt very well the name Veronica Campbell.

By this time the precocious talent from Clarke’s Town in Trelawny had already won the IAAF World Youth 100 metres title in 1999 and the IAAF World Under-20 sprint double in 2000.

Those achievements were sandwiched by a silver medal as part of Jamaica’s sprint relay team at the Sydney Olympics when she was only 18 years old.

Injuries in 2001 and 2003 delayed her senior World Championship debut but between that, she won a silver medal over 100 metres at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester England in 2002.

The warning signs get louder

As early as the indoor season of 2004 Veronica served warnings she would be a major force on the global scene even with a potentially long collegiate season for the University of Arkansas in prospect. 

She won the NCAA Indoor title over 200 metres, speeding to 22.43 seconds, and sending a strong signal to her competitors.

After a string of quality performances indoors and out, the former Barton County Community College athlete chose to forego the NCAA Outdoor Division One Championships to focus on her Olympic quest.

It was a master move by Campbell and her team as she took the professional route.    

I remember a particular race at the Weltklasse Golden League in Zurich, Switzerland. It was a stacked 100 metres field with Veronica Campbell among the principals.

Before the race, renowned commentator Stuart Storey said he thought the new Jamaican star could “win the Olympic title”.

Campbell finished fourth on that day, beaten by France’s Christine Aaron, Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie of the Bahamas and her Jamaican compatriot Aleen Bailey.

Storey then explained that Veronica was much better at 200 metres and that is where he favoured her for Olympic Gold.

He was right.

Around my community I listened to pot covers beating, doors and walls knocking, jumping as Veronica became the first Caribbean woman to win either a 100 or 200 Gold at the Olympic Games.

I have watched that race dozens of times since, whether it be to the stunning Caribbean voice that is Lance Whittaker or NBC’s Carol Lewis exclaiming Veronica’s devastating curve running.

For Jamaicans, the moment was massive.

The cycle of Jamaicans like Merlene Ottey, Grace Jackson and Juliet Cuthbert playing second fiddle to American and European sprinters had been broken.

The Caribbean, Jamaica had its Golden queen.

She also anchored the sprint relay team to Gold which meant she was involved in three of Jamaica’s five medals, having taken bronze in the 100 metres.

With the subsequent success that Jamaica has had, led by the legendary Usain Bolt and including women like Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Elaine Thompson or the unforgettable work done by Merlene Ottey before them, it might be easy, especially for the new generation of athletics fans to miss the tremendous contribution of Veronica.

But she is truly among the greatest we have ever seen.

Will to excel on show

Her 2008 successful Olympic title defence was special, but it was her performance at the Jamaican Championships that year that will forever be etched in my mind.

Now bearing the name Campbell-Brown after her marriage to fellow Jamaican sprinter Omar Brown, she entered the Jamaican Olympic trials as the favourite for the sprint double but the world was shaken when she only placed fourth in the 100 metres despite a super-fast 10.88-second clocking.

A day later, she had to return for the 200 metres. Her Olympic aspirations hinged on that one race.

She also had to take on the three women who beat her in the 100: Kerron Stewart, Shelly-Ann Fraser and Sherone Simpson.

She did more than take them on, she beat them convincingly, clocking, still the fastest ever 200 time on Jamaican soil, 21.94 seconds.

Maybe that singular focus helped her to defend her title in Beijing and become only the second woman to defend the Olympic half-lap title.

As it stands, we will never know.

What we do know is that she produced another scintillating curve run and took Gold in a lifetime best, 21.74 seconds.

Veronica Campbell-Brown or VCB as she is now affectionately called has won eight global titles across World Championships, indoors and out and the Olympic Games.

She has a further 10 silver and 3 bronze medals, not counting her multiple global medals at the Youth and Junior levels.

She has always had a shy demeanour, but her desire to be the best has never been in question.

Outside of that tremendous run at the Jamaican Championship in 2008, VCB’s last global individual medal is also one that sticks to the memory.

In 2015 she was having a less-than-impressive year by her lofty standards.

She placed fourth in the 100 metres at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.

In the 200 metres, she squeezed into the final as a fastest loser, almost labouring to 22.47 seconds.

It was only the sixth-fastest going into the championship race but importantly, her fastest time since the London 2012 Olympics.

After that semi-final, it felt as if Veronica had long past her best or anywhere close to it.

One last great run

But she had, what one might describe as one last great run, and on that night in Beijing she produced it.

From lane two, she powered around the bend like the Veronica of old. Her knocked knees, a glorious reminder of her greatest days.

The curve was vintage VCB as she inched clear of favourites Daphne Schippers of the Netherlands and Elaine Thompson, who was at the time Jamaica’s newest female sprinting sensation.

The old Veronica might have taken them to the line and snatched Gold, but not on that night in Beijing.

She could no longer hold her speed through 200 metres but still, it was one of her great runs as she crossed the line third in 21.97 seconds.

It was the first time she had broken 22 seconds since the 2010 season and she hasn’t done it since, more sharp reminders of what a miracle run it was.

It might do an injustice to her amazing legacy to speak much about her injury-plagued years beyond 2015.

In any case, there might be more to come as she hopes to qualify for a sixth Olympics come the rescheduled Games in Tokyo 2021.

But if Veronica never steps foot on a track again, her legacy will be sealed.

When she defended her Olympic title in 2008, a local TV reporter, Damion Gordon wrote, “Like wine to a party, Veronica Campbell-Brown is synonymous with athletics greatness.”

That, my friend, is how VCB should be remembered and spoken of – because she is now and always will be athletics greatness.

 

Ricardo Chambers has done Commentary on international track and field, cricket and Netball since 2010. He has also done local football commentary. For feedback you can email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Briana Williams will close out one chapter of her career on Wednesday with an eye on a future that involves college and the pursuit of what promises to be a successful professional career.

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