With her 10.98/21.98 sprint double at the Back to the Track: Clermont meeting in Florida, Shaunae Miller-Uibo was the toast of the track and field world last weekend.

It’s been a week. Seven days or more than 10, 080 minutes since Michael Norman of the USA dropped a personal best of 9.86s at the AP Ranch High-Performance Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas.

It was an amazing performance by Norman, especially considering that he is a quarter-miler. It is even more amazing when you realize that Norman last ran a 100m in April 16, 2016, four years and three months ago.

Now, these observations are not to cast any doubts about the legitimacy of Norman’s time. In fact, I celebrate it. I like seeing new talent emerge; new exciting talent like Norman who many believe could be the man to break the 43-second barrier in the 400m.

I made the observation because over the past week I was waiting for one Carl Lewis to say whether he believes the time is suspicious because Norman’s previous best was 0.41 seconds slower than the time he ran in Texas last week Monday.

About 12 years ago, another talented sprinter that goes by the name of Usain Bolt secured the first of eight Olympic gold medals when he won the blue-ribbon sprint in Beijing in an astounding 9.69s. Lewis was quick to try to discredit Bolt’s achievement.

“…For someone to run 10.03 one year and 9.69 the next, if you don’t question that in a sport that has the reputation it has right now, you’re a fool. Period,” Lewis told Sports Illustrated magazine in 2008.

Back when Bolt dropped his 9.69 world record during the Beijing, Olympics, he had managed to shave 0.34 seconds off his previous personal best. If my memory serves me, he clocked 10.03 at GC Foster and then a couple of weeks later, he lowered his personal best to 9.76s at the Jamaica Invitational at the National Stadium in May that year.

He would run a 9.94 in Trinidad before heading to New York where he lowered his PB to 9.72, a new world record. He then shaved a further 0.03s off while winning in Beijing.

Like Norman, Bolt was a 200/400m man before he attempted the 100m. Before Bolt had transitioned from the junior ranks, he had run a World U20 200m record of 19.93 that still stands today. That was 2004. Since that time, Bolt had season-best times of 19.99 in 2005, 19.88 in 2006, and 19.75 in 2007;  time that indicated that by the time 2008 rolled around, Bolt was already capable of breaking 10 seconds.

Norman ran 19.70 in July 2019, while defeating Noah Lyles in an epic battle at the Diamond League meeting in Rome, 43.45 to open in 2019 as well as 43.61 while winning the NCAA Division 1 title for USC in 2018. Like with Bolt, the times suggest that Norman was already capable of breaking 10 seconds over the 100m.

So, to me, when Norman shaved a whopping 0.41 seconds off his previous best when he ran that 100m in Texas last week, it really wasn’t a surprise. However, we are still waiting to hear something from Lewis whether or not we are all fools not to suspect the young American.

That to me is where Lewis’ ignorance and hypocrisy are exposed.

To people like Lewis, the factors that lead to Bolt’s fast times were never taken into consideration. In his mind, someone like Bolt from a Third World country like Jamaica could not possibly run as fast without some kind of pharmaceutical assistance.

His silence now since Norman’s amazing run lays bare his true motivations when he spoke with Sports Illustrated 12 years ago.

When Shaunae Miller-Uibo completed her fantastic sprint double at the Back to the Track: Clermont track meet on the weekend, she moved up the ranks in an elite class of athlete – the combined sprinter.

Despite a cramping hamstring Akeem Bloomfield uncorked his fastest ever season opener while winning the 400m at the Back To The Track: Clermont meeting in Florida on Friday.

Elaine Thompson-Herah never lost belief in her abilities even after struggling with an injury that has caused her to miss out on podium finishes at the last two major championships.

Relatively healthy again for the first time in two years, Jamaican Olympian Julian Forte said he is finally getting back to his best form.

July 19 marked 18 years since Lorraine Fenton set the Jamaican record in the women’s 400 metres.

It is hard to believe that this record is still standing in an era when most Jamaican athletics best from 100 to 400 metres, including hurdles, have been shattered.

Jamaica has had a great history of medalling in the women’s 400 metres at global events.

Since Sandie Richards won silver at the 1997 IAAF World Championships in Athens it has been rare for a Jamaican woman not to be on the medal podium for the 400 metres thanks to Fenton, Novlene Williams-Mills, Shericka Williams, Stephanie-Ann Mcpherson and most recently Shericka Jackson.

Of this group, Fenton is still the most decorated individual performer.  

Indeed, Fenton was among the country’s most consistent championship performers from the late 1990s into the turn of the 21st century.

The former Manchester High school athlete won four individual global outdoor medals, three at the IAAF World Championships and an Olympic silver between 1999 and 2003.

She also captured five relay medals between 1997 and 2005, including anchoring the team to a first ever 4x400 female Gold at the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton Canada.

No Jamaican athlete, male or female, won as many global medals, as Fenton did between 1997 and 2005.

Fenton holds a special place in my heart because as an 11-year-old, she was the first Jamaican athlete I saw compete live at the Olympic Games.

It was Sydney 2000 and to the disapproval of my parents, I was watching television in the early hours of the morning when the heats of the women’s 400 metres came on.

She had that beautiful, smooth running action that was hard to ignore.

However, because of Jamaica’s subsequent success it is easy to forget her and her accomplishments.

The truth is, there are recent athletics fans who have simply never heard her name.

For all of us who have favourite athletes, we also have races we wish they could have a shot at re-running.

For me, I would dearly love if Lorraine could go back to the blocks for the 2001 World Championship final.

It was one of those open races.

Mexico’s Ana Guevara was on the rise, but hadn’t yet hit her peak.

Senegal’s Amy Mbacke-Thiam was an unknown quantity but looked great in qualifying while Fenton was the silver medallist from the Olympic Games and with the Olympic champion, Australia’s Cathy Freeman now retired, Fenton had a great shot at individual glory.

It was a great race too. Three across the track with 50 metres to go as they battled for the title.

Fenton appeared to have a slight lead in the closing steps but Thiam’s long strides took her past the Jamaican in the final strides to win gold by 2-hundredths of a second; 49.86 to 49.88.

Of course Fenton did get a Gold medal in Edmonton when she anchored the mile relay team to victory after the United States who led up to the final change, had a mix-up with the baton.

Less than a year after her Edmonton exploits, Fenton set the Jamaican record at 49.30 seconds in Monaco.

The previous mark, 49.57s, set by Grace Jackson had lasted 14 years.

Shericka Williams 49.32s in Berlin 2009, Fenton herself with a 49.43s-run in Paris 2003 and Shericka Jackson 49.47s in Doha 2019 have come closest to the national mark but July 19 has come and gone for a 18th time and once again it has survived.

Now 2021 is what we look to, with the Olympics in sight and Shericka Jackson improving all the time, maybe it will go.

But until then, we celebrate and honour Lorraine Graham-Fenton and her outstanding achievement.

The rescheduled Tokyo Games cannot go ahead if the present global health situation persists, the chairman of the Olympics organising committee has admitted.

Friday was supposed to be the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics, but the coronavirus pandemic saw the Games postponed until 2021.

Organising chief Yoshiro Mori was asked by national broadcaster NHK if the Olympics would be able to go ahead if things were unchanged.

"If the current situation continues, we couldn't," he said, before adding that he believes such a scenario is hypothetical and the outlook will improve.

"I can't imagine a situation like this will continue for another year."

Mori stated that finding a vaccine is likely to be crucial for the Olympics to take place in 2021.

"Whether the Olympics can be done or not is about whether humanity can beat the coronavirus. Specifically, the first point will be that a vaccine or drug has been developed," Mori added.

International Olympics Committee chief Thomas Bach recently suggested the Olympics may go ahead with reduced spectator numbers.

Mori suggested Bach was referring to a worst-case scenario and, while acknowledging different scenarios may have to be looked at if the pandemic continues as it is now, he is against a behind-closed-doors Olympics.

"We shouldn't make spectators go through hard times. Sporting events are all about the whole country empathising," Mori told Kyodo News.

With two Olympic 100m titles, four World Championship 100m titles and a 200m title, and a World Indoor title among 18 global medals, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has had a legendary career. However, it took a trip to the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan to light the flame that propelled her to success.

“I came back home with a fire,” the 33-year-old icon told former Miss Jamaica Universe and Miss Universe runner-up Yendi Phillips on Phillips’ YouTube show Odyssey.

In the video that has so far garnered almost 55,000 views, Fraser-Pryce revealed that when she joined MVP Track Club, she was still not certain that a career in track and field is what she wanted to pursue.

Even when she was selected to be a member of the Jamaican team, she was still uncertain that this was her path in life.

“I only wanted to go, to go. I was so nervous. I was unsure of who I was at the time…still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” she said.

“If anybody had asked me at the time what I wanted to do, I wouldn’t say an athlete. It was just there; an opportunity.”

Her indecision about what path she wanted to follow manifested in how she trained during those early days.

“I got to training late most days, didn’t go to the gym because me did believe me was a go get tough. I went to practise and never completed the workouts. That changed when I went to the World Championships,” she said.

However, before the change occurred, Osaka proved to be quite difficult for the then 19-year-old upstart from Wolmer’s Girls. In Japan, she was a member of Jamaica’s 4x100m relay team that won the silver medal that year.

However, when she was told that she was running she said she cried because she didn’t want to run. The occasion also unsettled her.

“Separate and apart from that you’re thinking that this is a big thing and I didn’t want to mess it up,” she said.

History will recall that she did not mess things up. Instead, a new reality dawned on her.

“I think what it did for me was that I saw something different. It is almost as if my eyes opened up to a reality that ‘them people ya wuk hard, you nuh’. You see the grit, the glory, you see defeat, you see so many different things, emotions, people crying when they crossed the line.”

It wasn’t all bad though. There were great benefits to being a member of a medal-winning team.

She remembers sitting in the stands cheering teammate Veronica Campbell chasing down the USA’s Tori Edwards but just coming up short at the line. The USA won gold in 41.98 while Jamaica was a mere 0.03s behind in 42.01. Belgium was third.

She happy for what was her first medal but also because “Me inna di money,” she said laughing.

As a member of the relay squad, Fraser-Pryce collected her share of US$40,000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merlene Ottey’s long-standing record over 150m was broken by American Brianna Rollins-McNeal on Monday at the AP Ranch High-Performance Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas.

Briana Williams ran five races at the AP High-Performance Invitationals 1-5 in Fort Worth, Texas earlier today, a meet at which American Michael Norman ran a world-leading 9.86 in the 100m.

Some of the world’s best athletes, most of them Nike-sponsored, descended on Fort Worth to compete, reportedly in a bid to preserve the value of their professional contracts.

According to sources, under the terms of their contracts, the athletes are obligated to compete in at least 10 sanctioned races for the year. If they do not, they stand to lose money from their multi-million-dollar contracts.

In response, meets were created, the first of which was held today, that will allow the athletes to fulfil those obligations and as a result, save themselves millions of dollars.

Williams, who earlier this year signed a five-year contract with Nike believed to be valued at several million dollars, competed in the 60m, 100m, 150m, 250 and 300m races. She clocked 7.68 for the 60m, 12.43 for the 100m, 18.74 for the 150m, 38.31 over 250 and 46.56 for 300m.

Norman ran 7.96 for the 60m, 9.86 for the 100m, 34.82 for the 250 and 44.90 for 300m. His 100m time puts him in a pantheon of two, the number of athletes who would have run sub-10s, sub-20 for the 200m and sub-44 for the 400m.

Justin Gatlin, the 2017 100m World 100m champion, also competed at the meet setting times of 6.84 for 60m, 10.84 for the 100m, 15.93 for 150m, 32.53 for 250m and 42.32 for 300m.

In the men’s 100m, 400m hurdler Rai Benjamin ran an impressive 10.03 a massive personal best for the World Championship silver medallist. Ronnie Baker of the USA was third in 10.23.

In 2008 at Jamaica’s National Senior Championships in Kingston, a relatively unknown sprinter called Shelly-Ann Fraser stunned a nation when she finished second in the 100m behind Kerron Stewart, who clocked 10.80. Her time of 10.82 was a surprise to many but the bigger surprise was that she beat her more celebrated compatriots Sherone Simpson (10.86) and Veronica Campbell Brown, who was fourth in 10.88.

 There was a national outcry for Campbell-Brown to replace the greenhorn from the MVP Track Club. Surely, she would not be able to go to Beijing and do better than Campbell-Brown, the seasoned campaigner who won gold over 200m in Athens four years before and the 100m title in Osaka in 2007.

Stung by the naysayers calling for her head Fraser silenced them by becoming the first Jamaican woman to win an Olympic 100m title as Jamaica finished 1-2-2 in the finals. She would go on to win another Olympic 100m title four years later in London and just last year won an unprecedented fourth 100m title in Doha in 2019.

A 200m World title and an Olympic 200m silver medal have cemented her a legacy as arguably Jamaica’s greatest female sprinter and one of the best of all time.

She now says that she forgives those naysayers because she understands why they did.

"I’m not gonna say I blame them. I cannot because at the time Veronica was a sure thing,” Fraser-Pryce said during an interview with Yendi Phillips on her YouTube show Odyssey, Untold Journeys with Yendi.

“Looking back now I cannot say I would have sit down in my days and be at home and somebody say ‘Veronica naw run’ and me would a probably take that. Me woulda say ‘No, mi waan Veronica run,” said the four-time 100m World Champion.

“I remember watching that Olympics, 2004 Olympics, at home. Veronica was the standard. So I cannot imagine that they would have said anything different and I understand.

 I have forgiven all of that. I have moved on because I understand that while it shouldn’t have happened based on the rules, I understand where everybody was coming from and I think at the end of the day, I’m glad that I was able to open the doors for younger athletes to understand that anything that you set out to achieve, your age, it don’t matter. When you’re ready, you show up, and you go out there and you go after it.”

The Jamaica Olympic Association says the significant increase in administrative expenses over the past two years is as a result of changes made to its organisational structure as it moved to become more professional in its operations.

The JOA was responding to a report in Jamaican media on Thursday that placed the spotlight on the organisations ballooning operational expenses over the last two years. In the report aired in Television Jamaica, it was revealed that salaries moved from JMD$9.7M in 2017 to J$34.7M in 2018, while administrative expenses spiralled almost 100 per cent - from J$32M to J$60M over the same period.

Meanwhile, JOA’s assets declined from J$178.1M in 2017 to J$147.8m in 2018 all while per diem payments for athletes was reduced from USD$30 to USD$25.

Earlier Friday, the JOA issued a lengthy statement detailing the changes to its operations as it sought to justify its expenditures.

“The increase in the administrative expenses of the JOA was as a result of the full establishment of a corporate organizational structure. This involved the modernization of the operations of the JOA again in keeping with the “Pathway to Success” program and entailed the full computerisation of our accounting systems, the introduction of a payroll system to replace the paper-based manual system and a complete revamp of the website,” the JOA said in its statement. 

“Sixty-seven per cent of the increase in administrative expenses over 2017 was as a result of the increase in salaries and wages which was a function of the decision of the Board and mandate it received from member associations to restructure and professionalize the association.”

The JOA said 10 per cent of the increase in administrative expenses over the prior year 2017 was as a result of a decision taken by the new administration to rectify the reconciliations and finalise outstanding financial reports from the prior quadrennial period (2013-2016) for submission to its main stakeholder, the International Olympic Committee (IOC). “This saw a reduction in our receivables from J$85M in 2017 to J$20M in 2018,” it said.

The JOA explained that salaries increased as a result of a decision taken by the board to restructure and professionalize the office in keeping with the “Pathway to Success” vision which was articulated to our members in 2017.

“In expanding the services to our members, the Board identified four critical areas: Business Development, Member Relations, IT Services and Marketing and Corporate Communications. This necessitated the engagement of persons with the skill sets and experience in alignment with the services being offered,” the JOA said.

This, it said, resulted in increased sponsorships and revenue to the JOA with income levels doubling in 2018, which was a direct result of the JOA leveraging more income opportunities through existing stakeholders and new partners.

The JOA also claimed that leveraging increased grant income through Olympic Solidarity to support the development activities carried out by our various member associations while also continuing its efforts to increase other income streams through new sponsorships. 

The redevelopment and branding of the JOA Website and the development of websites for some Member Associations at no cost to them.

According to the JOA, significant improvement in member relations through its educational workshops, increased training opportunities for its members locally and overseas and the hosting of its “Sports for Breakfast” series, which allowed its member associations to interface and network with corporate Jamaica.  Membership support increased by JMD$80M over the prior year and across various sports facilitating their development and assisting with Olympic qualification efforts.

In relation to communications, the JOA said the professionalization of its communication network with its members' associations and external partners as well as press conferences and briefings hosted by the JOA led to the creation of a strong brand presence locally and globally.

A burning desire to leave the sport in better shape than when she found it was the driving force behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s decision to become a board member of the newly formalized The Athletics Association.

Several Caribbean athletes including Olympic champions Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shaunae Miller-Uibo will comprise a 24-member board of the now formally established The Athletics Association (TAA) that will look out for the best interests of track and field athletes across the globe.

The AA was formed in response to the calls from athletes worldwide for independent representation. “The objective of The Athletics Association is to provide Track and Field athletes with a meaningful voice, to fight for stronger athletes’ rights, and to seek an athletes-first approach to our sport,” the association said in a statement released today.

The Athletics Association aims to engage in positive dialogue with the sport’s governing body, World Athletics, and their own athletes’ commission, but will, of course, hold World Athletics to account when necessary and challenge them if they are not acting in the best interest of the athletes.

Fraser-Pryce, who last year, won an unprecedented fourth World 100m title in Doha, Qatar, sits on the board representing the sprints while Miller-Uibo, the 2016 Olympic 400m champion and 2019 400m silver medallist, represents the Americas alongside Mikel Thomas from Trinidad and Tobago.

Four-time World triple jump champion Christian Taylor is the association’s president and steeplechaser Emma Coburn is the vice president.

According to the association’s statement, they have been busy developing a number of support services and member benefits for athletes, including a hardship grant fund, training courses, and discounts on products.

Details of the full annual membership package will be announced ahead of the full roll-out in January 2021.

Chief among their initial goals, TAA said, is the intention to lobby World Athletics and the Diamond League stakeholders regarding the changes to the Diamond League schedule that were announced for 2020. Those changes included removing the 200m, triple jump and discus from the Diamond League circuit relegating those events to a newly formed Continental Series.

“We will offer suggestions and alternatives that would include all stadium disciplines, and would benefit athletes and fans, as well as the long term interests of this diverse and wonderful sport,” the statement said.

They also want to gain a seat at the table with World Athletics to command real involvement and power when it comes to decision-making in the sport, as they look to amplify the voices of its members and athletes all over the world.

They also plan to announce an Athletics Association’s welfare charter, highlighting their commitment to improving the conditions for athletes across a range of issues as well as solidify a membership package that will begin in January 2021 and will offer access to courses on issues such as financial literacy and life after athletics, and also discounts on products.

Critically, they also plan to present World Athletics with innovative ideas for the growth of the sport.

 “I am very proud of the progress made by the members of the Athletics Association Board. Since its initial inception, a lot of work has been put in to establish the right governance and long-term viability that is essential to do justice to the athletes we represent. It’s this that has attracted the commitment and support of the athletes on the Board. We have athletes from every continent, and a wide variety of disciplines; we are made up of Olympic and World champions, as well as world record holders and continental champions, “ said AA President Taylor.

 “In addition to the board members, there are so many other athletes who have helped get us to this stage. World Athletics recently published a strategic plan, and athletes have been identified as key stakeholders. The Athletics Association provides a representative voice and a simple way for the sport’s governing body to follow through on their commitment. We are ready to contribute to the growth of the sport that we love, ensuring that athletes are part of the decision-making process.  This association is for the athletes, by the athletes, and we are determined to make a real difference. We firmly believe that we can affect positive change in our sport. We are ready for the challenge.”

The Athletics Association has also agreed to a strategic partnership with Global Athlete, a progressive athlete start-up movement aiming to inspire greater athlete representation in organisations across the world of sport. The partnership brings together two organisations with similar values to collaborate on projects, share insights and drive change that will ultimately benefit the athletes and the sport.

“Global Athlete is proud to be a partner with the Athletics Association. Establishing an independent association is a critical step in enhancing athletes’ rights. It is so important for athletes to have their own representation” said Rob Koehler, Global Athlete Director-General.

 “The sport of athletics needs to find a new and exciting path for success. This success can only be possible with real meaningful athlete engagement. Athletes have the desire to further grow the sport while at the same time ensuring the utmost care is given to athletes’ rights. Together we are stronger.” said Emma Coburn, The Athletics Association Vice-President.

 The Athletics Association Board is made up of representatives from every continent and comprises 24 athletes, including individual global champions: Christian Taylor (President) Emma Coburn (Vice-President), Allyson Felix, Ashton Eaton, Julius Yego, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Tianna Bartoletta and Tom Walsh.

 

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