I have scoliosis. Constant stinging sensations, unintentional bad posture and stares from strangers that slowly leads to dwindling confidence are just some of its effects. Luckily the greatest sprinter of all time, Usain Bolt helped me.

I was diagnosed in 2010. My type of scoliosis is called idiopathic scoliosis.

Doctors don’t know the exact reason for a curved spine and so I don’t have all the answers.

It's frustrating.

Still, I had no choice but to live with it and reduce some of its effects. I started with the physical ones; my curved spine, uneven shoulders etc. My doctor, at the time, suggested I get a back brace. I did. People with scoliosis get a brace to restrict further curvature of the spine. A brace does not correct the curve at all, surgery does that.

While my bulky brace prevented my curve from getting worse, the attention it brought lessened my confidence.

People were rude. Especially when I wore my brace outside of my clothes to reduce the impressions and bruises it left on my skin after long hours of wearing it (I was allowed to remove my brace for showers only).

However, there were others who were genuine and encouraging. On some random day a curious man asked me about my back brace. I told him the basics and he replied, “do you know who also has scoliosis? Usain Bolt!”

According to Bolt’s autobiography, ‘Faster Than Lightning Bolt’, scoliosis curved his spine to the right and made his right leg half an inch shorter than his left.

Research studies were conducted to examine it more closely. Researchers are eager to know if his scoliosis works for, or against him in races.

An article published on July 2017 in the New York Times headlined, ‘Something Strange in Usain Bolt’s Stride’ said, “shortly after Bolt retires, the Southern Methodist University (S.M.U.) researchers hope to persuade him to visit their lab for more direct testing on a treadmill.”

The last thing on my mind was believing that Bolt could be a guinea pig. Instead, I thought about the hope that his exceptional performances gave me in spite of having scoliosis.

Happy 34th Birthday Bolt. Overcoming the emotional effects of scoliosis seemed nearly impossible until I witnessed your fearlessness.

I owe you a big thank you!

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

There has to be something said for being the best your country has ever produced.

For every personal milestone to be considered a ground-breaking moment for your land and for every step up the international ladder to be treated as a moment for major celebration are feats worthy of being honoured.

St Lucian high jumper Levern Spencer has had to deal with the expectations and thankfully admiration that comes with being her country’s best and often only hope when it comes to the sport of track and field.

At 36 years old, she is no doubt wrapping up what has been a noteworthy career and one that nobody else in her country can boast.

In 2018, Spencer won St Lucia’s biggest ever title, Gold at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

She returned to Castries to a hero’s welcome, one reminiscent of those winning World and Olympic titles in other countries, such was the significance of what she had achieved, 56 years after St Lucia first graced the Commonwealth stage in Perth 1962.

“This is all I have sought to do for all my professional career,” she said after being taken amidst fanfare in a motorcade to Castries.

She explained that her life’s dream had been, “to place St Lucia on top of the world, and show, that despite our size, we can soar to great heights.”

St Lucia wasn’t exactly on top of the world, but in that moment it must have felt like it, since it was the highest they had ever been.

Spencer had given her island of just under two hundred thousand people, a taste of international glory three years prior when she won Gold at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada.

It is important to point out that Spencer’s two biggest titles came after the age of 30 but her impact on St Lucia’s athletics started when she was just 17 years old.

In 2001, at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Debrecen Hungary, Spencer leapt 1.81 metres to secure the bronze medal.

It remains their only medal at the event.

She dominated at the Central America and Caribbean, CAC, track and field Championships, winning the high jump on all six occasions she participated.

At the CAC Games, she won 3 of the 4 times, including at the 2018 edition in Barranquilla, Colombia.

She successfully defended her Pan Am Games title in 2019 and has also won two Commonwealth Games bronze medals to go with the 2018 Gold.

Her story is indeed one of perseverance which has culminated in triumph.

Despite all that however, Spencer and maybe St Lucia would be, if only a little, disappointed that she has not been able to cop a medal at the Olympic Games or senior World Championships.

At the Rio 2016 Olympics, she had her best shot, having finally reached a final.

She soared to a commendable 1.93 metres but it wasn’t enough as she had to settle for 6th.

And while she would have been disappointed, it was the best St Lucia had ever done at the Games and for today’s story that is the most important take-away.

And so, as Levern contemplates whether to give it one or two more attempts in the coming years, we say well done for what has already been achieved.

The way is paved and the next generation of St Lucian athletes have a marker for which to chase.

The Caribbean’s first female Olympic champion is about to receive a national honour from the Government of Jamaica.

As Jamaica celebrated its 58th year of Independence, her outstanding servants from various fields were announced to receive national recognition come Heroes’ Day October 19.

Twenty four years since shrugging off the challenge of Americans Kim Batten and Tonja Buford-Bailey in Atlanta, Hemmings-McCatty is finally receiving her due.

She is to be conferred with the nation’s fifth highest honor, the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander Class.

We could debate whether this honour is a number of years too late or even if Hemmings-McCatty should be receiving a higher accolade.

But for now, we say, well deserved.

Hemmings-McCatty was no ordinary servant of Jamaica’s track and field. She represented the country at three Olympic Games and won three medals; 2 in the 400 metres hurdles and one in the mile relay.

Since 1980, track and field enthusiasts across Jamaica, the Caribbean and the world felt that Merlene Ottey would be the nation’s first female Olympic Gold medallist.

Ottey, Jamaica’s first female world champion had been a consistent force in major events and therefore that feeling was not without a strong base.

In fact, at the 1996 Games, Ottey was denied achieving that feat by only thousandths of a second when victory in the Women’s 100 metres was awarded to American Gail Devers.

Ironically Hemmings-McCatty’s quest for Gold started the following day, July 28 and culminated on July 31.

Who can forget the voice of American commentator Carol Lewis belting, “… here comes Kim Batten.”

Batten, the world record holder at the time, was indeed making a strong push, but that season Hemmings-McCatty’s improved hurdling technique ensured there were no errors on her part as she smoothly maneuvered her way to victory, almost unbothered by the Americans who had sandwiched her.

Arms aloft as she crossed the line, the then 27-year-old, broke the Olympic record she had set in the semi-finals and became the first woman to run sub-53 seconds in the 400 metres hurdles in consecutive races.

While Atlanta 1996 was the crowning moment of her 11-year senior international career, Hemmings-McCatty’s legacy goes way beyond that.

At the Sydney 2000 Games, she overcame a period of injuries and backed up her “96 Gold with a silver-medal performance.

She also won silver as part of the country’s 4x400 relay team.

She was also a consistent force at the IAAF World Championships, winning four medals, 3 individual and a mile relay Gold, a first for the country, achieved at the 2001 championships in Edmonton, Canada. 

Since her retirement at the end of the 2002 season, she has given back to the sport in several ways, including serving as team manager for national teams and currently organises a development meet, specifically for schools in the Northern region, including in St Ann where she was born.

Not bad for a girl who was given a university scholarship “as part of a package deal” after her high school years ended at Vere Technical.

The record shows she is one of the best to have done it, and while, for whatever reason, the land of wood and water has taken some time to officially acknowledge that fact, we salute her and say thank you for being one of the best firsts to grace this blessed land.

Elaine Thompson-Herah looks a woman who is back to her fabulous best.

There is something special about the first time.

The first time you saw your child walk or talk, first day of high school, first time you did something significant in sport from as small as the first match at any level all the way to a first World Cup, first century, first goal, first triple-double, first Gold medal for country.

No matter the level or scale, first times tend to be heartwarming and often unforgettable and not just for those achieving but equally for those witnessing it.

That is exactly how I feel about a Commonwealth Gold medal won by a Jamaican at the 2002 Games in Manchester, England.

Yes.

A commonwealth Gold medal.

It was won by Jamaica’s Claston Bernard in the Men’s Decathlon, making him the first Caribbean athlete to secure a medal in this event at the Commonwealth, World or Olympic level.

I was only 12 years old at the time and barely knew anything about the Games and it’s history but I vividly recall sportscasters and analysts discussing with shock that Bernard, a 23-year-old from St Elizabeth, Jamaica, was leading the Decathlon after day one.

Bernard had accumulated 4285 points on day one, almost 300 points clear of Scotland’s Jamie Quarry who had tallied 4015 points.

By the end of day two, shock had turned to celebration as sportscasters across various stations in Jamaica led with news that history had been created and the country had it’s first-ever Decathlon Gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games.

I myself beamed with pride and joy for a man I had never heard about before then, but one who was the country’s first.

By no means did Bernard hit his best performances in that competition. He ended up scoring 7830 points which was off his lifetime best of 8094 points set just over a month prior.

He also set just one personal best, 56.34 metres in the Javelin throw which all but secured victory.

However, at the time, I knew none of those details and to be honest, none of them mattered.

What mattered was that this former Munro College and Louisiana State University graduate had set a new standard and given hope to every young Jamaican and maybe even Caribbean athlete who might not be great at any one event but could deliver when 10 were combined.

Injuries hindered his overall development and he never quite hit the heights one would have hoped at the World Championship and Olympic levels but the foundation was set.

Since his triumph, the Caribbean has won three more medals in the Decathlon at the Commonwealth Games and one at the IAAF World Championships.

Maurice Smith, with a silver medal at Melbourne 2006, Grenada’s Kurt Felix with Bronze at Glasgow 2014 and his brother Lindon Victor with Gold at the 2018 Gold Coast Games are the English-speaking Caribbean athletes to have graced the Commonwealth Games medal podium since Bernard’s breakthrough.

Smith took an even bigger step when he became the first English-speaking Caribbean athlete to win a global medal in the event, silver at the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Osaka, Japan.

Smith, for sure, who eventually competed alongside Bernard must have gained some inspiration from his fellow Jamaican.

And while we remember and celebrate Maurice’s effort at the global level, we must never forget that Claston Bernard, on July 28, 2002, made a significant contribution by becoming Jamaica’s first and the first for the English-speaking Caribbean.

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.

There have been rumours that World Champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is no longer being coached by the MVP Track Club and the man who brought her to stardom, coach, Stephen Francis.

Jamaica’s Tajay Gayle, after winning the long jump at last year’s IAAF World Championships of Athletics, is now making a serious push at earning a spot at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan as a sprinter.

Gayle showed he was not joking when he said he might try the sprints when he turned up at the Milo Western Relays last week but could only manage a fifth-place finish in a race won by former World Record holder over 100 metres, Asafa Powell.

The placing and the time, 6.87 seconds, is not a deterrent to Gayle, as he went into the race without any significant expectations.

 “The time doesn’t really matter, I would have been satisfied with anything, even 7.0. I’m just here to get competition and experience in sprinting,” said Gayle in an interview with Jamaican Newspaper, The Gleaner.

According to Gayle, the idea that he could be making the Olympic team as both sprinter and long jumper is something that is the brainchild of his coach Paul Francis.

Francis is playing the situation by ear, saying sprinting is a part of jumping, so the process of racing would always have been included in his traditional training.

But he isn’t ruling out the possibility though.

“I can’t predict the future, we’re just trying our best to prepare him. And what will happen will happen at the Trials,” said Francis, coach at MVP Track Club and brother of the famous Stephen Francis.

Gayle though is already finding it difficult to straddle the two events, saying he hasn’t been able to work on certain technical issues like his start because he has had to focus on his jumping.

“Within technical sessions, I’m doing jumps while others are sprinting, so I don’t get the chance to work on it a lot,” he said.

Despite that, the World Champion believes his coach knows what he is capable of, even better than he does.

"If my coach says I can do it, I guess I can," he said.

Word coming out of the MVP Track Club is that Double Olympic sprint champion, Elaine Thompson Herah, will be on the track ready to defend her title in Tokyo, Japan.

Thompson Herah looked a certain possibility for a gold medal at last year’s IAAF World Championships of Athletics in Doha Qatar but inexplicably finished out of contention with countrywoman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce going on to win an unprecedented fourth 100-metre world title.

It was later explained, that an Achilles injury that had stymied too seasons for Thompson Herah, was back and the athlete was not able to generate the kinds of speeds that saw her win the National Championships in Kingston, Jamaica in a world-leading 10.72 seconds, or the Pan American Games gold medal in Lima, Peru.

At the time, Thompson Herah’s coach, Stephen Francis, had said while the Achilles problem was a recurrent one, on this occasion, it was caused by calf tightness and that she would get over it without surgery.

Thompson Herah still managed a fourth-place finish in Doha but had to pull out of the 200 metres, for which she had already made the semi-final. She would take no further part in the tournament.

According to MVP Track Club President, Bruce James, who spoke to local newspaper, The Gleaner, Thompson Herah is looking better than just injury-free.

“Elaine has returned to training and is looking set to be in fully fit form long before the Olympics in Tokyo,” said James.

How many races it will take Thompson Herah to get back to her best is yet to be ascertained but James is still of the belief that all will be well.

That’s not a decision that is made in January but we are just pleased to know that she’s in training and looking so good,” he said.

A motor vehicle accident in Florida last week has not slowed World Championship sprint relay gold medallist Jonielle Smith too much as the Jamaican is already back in training ahead of her bid to make the team to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

According to reports, the vehicle Smith was driving, was rear ended, causing a spin that led to a second collision.

Though the car was badly damaged, it was reported that neither Smith, nor the two family members she was travelling with, were badly injured.

Smith, a standout at high school for Wolmer’s Girls in Jamaica’s biggest track and field championships, ran the third leg on Jamaica’s gold medal 4x100-metre team at the IAAF World Championships of Athletics in Doha, Qatar last year and finished sixth in the 100-metre final there.

Smith also recently graduated from Auburn University where she also had a more-than-creditable time on the track.

Despite earning a historic World Championship silver medal and a World Athletics Diamond League win in 2019, Jamaican triple jumper Shanieka Ricketts will be tweaking her preparations for the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

According to Ricketts coach and husband, Kerry Lee Ricketts, Shanieka will be working on more technical advances to her jumping, which will mean she competes less ahead of the Olympics.

That method is in stark contrast to the way Ricketts approached last year when she had what has been her most successful season to date.

Ricketts competed in 15 meets last year but her coach says she won’t need as many this time around.

“We won’t need many meets. I think she will probably open at either the Jamaica [International] Invitational if it has a triple jump or the Racers Grand Prix,” said coach Ricketts.

Ricketts pointed out that last year, there was a lot of testing to see what worked and what didn’t.

Now that the testing is over, Ricketts says there is no need to jump as much.

“This year, it’s not so much testing, it’s more of preparation, so we’re just basically going to prepare, prepare, prepare,” he said.

Shanieka Ricketts has been hunting for marks over 15 metres, getting closer with her personal best 14.93 metres. To get there, her coach believes she needs to get her final phase right, something that while there has been improvement, accounting for consistently bigger jumps, she still hasn’t nailed down.

“We’ve been putting in a lot of work in the last phase and we haven’t gotten it yet and we still have some work to do,” said the coach.

“It’s a learning process where, you know, you learn A and then you move on to B. You can’t learn A and B at the same time,” he said.

Pioneering marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge and U.S. hurdler Dalilah Muhammad were named the world athletes of the year in track and field at a ceremony in Monaco on Saturday.

At the awards ceremony, Jamaican Brittany was presented with a plaque for breaking the World under-20 100-metre hurdles record.

Anderson, who won gold in the event at the 2017 World Under-18 Championships, twice broke the record at the Motonet Grand Prix in Joensuu, Finland on July 24.

The 18-year-old clocked 12.79 in her heat before winning the final in 12.71 seconds.  

Kipchoge was winning the award afer he became the first man to run a sub-two-hour marathon, though the feat wasn’t officially recognized as a world record. That’s because he ran on his own, with a rotating group of pacemakers and in strictly controlled conditions. Kipchoge’s only competitive race this year came when he won the London Marathon in April.

“I am happy to be the first human being to run under two hours. I hope that I inspired a lot of generations,” Kipchoge told the awards ceremony via video link.

Muhammad won world championship 400-metre hurdles in world record time. She earlier broke the record in July at the United States championships.

“It’s been an amazing year. I’m so thankful to be here,” she said.

Muhammad beat fellow nominees Brigid Kosgei, who broke the women’s marathon world record, Sifan Hassan, who won world gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres, and Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who claimed gold over the 100 metres at the World Championships.

The world 5,000-metre silver medalist Selemon Barega of Ethiopia was named male rising star of the year, while Ukrainian high jump silver medalist Yaroslava Mahuchikh was the female rising star. Anderson was also nominated in the category.

2008 Olympic sprint hurdles champion Dawn Harper-Nelson says she was once told that because of her skin colour she might not get the recognition her accolades deserved.

Injured Jamaican sprinter, double Olympic champion, Elaine Thompson will not know what her recovery will look like for another two weeks.

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