Anderson Peters, the 2019 World javelin champion, is thankful that the Olympics were postponed from 2020 because of the pandemic as it means he now has a legitimate shot at winning a medal, perhaps gold, when the Games convene in Tokyo, Japan this coming summer.

Steven Gardiner became one of the fastest men in history when he won the gold medal in the 400m at the World Championships in Doha last year. The 25-year-old Bahamian crossed the finish line in 43.48s, the sixth-fastest time ever run over the distance.

But while he dreams of one day breaking Wayde van Niekerk’s four-year-old world record of 43.03, he would prefer for it to come as a surprise.

“I would say that is everybody’s dream! If I do set the world record, I want it to be a surprise,” Gardiner said in a recent interview with World Athletics.

“I just want to go out, compete and then when I look at the clock, find that I’ve set a world record.”

The soft-spoken Bahamian harbours hope to have a good year competing in 2021 culminating with another gold medal in Tokyo.

“I just want to compete the best I can and leave with a medal, specifically the gold medal. I know what I have to do. For the season, I’d like to run a few PBs and then win an Olympic medal,” he said.

With most of the major meets cancelled or postponed during 2020, Gardiner said he spent much of the time focused on improving his speed, a potentially critical element in any attempt at a world record.

“Many things were the same, although my coach, Gary Evans, introduced a lot more speed work. It was fun and it really paid off,” he said.

“I had a lot of fun. During the pandemic, we decided to focus on the shorter sprints and leave competing again in the 400m to 2021.”

 

 

Readers of the world renowned athletics magazine, Athletics Weekly, have selected Usain Bolt as the greatest athlete of the past 75 years. They placed Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce third among the women.

I recently had a rather eye-opening conversation with an 18-year old about one of Jamaica’s greatest ever female sprinters Merlene Joyce Ottey.

I would say this young man has a strong working knowledge of sports but especially of Jamaican athletes and their accomplishments.

It, therefore, struck me by surprise when the name Merlene Ottey did not resonate with him, certainly not in the way I would have expected.

It isn’t that he hadn’t heard the name before but the significance of it did not immediately dawn on him, not in the way speaking of a modern star like Usain Bolt or Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce would.  Sadly, I find this of most I speak to from the younger generation.

I will admit when Ottey was in her prime his generation would not have been born but to me, she is such a legendary figure that her legacy of placing Jamaica and the English-speaking Caribbean on the female track and field map must never be forgotten.

And so, I took the opportunity to educate this youngster about Ottey and her stunning career, from becoming the first English-speaking Caribbean female to win an Olympic medal in 1980, to her switch to and subsequent major appearances for Slovenia post the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

I especially focused on some narrow misses for World and Olympic 100 metres gold at the 1993 Stuttgart World Championships and the 1996 Olympics, on both occasions narrowly, and some would say controversially, losing to American Gail Devers.

This young man seemed in awe, as he should be.

“She was cute too,” he said as he watched the 1993 IAAF World Championship 200 metres final when she finally won a global outdoor gold medal.

So many youngsters are unaware of the history and believe Jamaica’s track and field success started at the Beijing Games with Bolt and company.

But since 1948, the world has respected what we have offered in the global track and field space and for 20 years 1980-2000, Ottey stood front and centre as the leading figure not only but especially for women in the English-speaking Caribbean.  

She won nine Olympic medals, including 7 in individual events, the most by any woman in track and field.

She backed that up with 14 World Outdoor medals and 7 World Indoor medals and she still holds the 200m world indoor record at 21.87 seconds.

Just this week, Ottey was again recognised at the National Honours and Awards ceremony on Heroes’ Day, receiving the country’s fourth highest honour, The Order of Jamaica.

This is a well-deserved and timely reminder of the greatness of the woman.

She was dubbed “Bronze Queen” as 15 of her 30 global medals, indoors and out, were of that variety.  She had many narrow misses for gold but Merlene Ottey’s impact in inspiring generations of Caribbean female sprinters is worth honouring and celebrating even to this day.

So, this is in honour of Merlene Ottey.

May we never forget her impact on Jamaica, the Caribbean, and indeed global track and field.  

World 400 metres champion Salwa Eid Naser has had anti-doping violation charges dismissed by a World Athletics tribunal.

The 22-year-old, who won gold in Doha last year with the third-fastest time in history of 48.14 seconds, was provisionally suspended in June after being charged with four whereabouts violations.

She was charged with a filing failure dated to March 16 last year, effective of January 1, and three missed tests on March 12, 2019, April 12, 2019 and January 24, 2020.

Naser admitted to missing three drug tests but insisted it was "normal" and "can happen to anybody" and made it clear she has "never been a cheat".

One of the four charges was dismissed because the doping control officer, confused by the numbering of the apartments where Naser lives, accidentally knocked on a storage-room door rather than her residence.

World Athletics said "it would be wrong to be critical" of the official as he "committed to do everything possible to locate and test the athlete", including returning to the address later that day before seeing if she was present at the Bahraini National Stadium.

Because the other missed tests were not within a 12-month period, Naser has not violated anti-doping rules.

However, in its ruling, the tribunal warned Naser that her missed test in January 2020 still stands against her and strongly advised that she seeks advice in using the Anti-Doping Administration & Management System (ADAMS) to prevent future complications.

"This was a case very much on the borderline, and we hope the athlete will learn from the experience and heed the AIU's warnings," the tribunal said.

The AIU has 30 days in which to appeal against the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

There are many famous quotes that talk about the inevitability of change. 

They all say, “change is inevitable” and I agree. 

After all, in this fast-paced world, things are constantly developing, constant changes in technology means we are always having to adjust to keep pace with a rapidly evolving world.  

Those who can adapt are often more likely to succeed while those who can’t often get left behind. 

In my own field, the advent of social media and the tools that assist with easy dissemination of information have meant a change in attitude and approach to how content is created for traditional media. 

But in my field and many others, there are people who constantly resist change for whatever reason. 

I must admit, change isn’t always good and so it can sometimes be difficult to determine when change is necessary as opposed to when to maintain the status quo. 

In sports, many athletes are faced with this dilemma. As a teenager, which sport should I focus on? I think I could be world-class at a couple and then at the highest level what’s my best position or what is my best event? Those are questions many athletes constantly ask themselves. 

The answers are never easy to find and that is exactly why when an athlete makes drastic career alterations and still finds more success they should be lauded. 

I think about former Jamaican hurdler Danny McFarlane, the 2004 Olympic 400 metre hurdles silver medallist.  

Before Danny was a hurdler, he was a more than competent flat 400 metres athlete. 

By the time he ran his first ever race over 400m hurdles, in April of 2003, Danny was already an Olympic 400 metres finalist, an Olympic mile relay silver medallist, four times an IAAF World Championship mile relay silver medallist, an IAAF World Indoor mile relay champion and also 400 metres bronze medallist. 

To say he had carved out a solid career is an understatement. 

But clearly Danny felt he could have achieved more from the sport of track and field. However, his personal best at 400 metres was 44.90 seconds, set in 1995. 

If he wasn’t going to run much faster, which was unlikely at 31 years old when he changed events, then it’s unlikely he would have done much more than appear on a few Jamaican relay teams. 

So, he took the bold step despite little to no hurdling experience. 

I won’t chart the race by race improvements he made between April 2003 and his Olympic silver medal performance at the Athens Games in 2004 but I will say his rise was meteoric. 

In his first year of contesting the event, he won the Jamaican title, improved to 48.30 seconds, and finished fourth at the World Championships in Paris France. 

And so, it wasn’t a massive surprise that he was a contender when the Olympic Games rolled around in 2004. 

With eventual champion Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic and American James Carter favored to battle for Gold, many felt McFarlane was running for bronze. 

But the 32-year-old timed it perfectly, running a personal best 48.00 seconds to win his semi-final and when Carter blew up down the stretch in the final, McFarlane pounced and captured a deserved silver. 

My recollection of Caribbean voice Lance Whittaker, “and McFarlane looks as if he will get silver – and he does,” as his voice raised almost in shock.   

One thing we all remember from that Danny McFarlane performance is that it was far from perfect. 

His 400 metre hurdles journey from 2003 to the point of his retirement as a 40-year-old in 2012 was characterized by less than perfect hurdling. 

While he improved over time, for the most part, his hurdling could be described as jumping. 

But he jumped his way into the hearts of Jamaicans who adored him because of his willingness to try something new, to embrace change, to fight, and when technique failed to turn to heart. 

For all that and more, Danny McFarlane isn’t just a lesson for 2004 but a lesson for life. 

Danny isn’t just a lesson for track and field or just for sport but a lesson for all endeavors.  Danny, we salute you and say thank you for teaching us all a valuable lesson.  

 

Reigning Olympic sprint double champion, Elaine Thompson-Herah, insists a recent battle with injury and past major games disappointment has only served to strengthen her resolve and determination.

The 28-year-old runner was the toast of the Rio Olympics in 2016 after smashing the competition by speeding to blazing wins in the 100m and 200m sprints. It seemed the Jamaican was only destined for major success from there on in, but things have not quite unfolded in that manner. Just one year later, despite heading into the World Championship 100m final with the fastest time in the world that season, 10.71, Thompson-Herah finished a disappointing fifth place.

Two years later, at the 2019 edition of the World Championship, she was again at the top of the world charts, tied with a season-best 10.73 with teammate Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. However, while Fraser-Pryce went on to excel with a gold medal-winning 10.71, Thompson-Herah finished fourth in  10.93. The athlete has also in-between struggled with an Achilles injury, which has affected her explosiveness and comfort on the track.

“Sometimes it may be a little bit stressing to be a top athlete facing all these obstacles,” Thompson-Herah told the Olympic Channel.

“You can’t produce the times that you normally produce, and you may not be able to get a medal at a championship. Sometimes you sit and you wonder, why me? Or why is this happening,” she added.

“Disappointments do come, but as I said, I have to continue to work hard because I didn’t go to a championship to lose, it was just beyond my control. We just have to use those disappointments to motivate. And that’s key. Disappointment makes you better and stronger.”

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 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.

Jonielle Smith, the 2019 World Championship relay gold medallist underwent successful surgery Friday to repair a herniated disc that has been an issue for her since late December 2019 when she was involved in a motor vehicle accident.

This according to MVP International on its website today.

Since then, the 2018 CAC champion has been suffering from back pain, which was addressed Friday. Doctors expect her to make a full recovery in about four weeks and are optimistic about her return for the 2021 season.

The athlete is said to be in good spirits.

Smith was sixth in the 100m final in Doha in 2019 after being called in as a replacement for Briana Williams.

Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser has retained the services of Trinidadian attorneys and barristers Dr Emir Crowne and Matthew Gayle, who will be her representatives in upcoming anti-doping proceedings for whereabouts violations before an Independent Disciplinary Tribunal.

World 400m champion Salwa Eid Naser insisted she has "never been a cheat" after being provisionally suspended, describing her three missed doping tests in a 12-month span as "normal".

Naser was charged with whereabouts failures in a statement released by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) this week.

Nigerian by birth, Naser switched allegiance to Bahrain six years ago and won 400m gold in 48.14 seconds – the third-fastest time ever – at the World Championships in Doha back in October.

Speaking on an Instagram Live video, the 22-year-old said: "I've never been a cheat. I will never be.

"I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don't want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.

"This year I have not been drug tested. We are still talking about the ones of last season before the World Championships.

"Hopefully, it'll get resolved because I don't really like the image, but it has happened. It's going to be fine. It's very hard to have this little stain on my name.

"I would never take performance-enhancing drugs. I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent."

World Athletics rules stipulate that athletes will be guilty of a violation if they have a combination of three missed tests or filing failures across a 12-month period.

Athletes face up to a two-year ban for whereabouts violations.

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 2021 World Athletics Championships have been moved back to 2022 to accommodate the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games, governing body World Athletics has confirmed.

Last month, the International Olympic Committee elected to move Tokyo 2020 back 12 months in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

That announcement was made possible after World Athletics confirmed its willingness to move its own event and the championships originally slated for August 6-15 next year will now take place between July 15-24 next year, with Oregon still the location.

The new date has been selected so as not to clash with the Commonwealth Games and European Championships, with World Athletics president Sebastian Coe enthused by the exposure that will be generated for athletics during six weeks of back-to-back international competitions.

"This will be a bonanza for athletics fans around the world," he said in a statement.

"They will be treated to six weeks of absolutely first-class athletics. 

"More than 70 of our member federations are part of the Commonwealth and more than 50 of our member federations are European so our guiding principle in rescheduling the World Championships was to ensure enough space was created around the centrepiece World Athletics Championship for athletes to choose other major events to compete in.

"We were also very mindful that we did not want to damage the other major championships in 2022, because they are also very important to our sport."

World Athletics has named Cuba’s Ana Quirot winning gold medals at the 1995 and 1997 World Championships, among 10 of the greatest athletics moments of triumph over adversity.

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