Sports officials urge nation to be patient with stars even if medals are not won
Local senior sports officials are urging Jamaicans to continue supporting the country’s track and field athletes even if they do not equal or better their exploits at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
The Beijing Olympics saw Jamaica taking home 11 medals – six gold, three silver and two bronze, including three world records and an Olympic record.
Usain Bolt won three gold medals in world record time, including with the men’s 4x100m relay team. Melaine Walker took the 400m hurdles title with an Olympic record.
However, according to G.C. Foster College principal Edward Shakes, Jamaica Netball Association President Marva Bernard and Jamaica Cricket Association secretary Fritz Harris, whose organisations send representatives to international competitions on a yearly basis, there are no guarantees in sports and, as such, athletes for one reason or another can fail to perform.
They said this, however, is no reason for persons to turn their backs on the athletes.
“We have to see our performance of four years ago in China as being extraordinary,” said Shakes, who joined Bernard and Harris as guests at a special Gleaner Editors’ Forum yesterday focusing on the role of sports in national development.
“It will, therefore, take a lot for us to repeat those efforts. For example, the country is expecting Bolt to defend his 100m, a feat which no other human has done, except for Carl Lewis, who was awarded the gold medal in 1988 after Ben Johnson tested positive for steroids,” said Shakes.
“We, therefore, should not put too much pressure on our athletes as, although some of them are great, they are humans.”
He added: “They are also young people and, as much as we would like them to, they may not be able to withstand the kind of expectations and pressure we put on them.”
Harris, who, along with the other participants in the forum, spoke on factors which have assisted, as well as plagued the development of sports in the country, shared Shake’s sentiments.
“Athletes will have their own challenges, some known, some unknown. It therefore means that we need to be patient with our athletes, and treat them well whether or not they achieve the milestones they did at the last Olympics,” he said.
Bernard, in the meantime, suggested the country should treat athletes as if they were their own children.
“I fear that if the athletes fall short of expectations, the country will come down on them hard,” she said.
“But I would like to encourage everybody that if our athletes take the field and fall short, treat them like your children, who have fallen short of expectations.”
The trio’s call comes months after a declaration at another Editors’ Forum by head of Jamaica’s delegation to the Olympics, Don Anderson, that the country should be guarded against expecting a repeat of the achievements at the 2008 Games. That declaration, made in May, was one Anderson repeated during a Kiwanis Club of Kingston luncheon two weeks ago.
“Immediately after Beijing, the United States regrouped and set up a committee and the objective, written or unwritten, is to undercut or to regain sprint dominance; take it back from Jamaica,” Anderson told The Gleaner at the luncheon.
“I believe we can repeat, but here we are four years down the road, and more than likely the same people that won medals for us are the ones who are going to run again,” he added.
The London Olympics will begin on July 27 and end August 12.