It was former US President Harry Truman who said: “In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”
Despite the enormous pride felt by the many medals won globally in recent times by Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price, Veronica Campbell-Brown and company, Jamaicans have often felt deep despair at the numerous imbroglios which seem to attend major meets.
This has led us to the view that the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), should learn this quote and try its best to live by it.
Jamaica’s youngsters performed very well with a best haul of 12 medals (four gold, five silver and three bronze, to be ranked second) at the recently concluded IAAF World Under 20 Championships in Tampere, Finland.
The medal tally would have given the impression that all was well in the camp and the JAAA did a magnificent job from start to finish, especially after young women’s phenom, the 16-year-old Briana Williams, copped the sprint double (100 and 200 meters) in sensational fashion.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
Reports emerged immediately after the team’s arrival that marquis athlete and captain Christopher Taylor was displeased with the fact that he was entered for the 400 meters instead of the 200 meters, an event he had highlighted from early in the year that he wanted to compete in at the meet.
Such was his conviction that he did not enter the event at the prestigious ISSA Boys’ and Girls’ Championships in March.
Such was his disgust that it was reported that he refused to speak with the Jamaican media, only forced to do so when he attended a mandatory press conference organized by the IAAF on the eve of the start of the Championships.
“I did not choose to run the 400, but it doesn’t matter which event I run, this is a decision that my country has made, so I am just going out there to represent to the best of my abilities,” the Jamaican Observer reported Taylor as saying.
The Jamaican star athlete, who contested the 400 meters against the seniors at the Jamaican National Championships, won the event in a personal best 44.88 seconds. However, Taylor had also won the 200 meters at the Jamaica International Invitational meet in 20.49 seconds to beat world-rated American Lashawn Merritt and South African Anaso Jobodwana.
At the end of the day Taylor won his heat, came from far behind to win his semi-finals, but went out fast and was caught and beaten in the final.
Short of race fitness
His reaction at the end of the semi-finals and his performance in the final suggested that he was short of race fitness for the 400 meters. In fact, he has complained after the semi-finals that he was suffering from the buildup of lactic acid in his legs.
In an effort to set the record straight on the controversy, JAAA President Dr. Warren Blake told the Jamaica Observer that the JAAA selection committee was not at fault for what happened to Taylor.
“For an athlete to run in an event, he has to compete in it at Trials. Chris Taylor competed in the senior event and his team requested for us to consider him for the 400m for the junior event.
“If you noticed, he was also down for the 200m (and) if you look back at the Trial start list, he was down to run the 200m at the championship and he did not run,” Dr. Blake said.
“So, with all of that, when it came to the selection committee meeting, the only thing we had before us is that Taylor ran in the 400m; no request, not anything about the 200m,” he added.
But I find that explanation spurious. And truth be told, I believe that it was a dereliction of duty by the JAAA, especially when there were many within the hierarchy of the JAAA who thought that Taylor’s status merited an automatic entry to the 200 meters, regardless of what he or his handlers might have said.
The IAAF World Under 20 Championships were not a school event where matters were to have been left up to the athlete or his handlers. In the best interest of Jamaica, the JAAA ought to have been exercising a “hands on” approach on all matters.