Daegu 2011 – a review
The World Championships in Athletics have come to a close and there are more questions than answers on the table. For several reasons this year’s edition of the mega sport event did not have the hype of previous years and there must be a reasonable explanation for this.
At the conclusion of the World Championships the world was forced to focus attention on some small countries in the Caribbean that forced themselves into people’s consciousness.
Several years ago a young man who actually started running late in life, Alleyne Francique, burst on the international scene by winning the World Indoor Athletics Championships. The victory gave the Spice Isle, Grenada, a very special place in global athletics history.
Francique’s successes however were limited to the Indoor competition, an area of the sport that despite efforts by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has not gained global recognition by mush of the fraternity.
Grenada nonetheless supported Francique and he gave his best Outdoor performance at the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, in 2004 when the entire nation expected him to mount the podium taking the small island of over 110,000 people onto another page in its glowing sporting history. Unfortunately, Francique managed a forth place in the finals of the 400m, much to the chagrin of the Grenadian community.
To another country having made the finals would have sufficed but the Grenadian sporting community makes heavy demands on its athletes, especially in athletics.
As Francique was leaving the international athletics scene however two young Grenadian athletes emerged on the scene – Rondell Bartholomew and a Kirani James. From the very beginning they both showed signs of being special. Bartholomew dominated his age groups in Carifta. However, it was significant that once Kirani came forward he achieved better performances than his older counterpart.
It became a common sight for their sojourn at the annual Carifta Games for them to win the respective 400m with James also winning the 200m. Together they demolished the Jamaicans as well as everyone else at Carifta.
While undoubtedly Bartholomew did much to keep the Grenadian flag flying James set the region and the world alight. In addition to winning Carifta Games 200m and 400m repeatedly, James also won the 400m at the Commonwealth Youth Games, the World Youth Championships, the World Junior Championships and earlier this year, the Pan American Junior Championships, making him the single most decorated Grenadian athlete in any sport.
Given his performances for the past several months the world knew that James would produce something special in Daegu at this year’s World Championships. They also knew that Bartholomew would be in contention. The dynamic duo delivered.
At the conclusion of the 400m in Daegu Grenada had not only created history by having been the smallest of the IAAF members to have two finalists in a 400m but copped the gold medal with an 18-year old and a sixth place as bonus.
The results could have been different had Bartholomew run his races with more tact. His first Heat did not require the sub 45 secs performance. He could not repeat the performance in the next two rounds of the competition. In stark contrast James ran well within himself, satisfied to do just what was required to win and move on to the next round, ambling along with 45secs+ in the Heat and semi final. In the final he served the sub 45secs necessary to win the title on the line in a driving finish from several metres back.
St Kitts and Nevis
Kim Collins placed St Kitts and Nevis on the regional athletics map when he slammed his opponents at the Central American and Caribbean in Guatemala several years ago. He made himself known at the global level when he made it to the final of the 100m at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia in 2000. He finished joint third at the World Championships in Edmonton, Canada in 2001 and copped the gold at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England, one year later.
In 2003, Kim Collins ran away with the gold medal at the World Championships in Paris, France.
At the time of his victory in Paris, Collins had the distinction of being the first gold medallist a country with a population of less than 50,000.
The commitment of the government of St Kitts and Nevis actually began under the Kennedy Simmons administration, which approved $1m ECD for the Athletics Federation to assist Collins and the other potential athletes in 1995, at the time of the Pan American Games in Mar del Plata, Argentina, and with the Atlanta Olympics scheduled for the following year.
The new administration of Denzil Douglas honoured the earlier Simmonds commitment and the sport received its due financial support.
Not surprisingly, following Collins’ achievements the government entered into an agreement with the Government of the Republic of Taiwan to construct the Silver Jubilee Stadium. St Kitts and Nevis is the only Caribbean country that has the distinction of a stadium fully committed to the sport of track and field athletics only. The management of the facility is shared between the governing body for the sport of athletics and the government of the country.
Kim Collins, considered by many to be a veteran, showed his class by returning to winners row at this year’s World Championships, copping bronze in the 100m and another bronze in the 4 x 100m relay, adding to the remarkable history of the small Caribbean nation.
Despite the achievements of James and Collins however the Caribbean and perhaps the World Championships in Daegu would be most remembered for the disappointing false start by Usain Bolt in the 100m final.
The debate would rage for many years as to why this happened and it is easy to say, to err is human. The problem is that over the past three years Bolt has performed well above the level expected of mere humans. His false start suddenly catapulted him back into the realm of global mortals.
After all of the hype for what many expected to be another very fast 100m to enhance his reputation as the fastest man of all time, Bolt’s surge from the blocks well ahead of the starter’s pistol left an entire stadium in the silence akin to a global disaster.
There was utter silence.
The impact was stunning.
The large, enthusiastic Jamaican presence at the arena in Daegu fell prey to a state of shock to such an extent that even after the final was run and another Jamaican, Yohan Blake, won the gold, they were incapable of celebrating. Even as Blake ran around for his congratulations he did not receive the adulation he deserved for serving up the victory of his life. The crowd remained is a state of dismay.
Blake’s success was one of the four gold medals won by Jamaica in what was a lack-lustre World Championships even by Jamaican standards. They also won the Men’s and Women’s 200m through Bolt and Veronica Campbell-Brown respectively and the 4 x 100m Relay for men in a new world record time.
Given the outstanding performances of the Jamaicans in Beijing and again in Berlin two years ago, the world of athletics expected much more by way of challenges from the Jamaicans.
Asafa Powell, though in Daegu, was deemed too ill to compete in the Championships.
Instead they suffered the ignominy of watching the 100m go the way of the Americans just as was the case with the Women’s 100mH and 400mH respectively. This time around they hardly proved as competitive as hitherto.
St Vincent and the Grenadines
Originally St Vincent and the Grenadine shad two athletes entered for the World Championships – Natasha Mayers and Courtney Williams.
Mayers had earned her place by virtue of having attained the B standard at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. No Vincentian male athlete had attained the established standards and the decision as taken to send one male athlete in accordance with the IAAF’s rules.
Unfortunately for Williams hurricane Irene did him a grave disservice and he never reached Daegu despite the very best efforts of the IAAF which had sent him his ticket.
In respect of Mayers, injury stepped in at the very last moment.
Approximately 15 minutes before her first Heat Mayers complained of intense pain at the back of her leg. When offered the services of the medical team from Trinidad and Tobago she indicated that she was fine and that the pain would soon go away. She administered Icy Hot on her self but to no avail. By the time she was called to the Call Room she could barely walk and it was too late to seek medical assistance. She had to be withdrawn from the event but only after entering the Call Room.
Personal coaches are the responsibility of the respective athletes and not of the national association. At this year’s Championships, many athletes brought along their personal coaches, some of whom were facilitated with accreditation that allowed them to stay with the teams while others were only allowed in the warm-up area.
Only Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Bahamas and Barbados, of the Caribbean countries could have afforded the cost of taking along full medical teams. It is customary for the rest of the region’s teams to engage these medical teams by way of regional cooperation or utilise the medical professionals offered by the host country.
One of the features of this year’s World Championships was the fact that only two world records were established.
There are some cynics who readily suggest that this had to do with the IAAF’s insistence one week prior to the arrival of athletes in Daegu that every participant must be subjected to a blood test. According to the IAAF the intention as to commence the establishment of an athlete’s database in respect of his/her profile. The organisation can then monitor change sin the athlete’s profile over time.
Of course the blood test would have revealed whether or not any of the participants were using prohibited substances.
Some argue therefore that everyone participating would have engaged in a concerted effort to be clean prior to the Games and during it as well since random samples were being taken from amongst athletes in competition in addition to all winners.
Given the previous trend of world records being established at World Championships as athletes strive to win bonuses, the Daegu event seem to reflect a significant reversal.
Several multiple medallist emerged from the championships, with Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot, who took top honors in the 5000 and 10,000m, the lone double champion.
Allyson Felix notched four medal finishes, a pair of golds in the Relays and individual silver (400m) and bronze (200m). Her compatriot Carmelita Jeter collected three, gold in the 100m, the 4x100m Relay, and silver in the 200m.
The United States led the team tally with 12 gold and 25 medals in all. Russia was next with nine gold and 19 total, followed by Kenya with seven gold and 17 in all. Jamaica will take home nine medals – four of those gold – while Germany and Great Britain & Northern Ireland each won seven medals apiece.
In all, athletes from 41 countries took home medals.