JA QUINELLA

Jamaica's gold rush on the Gold Coast finally under way

By Dwayne Richards
Observer writer

Wednesday, April 11, 2018



Gold Coast, Australia — The Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia is the first major athletics championships being contested by Jamaica since the retirement of Usain Bolt last year.

Many people have been anxious to see how the country's track and field programme would progress without the man who dominated the sport for virtually a decade. Heir-apparent to the legend, Yohan Blake, failed to win the 100m gold medal after entering the final as the heavy favourite on Monday night. He had to settle for the bronze medal after South African Akani Simbine won the race and his teammate Henricho Bruintjies finished second.

It was a huge let-down for Jamaica and their legion of fans worldwide, but it would only take 24 hours for the frowns to be turned upside down, as the sprint hurdles pair of Ronald Levy and Hansle Parchment took gold and silver in the final of the 110m hurdles on turn-around-Tuesday. This was the first final contested for the evening session of track and field and it would help set the tone for a wonderful night for the country.

Three Jamaicans, including schoolboy De'Jour Russell, faced the starter in the final of the 110m hurdles for Jamaica and in the end two stood on the podium,while the Jamaica National Anthem belted out in the cold night air inside the Carrara Stadium. It was the first time that the anthem was being played in that or any other venue at the Games, but it certainly would not be the last.

None of the Jamaicans got off to an extraordinary start, but it didn't take Parchment long to take control of the race. Levy hit hurdle one and trailed at the beginning, but despite hitting a second hurdle midway the race he managed to keep his focus and concentration as he bore down on Parchment, who continued to lead.

Parchment clipped the final hurdle and this provided a small window for Levy to slip right through on the sprint to the tape and edge out his teammate for the gold in 13.19 seconds. Parchment was left with silver after crossing the tape in 13.22 seconds, while Russell, who was representing Jamaica for the first time at the senior level, finished at the back of the pack in eighth place in a time of 13.92 seconds. Nicholas Hough of Australia finished third in a personal best 13.38secs.

Levy said he was fully focused on the race which led to his gold medal performance.

“Well, I hit the first hurdle, but I literally tried to remain focus, to not make anything throw me off and just continue to push through the race.”

The World Championships in London last year was a major disappointment in his first major games, but the 25-year-old said that London is already a thing of the past for him.

“It is okay. London disappointment was based on injuries, so I really didn't make that affect me very much. I just wanted to know that once I entered the championships injury-free, good things can be done.”

He was pleased with the country having three athletes in the final and believes that sprint hurdling in on the up in Jamaica.

“That's pretty awesome, we have several athletes that are running real fast, so it's a good look,” he suggested.

Levy believes that Jamaica is poised to explode in sprint hurdling.

“We can achieve great things, as I stated a while ago, we have very fast hurdlers, De'Jour, is pretty young; when I am retired he will still be running, so Jamaica sprint hurdlers are extremely good at the moment.”

He beamed with pride as the Jamaica National Anthem was played inside the stadium and is looking forward to making that happen more and more throughout the remainder of his career.

“That is a great feeling the first time...actually a great feeling and hopefully more to come.”

Despite finishing second, Parchment was in good spirits after the race.

“I don't feel too bad about my performance. I am little bit disappointed, but we are still early in the season. I think I could have executed a little bit better, but I'm giving thanks. I'm healthy, not feeling any pains, so that's the best thing,” he said.

His troublesome start was again a problem, but Parchment is convinced that that issue will soon be sorted out.

“My start was not so good, not as good as I would have liked, but I will get there.”

With the injury problems that he has had over the past few years, the Beijing World Championships silver medallist was grateful and happy to finish the race without any issues. He was unaware that he hit the 10th hurdle shortly before crossing the line.

“I don't even remember if I had hit the hurdle. Well I guess that hitting any hurdle will throw off anybody. I didn't realise that I hit it because I was trying to get to the line as fast as possible. But I'm thankful, I'm injury-free as I said, that's the best thing. I still have a lot to work on. I'm just going to take my time and get myself together.”

“It's always a pleasure representing (my country) and I know that everyone back home is very proud of me, you know especially now that I am competing and completing races. That's the best thing. I'm looking forward for the rest of the season.”

Parchment, like Levy, thinks that Jamaica is on the cusp of being the dominant force in sprint hurdling, especially with the country having three finalists, despite the absence of the reigning World and Olympic champion Omar McLeod.

“I'm very happy that we all went to the final. You know I would have hoped to take all the medals that would have been a joy. I think it would be the best, but I'm still happy. We have time and we are taking over hurdles little by little.”

The short sprints are overcrowded with athletes in Jamaica, and the 6'5” hurdler thinks that more and more youngsters are catching on to this fact and looking elsewhere in the sport, including his pet event.

“I think the younger guys are realising that not everyone can run the sprints — the 100m and 200m. We need some more athletes in the other events that are not so fully occupied. So I think they are seeing more and more that we can dominate in these other events and I think little by little we will take over,” he opined.

“We are gonna become a force when it comes on to hurdling in the very near future and I'm really looking forward to that!”

The female triple jumpers were able to feed off of the energy and performances of Levy and Parchment, which also lifted them to a one-two finish with Kimberly Williams winning gold and Shanieka Ricketts taking the silver.

Javon Francis then increased the Jamaican medal tally when he claimed bronze in the men's 400m final to close the show.

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