What sport shall we devise
Here in this garden
To drive away
The heavy thought of care?
— Shakespeare, Richard 11, 111, 4
THAT sport shall be called the Olympics, a wonderful festival, a spectacle of sport that was devised by the ancient Greeks many centuries ago. If you think that the games are gruelling now, just think back to how it used to be back then, and to make it worse, the athletes performed stark naked and without the benefit of fancy track shoes.
But just like now, they ran, jumped, vaulted, wrestled and did not have the scientific luxury of stopwatches or electronic measuring devices to separate the close finishes. That did not take away from the spectacle, and the athletes then were perhaps as strong, if not stronger, than our modern day competitors.
Just an historical note, the marathon was not a part of the Olympics then, but was introduced in modern times in honour of the soldier, Pheidippides who ran all the way from the city of Marathon to Athens, 26 miles, to inform the people that Greece had won the war. He collapsed and died right after shouting 'victory'. Now they do it as a sport, and many do not complete the course; so gruelling it is.
Oh what an Olympics we've had, one that could be called the Jamaican Olympics, as we were the stars of the show. I'll give you my take on the games, right after these responses to 'Women love bad men'.
I just finished reading your column, as I came home late from hosting my daughter's wedding in Toronto last night. This is so timely in view of my daughter tying the knot to a good man... thank God. I am just glad that not all women love bad men.
It's all about safety, Teerob, especially with so many fatherless women. We will forever be searching for protection, even from the bad men.
Sometimes we find a good man who turns bad after a while, but at times we do find a bad man who turns good. Still, we are drawn to a little badness in the men that we seek, as too much goodness is a recipe for disaster. Like you said, no excitement, no history, no experience, no passion equals boredom. And who wants that? I want to be excited... even now and then.
In Olympia, Greece, the Olympic Games were held every four years, with the first Olympics being held in 776 BC, about 3,000 years ago. In the first 13 Olympic Games, there was only one event, the sprint of about 108 metres in length. Then later, pentathlon was added, discus, javelin, running and wrestling. After a while they added equestrian events which included chariot racing and riding.
Now they have so many events that it's nigh impossible to remember them all. But who cares? The ones that really count for us are those that Jamaicans are involved in. No wonder we call it Our Olympics. Yes, Jamaica has brought a colour and spectacle to the Olympics that no other country has.
But lest we forget, we did not suddenly burst on the scene with our current athletes. The groundwork was laid by many heroes of yesteryear, from way back in the 1950s when the pioneers Herb McKenley, Carl Rhoden, Arthur Wint, Leslie Laing won gold and silver in the Helsinki Olympics.
"Who are those Jamaicans, and why do they run so fast?" I will not attempt to list all the past greats who made our country a household name, but people like Dennis Johnson, who held and broke the 100 yards world record many times, George Kerr, Donald Quarrie, Lennox Miller, Merlene Ottey, Grace Jackson, Juliet Cuthbert, Deon Hemmings, David Weller who won bronze in Cycling, our only non-track medal to date, and many others who laid the foundation for our current athletes. They were the stars then, and they brought our country glory.
Fast-forward to Veronica Campbell Brown, who is perhaps our greatest female sprinter of all time, and Asafa Powell, who made the world stand up and take notice that Jamaicans could dominate the 100 meters.
Asafa held and broke the world record on numerous occasions, and still has the most sub-10 seconds in the history of track and field. And we loved him for his prowess. He made us proud for many years, let us never forget.
Fast-forward again to the recently concluded Olympics held in jolly old England. London was transformed into a sea of black, green, and gold, as the Jamaicans were the toast of the town. Everyone, even the Brits, sported our colours. England finally had a modern day king, in the person of Usain Bolt. And he ruled supreme.
But princess Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce proved that her reign in Beijing was no fluke, as she reclaimed her crown in London with a blistering run in the 100 meters, plus a gallant silver in the 200 meters, a race that Veronica dominated for two Olympics, but relinquished to the American Alyson Felix who finally won on her third try. Veronica was the previous back-to-back winner, and history will hail her as the greatest. All reigns must come to an end one day.
But it was the marquee event, the men's 100 meters, that had the world enthralled. Could Usain Bolt repeat his Beijing heroics and triumph again? He did 9.69 then. I stuck my neck out and wrote in my footnote weeks ago that he would do 9.48. He silenced the doubters by running 9.63, a new Olympic Record. Just in case you don't know, the difference between 9.63 and 9.58, which is Usain's fastest, is not that far off. The human eye cannot blink that fast, and that's a scientific fact.
Yohan Blake is good, very good, but Bolt is great. This fact was once again proven in the 200 meters, which is his pet event. Again, there was talk about a possible upset, and Blake would dethrone the king, but champions are special, and once again Bolt put paid to that argument with a blistering 19.32 after cruising the final five meters.
Yohan Blake was good once again, but Bolt was great... again. Young Warren Weir, in his first ever Olympics, came third, giving us a one, two, three, a kaleidoscope of black, green, and gold that not only brightened, but dazzled the cold grey of London. No wonder they called it Jamaica's Olympics, Our Olympics.
No one had ever successfully defended both the 100 meters and 200 meters titles in the history of the Olympics, much less doing it in style by leading the two other Jamaicans to the tape. It was sweet.
Weir's bronze medal was divine, as was Hansle Parchment's bronze in the 110 meters hurdles. No one saw it coming, and upon reflection, if he got a better start, who knows what colour medal he may have got?! Those two youngsters are ones to watch for the future.
Sport is glorious, sport is uncertain, sport is unpredictable, sport is victory and defeat, laughter and tears and knowing how to accept all when they come. Brigette Foster-Hylton, who has done so much for Jamaica and is the darling of the hurdles, didn't make it this time, but she has won on so many other occasions outside of the Olympics. She is a true champion.
Melaine Walker, defending 400 meter hurdles queen, also relinquished her crown, but she is still our heroine and is a true warrior. Every team in the Olympics had their fair share of misfortune, many defending champions did not triumph. It does not make them less great.
I listen to critics and I weep inside at how fickle and hard they can be on our heroes when they stumble and fall. Only people who did sports or knew adversity can appreciate what our athletes go through. To all you harsh uncaring critics, I openly invite you to my karate class to see if you can endure even 15 minutes.
I know that we have high standards and expect much of our athletes, and feel disappointed when they fall short, but they are only human, and humans have failings. So after the initial hurt of not seeing some of them triumph, we should remember that they wanted to do their best, and did, but just didn't triumph on that day. No one trains and sacrifices for years, then goes to the Olympics to fail.
Can you imagine, our ladies ran a national record, came second to the USA in the 4x100 relay and some people still cussed. As for Carl Lewis of the USA, who continues to verbally denigrate us, I hope that the vision of the women's 100 meters, the men's 100 meters, the men's 200 meters and the 4x100 world record relay is played over and over in his mind every night that he goes to sleep. Someone should lock him in a room and play the races over and over on a big screen for a month.
Our ladies looked like elegant women, all female, curves and all, and could model on any fashion show. We had the prettiest uniform said TIME magazine. Our youngsters are waiting in the wings, and our stars continue to shine brightly. We have the greatest coaches in Glen Mills and Stephen Francis.
We had a wonderful Olympics, we had a great Olympics, we showed the world once again that it was Our Olympics, capped by that blistering world record in the final sprint relay. What a wonderful gift on our 50th anniversary as a nation. What a two weeks, Olympics, Grand Gala... whew.
If some great writer had written a fictional book about a tiny country in the Caribbean Sea that produced the world's greatest sprinters for decades, male and female, plus one with the name of Bolt who defied the laws of science, people would scoff at that book as far-fetched. But truth is indeed stranger than fiction, and the facts are plain to see, and they are wonderful.
We must be proud, grateful and humble for having been born on this wonderful island. By the way, I do not believe in athletes switching allegiance and running for other countries. I'm amused to see jet black athletes competing for countries like Denmark, Africans running for England and such. You compete for where you were born, end of story. More time.
Footnote: Carmen Clarke, who was once Merlene Ottey's PR manager, sent me this quote that I have to share: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strikes valiantly; who errs and comes short again; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with the timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." — Theodore Roosevelt.