Like every other Jamaican here in London and, as I
else except team officials, I was shocked on learning that Jermaine Gonzales was selected on the country's 4x400 metres relay team.
It is hard for me to accept the weak explanations provided by our team officials following the elimination of our team because it did not finish the race.
When Gonzales took the baton on the second leg I just waited to see how long before he would pull up. After all, he had said himself after
race the decision were left to him he would not run in the relays. It was certainly apparent then to anyone with an interest in the team that all was not well with the big Jamaican. We didn't have to wait long. To me it seemed he sprinted for no more than 50 metres before pulling up.
After seeing the form he was in on his first appearance I had accepted that Jamaica had a slim to no chance of medalling in the 4x4. But I began to allow some hope to creep back in when I took another look at the team and saw that it was strengthened somewhat by the inclusion of the very promising Errol Nolan.
Nolan had previously represented the US, the country of his birth, with some degree of success. He chose to switch allegiance and represent the country of his paternal roots. Given the conditions, one also wonders why he would not have been included in the individual race.
When we tried to get his reaction to the developments on the track Thursday morning, he was stoically supportive of Gonzales and the team, stating that Gonzales' intentions were laudable, that he had tried to serve his country despite carrying an injury. I am wondering if he was being truly forthcoming. Does he now regret his decision to run for Jamaica instead of the US? His response is the negative and says that time is on his side for at least another Olympics. We should all wish him well, as we all know that time can sometimes be very unkind and we never know what lies ahead four years hence.
It had seemed obvious to most everyone else except, it would seem, our team officials, that Gonzales was not fit enough to run as this was the most likely explanation for his dismal performance in the 400 metres. The officials now claim that he had exaggerated his injury in comments he made to the press subsequent to that race. But I am yet to learn whether he was checked out by the doctor in charge, to make sure one way or the other. Baton change practice alone would not have cut it, in my opinion.
Following my story last week questioning his presence on the team, I saw where ‘Gonz’ defended the decision to be in London claiming that he had earned that right.
Seems to me that the JOA still has not determined a clear position on taking injured athletes or how else could so many be on our team here who we belatedly learnt are unfit for competition. Gonzales was identified in the story I wrote last week, but I subsequently learnt from my colleagues here that there are others, especially in the 400 metres pool.
The tragedy is that there are others in the pool who are fit and certainly could not perform any worse than the injured ones.
The other tragedy is that our chance of advancing to the final was almost guaranteed had we run a team of fit athletes. Besides, even without Gonzales’ 400 metres pedigree, we still had an outside chance of medalling.
The technical leader Don Quarrie, who I know well and trust, has said that he never knew Gonzales was injured. I believe him. But what I can't accept is that all the officials closed their eyes to the several warning signs that flashed before Thursday signalling that all was not well with the athlete and never formulated a 'B' option. Will we ever get the full story? I hope so.