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Jamaica fails to fill the void left by Usain Bolt, US capitalises

Once a powerhouse at sprints, Jamaica seems to have lost the crown to the USA after Usain Bolt retired from the sport

World record holding 4*100m Jamaican relay team

World record-holding 4*100m Jamaican relay team


Naveed Mohammed

Updated: 30 Jun 2021 1:21 PM GMT

'Look out for those Jamaican Boys; they are fast,' used to be a common phrase amongst short distance Athletics Coaches across the world. Jamaica, the tiny nation in the Caribbean, is a factory known to produce some of the World Class sprinters ever. None mightier than the fastest man in the World, Usain Bolt. Jamaica's utter domination in the last three Olympics is a sight to behold. When we look at the Sprint races in the Olympics for Men, the 100m, 200m, and the 4*100m relay, out of the nine possible Gold medals for 2008, 2012, and 2016 Jamaicans have eight. Of the eight medals, Usain Bolt's contributed to six Golds individually and ran the crucial anchor leg in relays to bag the other two. This golden period for Jamaica also had Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell, the second and fourth fastest men of all time.

The USA was usually left to collect the non-yellow medals due to the sheer Jamaican domination despite producing some quality sprinters. Sprinters like Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin came close but could not pass the hurdle called Bolt. So how does Jamaica, with a population of just 2.97 million, create such quality sprinters? Bolt says it the unique sporting culture of the island nation, where annual school Athletics competition, called, 'Champs.' fills the stadiums and gets televised.

These Junior times are often better than the National timings of many countries. Despite having a great system to mould future Super Stars, Jamaica might have, in hindsight, dropped the ball filling the void left by Usain Bolt. The cracks started to appear in Bolt's final race at the 2017 World Athletics Championship, where Justin Gatlin provided an anti-climax by speeding past Bolt to the Gold. Bolt finished third behind Gatlin and Christian Coleman in his swansong race. Christian Coleman carried the US baton into the 2019 Doha Athletics World Championship, where he grabbed the Gold authoritatively in 100m, and the 200m title went to Noah Lyles.

Jamaica did not get a single medal in men's 100m, 200m, and 4*100m relays at the Doha Championships, indicating that the sprint winds now flare the US sails. The situation in 2021 looks even worse, with only one Jamaican, Yohan Blake, in the best 20 100m timings for the year, while the US swept the top 8 timings of 2021. In addition, only one Jamaican has broken the 10s barrier for 100m in 2021, whereas five Americans ran sub-10s just in the US Olympic trial finals.

Yohan Blake, looking to make a comeback, will have to climb an arduous mountain of US sprinters in Trayvon Bromell, Ronnie Baker, and Fred Kerley. Christian Coleman had established himself as the favourite after his performance at the 2019 World Championship but is currently serving a ban over missed drug tests and will not feature at the Tokyo Olympics.

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