From a small island in the Caribbean surrounded by the Caribbean Sea shines a beacon of light illuminating the entire world by our island of Jamaica. From the late 40s, the island has been very successful in the area of athletics with their most gifted sprinters amassing a wide range of internationally recognized titles, which as eventually led to Jamaica being dubbed the “Sprint Capital” of the world.
Similarly, some of our first Jamaican pioneers in athletics who excelled internationally were Arthur Wint, Donald Quarrie, Herb Mckeneley, and so on. Wint and Mckeneley participated in Jamaica’s first appearance at an Olympic Games in 1948. They participated in several events, including the 400 meters and the 800 meters by Wint while Mckeneley participated in the 200 meters. However, it was Wint who won Jamaica’s first Olympic gold medal at these games, paving the way for future Jamaican athletes. Subsequently, after their performances at the Olympic Games, Jamaica was seen as a major contender in the world of athletics. As a result, over the years, Jamaica has produced many talented athletes who have excelled worldwide in various international competitions. This was especially true at the Olympic Games and, at the World Athletics Championships, thus giving the country a good reputation in the field of athletics, and it would be quite impossible to name all of them in any one piece.
Equally, the Jamaican female athletes have excelled in the field of Athletics, some of the early pioneers where Merlene Ottey, Grace Jackson, and Deon Hemmings. Merlene Ottey was affectionately called the “Bronze Queen” because of the many bronze medals that she won in international competitions. Nonetheless, it is important to note that Ottey was the first Jamaican female to win a medal at the Olympic Games. At the same time, Deon Hemmings was the first Jamaican female, from the English, speaking the Caribbean to win a gold medal at an Olympic Games. These females have set the framework for their current successors, which include Veronica Campbell- Brown and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce representing for woman power. Therefore it can be posited
that these male and female forerunners cemented the way for the current success, Jamaica is experiencing in sprinting.
In trying to explain the domination that Jamaica now has in athletics especially in the area of sprinting, many analyst have looked to the annual Boys and Girls High School Championships as a factor which influences this current success. These championships began in 1910 with only six schools participating initially, and now it has become a tradition for the majority of the Jamaican high school to take part in this event. This theory is true to some extent because “Champs” as it is affectionately called by Jamaicans is like a training ground grilling the students in various track and field events, preparing them mentally and psychologically for world-class competition. This theory seems to be plausible because many of Jamaica’s early successful athletes, such as Donald Quarrie and Merlene Ottey, started at the Boys and Girls High School Championships. Therefore it is no coincidence that Jamaica’s current successful athletes such as Usain Bolt, who is currently the fastest man in the world; Veronica Campbell-Brown, Yohan Blake, among others, also started at Champs.
The level of camaraderie between the schools at Champs is well celebrated; there is intense rivalry among fans with them parading various colors to signify which school they are
Supporting, thus, we see that it is against this backdrop that the majority of Jamaica’s athletes learn how to compete. Consequently, these, along with other factors including the development of training techniques has enabled the Jamaican athletes to do exceptionally well in athletics over the years in international competitions such as The World Athletics Championships and especially in the last two Olympic Games Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
In 2008 Jamaica had a record-breaking performance in Beijing where they got eleven medals, which included six gold medals. Usain Bolt, who is the World Record Holder, gained three of the six gold medals, while the other medals included three silver and two bronze medals. Just when we thought it could not get any better in 2012, the year of our fiftieth anniversary, our athletes successfully defended their titles, Usain Bolt in the 100 and 200 meters, and Shelly-Ann Fraser- Pryce in the 100 meters.
One of the most talked-about events was the 200 meters final, where Jamaica copped all three medals, with Usain Bolt getting the Gold, Yohan Blake getting the silver, and an up and coming Jamaican athlete Warren Wear getting the bronze. This is a feat that has only been done by the United States previously, and now our little island in the sun will go down in the record books. It is also important to note that it was in London that Jamaica made its first appearance at an Olympic Games; it is also where we have gotten our best medal tally ever 64 years later. At the closing of the 2012 Olympic Games, Jamaica had amassed twelve medals, including four gold medals, four silver medals and four bronze medals finishing third in athletics on the medal table.
We can see that Jamaica’s success in athletics and sprinting did not come suddenly, but it stems from a rich history over a span of many years. Pioneers such as Arthur Wint, Herb Mckeneley, Donald Quarrie, Merlene Ottey, and Deon Hemmings, to name a few, have passed on the baton to their current successors. Consequently, our present athletes use the development of technology and research along with their natural abilities to propel Jamaica’s sprinting legacy even further, hence we look forward to what the next fifty years will bring.