Ezekel Alan

This blog is about: cotton candy, cold milo, midgets, mangoes, sex, aged rum – everything but writing my next book

Archive for the tag “Yohan Blake”

The worst moment for the US in the 2012 Olympics?

I believe that the men’s 4×100 meters track race might have provided the US athletes with their worst moment in the 2012 Olympics. Let me tell you why.

What it meant

  • Jamaica had won the men and women’s 100 meter races, which are seen as the top athletic events at the Olympics. While Jamaica also swept the men’s 200 meter event, the USA took two of the medals, including gold, in the women’s 200 meters race. This placed the advantage in Jamaica’s court.
  • But the US stormed back by winning the women’s 4×400 in dominating style, and also took the 4×100 in a similar but world record-setting manner.
  • At this point, the bragging rights were approaching even because the US now had one of the only two World Records at the meet, and also had the only athlete with 3 gold medals – Alison Felix. They had also blown away our girls in the 4×100 and 4×400.
  • The 4×100 men was therefore a pivotal race, not only in terms of deciding bragging rights re the number of important track events won, but also in determining if Bolt would join Felix with 3 golds (if not Felix would take bragging rights given that she also had a world record). Then there is also the special significance of the 4×100 as the highly prestigious closing track event of the Olympics. The last race that people would remember. The 4×100 mattered, and quite a lot.
  • The fact that Jamaica won, Bolt got a third gold and a World Record, not only made Bolt the single most celebrated track athlete at the Olympics, but also gave Jamaica a decisive hold on the claim of being the most dominant country in the track events. But this isn’t all that makes that race so difficult for the US.

Bragging rights

After this victory, no one would speak of Felix being the dominant track athlete

How it happened

  • The defeat was made fifty times worse for the US because of how it was done. The US had an excellent game plan – start off extremely strong, execute baton change well, and give Bailey a lead to try to hold off Bolt. This lead was to come from Gatlin and Gaye.
  • Gaye was therefore a crucial part of the US strategy. Gaye, perhaps the most talented US athlete never to have won an Olympic medal, was hungry for that prize. He said it many times before the games. Having failed in the 100m final, this was his last opportunity for gold. The race mattered significantly, and his role in it was crucial. His job was to give Bailey a lead that he could use to fight off Bolt, give Gaye his gold, and swing the bragging rights pendulum firmly back to the US.
  • Gaye got the baton first and took off around the corner. I believe the single worst moment of his life, and for the US athletics team in London, is when he saw the gold jersey of the Jamaican Beast, Yohan Blake, pull up comfortably beside him. I cannot imagine anything more demotivating that the certainty of knowing that with Bolt about to receive the baton at the same time as Bailey any remote opportunity for an American gold medal had then completely vanished.

We are the people of legends – Usain Bolt Strikes Again!

Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser – worth their weight in gold

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY TO ALL JAMAICANS!!

There is no better Independence Day gift Jamaicans could have asked for than this – Shelly-Ann Fraser and Veronica destroying the field in the women’s 100m sprint, and Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake taking home gold and silver in the men’s 100 m.

Lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place, but both Bolt and Shelly-Ann came back to the Olympics stage and repeated the remarkable feat of retaining their 100 m titles. Moreover, Bolt set Olympic records on both occasions! Not only has he been able to convincingly demonstrate that he is the fastest man alive, but he has now confirmed his status as a legend and a fighter. Many persons, including yours truly, had doubts about his fitness and focus leading up the big event. But he proved that he had the spirit of a fighter in him! Beaten by Blake in both the 100m and 200m at the Jamaican national trials, we all worried that he might not have been at the peak of his performance. But he clearly went into serious training, locking himself away from the limelight and distractions of the media, and focusing on his game.  And what a Bolt it was that turned up for the show! Relaxed, confident, powerful – he got a decent start and by the 50m mark it was clear that he could not be beaten because he was level with the rest of the field and beginning to open up those famous 2 meter strides. This was certainly the most memorable 100m race I have ever seen – it was simply breathtaking!

From the videos I saw of Half Way Tree Road after the event, the impact of this victory on Jamaica is inestimable. It comes just in time for our Independence Celebrations. It comes with gold and silver. And it comes with a comprehensive whipping of our great 100m rivals, the Americans.

This matters so much to us as a people – Jamaica, the biggest small island. In spite of all our hardships, to see our athletes, men and women, go on a world stage, in the home of our former colonizer, and side-by-side with another giant super-power, and completely dominate. This is more than pride. This is what makes us Jamaicans – the knowledge that our size doesn’t matter, we are as good as or better than anyone from any other country. And it is not only in athletics – Jamaicans stand tall in virtually all fields of human endeavor. We are a special people, we are a proud people, we are the people from which legends are made! Bob Marley and Usain Bolt will forever be seen as two of the greatest legends of this century.

Marley performing at Dalymount Park

Bob Marley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jamaica – the tiny olympic sprint machine

Like all Jamaicans, I’ve also been glued to my television screen since the athletics part of the Olympics start. It’s not that I don’t watch the other events, but there is a special place in my heart for Athletics. Part of the problem is that I can’t watch badminton for 10 straight days, I feel something is wrong with that (when oh when will this constant badminton end?) I also feel that certain sports that already have globally prestigious championships shouldn’t be in the Olympics – I include in this list Football. What more does anyone need than the World Cup? I am happy for Serena Williams, but do we really need two Wimbledon finals almost back to back? And must we have the Tour de France and then watch almost the same riders hustling along another 240 kilometers of lush green countryside 1 week later?

The trampoline looks like it requires athleticism, but I get giddy if I try to watch all that spinning and turning for long. I am constantly expecting one of the athletes to go dizzy and faint or puke.

Beach football also seems to me something you play with friends and then drink beer and party after. I just can’t think of it as an Olympic sport. Worse Handball – it’s as though someone said, “since we have foot-ball we can have hand-ball,” and so it was. It all strikes me as a waste of time.

But that could just be because I am Jamaican as I said before, and I love to watch people running. There is something very exciting about this –  almost like bringing me back to my childhood watching cow thieves running from farmers, or gun-men running from police.

Our athletes have gotten off to an excellent start – Shelly-Ann taking gold in the 100m women, and Veronica coming in with the bronze. Like all true Jamaicans I want more. I am far from content with being a tiny island winning gold and bronze at the big Olympics. I want much more! Call it greed, call it ungratefulness, but my belly is not yet full.

Tonight the big men step out onto the track – Bolt, Blake, Powell. A part of me doesn’t care which of them wins as long as one of them wins, but a part of me is behind Bolt. Last night’s 1-3 results board didn’t look bad, but tonight I am hoping to see 1-2-3. Our women have done it before…

Could Jamaica win gold, silver and bronze in the men’s 100m in London?

English: Yohan Blake during 2011 World champio...

Yohan Blake  (Photo credit: Wikipedia). There is a reason he’s called the Beast!

There is some speculation that Jamaican men could win gold, silver and bronze in the Olympics. There is no doubt that we have the talent to do this – if you look at the number of times athletes have run below 9.85 seconds you will see that Jamaican athletes dominate, and the trio of Bolt, Blake, and Powell lead the field. (I also think it will take a sub-9.8o time to win, though London may be a tough environment for anyone to run these times.)

The 9.85s barrier

The question is therefore not whether we have the talent, but whether we are ready to perform in London. Leaving fitness aside, there are some factors for us to consider.

The first is what my old man used to say, “If you eat your money and fart, don’t expect any change.” I never understood half of the things my old man said because he was often smoking weed when he said it, but this one I understood.

We, as Jamaicans, have a tendency to waste what we have (eat our money) and still expect to have things left over (fart and expect change). This problem has dogged Jamaican athletes and musicians for years. They will hit upon success, spend all their money on the latest model cars, girls, clothes, houses, etc, help maintain all their 50 close followers (or ‘hangers-on’ as we call them), party ’till them drop every night, ‘splurt’ like crazy, etc, and then look surprised when they find that they have nothing left.

As Jamaicans we all know that the most chronic problem of our athletes and performers is mental discipline. Few of our ‘stars’ seem to be able to see success as a start and not as an end; few see fame as an opportunity that requires them to continue working hard, training hard, and staying focused on excelling. This has dogged our Reggae Boyz footballers for years – the sense of being too important to listen to anyone, too important to focus on getting the job done, too important to be disciplined by a manager.

It is, I think, also for this reason that many Jamaicans are concerned about Usain Bolt in particular. Bolt is a phenomenon, but he is also young, and perhaps doesn’t fully appreciate just how much his success is Jamaica’s success. Brand Jamaica is built on names – Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, Jimmy Cliff, the Bobsled team. For many of us it’s not just that we want a Jamaican to win the Olympics 100m, we want Bolt to win because of the effect on the brand. Bolt winning gives a collective lift to all our identities. Deon Hemmings might have been the first Jamaican woman to win gold at the Olympics, but when we tell people that we are from Jamaica no one asks, “Isn’t that where Deon Hemmings is from?” Sad, but true. This is the reality: Bolt has charisma and appeal, and he has built a brand that helps Jamaica.

Usain Bolt 03

Usain Bolt (Photo credit: pirano Bob R). In form, no one runs beside him.

Hence Bolt partying, Bolt crashing his BMW, Bolt buying a cheetah, Bolt staying out late at night, Bolt dating a white girl, etc seems to all of us as Bolt eating his money. It bothers us much more than the usual foolishness of the Reggae Boyz, whose momentary and flamboyant flirt with fame fizzled a long time ago.

We want Bolt to win. Plain and simple. And so we want Bolt to remain focused and disciplined, and we want him to train much harder than he parties. Some of us fear that he may be rusty.

Bolt

A rusty bolt (Photo credit: Mathew Knott)

Blake, on the other hand, seems to have a hunger; he’s still in the stage where he is reaching for fame. All of us will remember Bolt at that stage, the look on his face when he won gold in 2008, the concentration and training that went into seeking that big prize. I feel that Blake has had this hunger now for some time, while Bolt is trying to reconnect with it. You need that hunger to succeed, and you need to stay hungry if you want to continue to excel. Bolt has been eating, a lot, and doesn’t seem hungry. Blake looks hungry, and my fear has always been that he may feel so famished that he might do something foolish to win. (Many Jamaicans know what I mean.)

The conditions in London may also favor Blake – with a lower centre of gravity and an explosive start out of the blocks, he may be very hard for Bolt to catch in sub-ideal weather.

Asafa’s issues are well-known – the crude among us call it stage fright, the more sophisticated speak of lack of exposure, referring to the fact that he did not go through the Boys Champs process. His problem is not fame or lack of discipline, or hunger, it is anxiety and lack of self-confidence when the big moment comes. I think the critics have been correct on this score, but I also think this is an issue in the past for Asafa. He has been around long enough now, and performed at enough big meets, and endured the vicious tongue of Jamaicans for long enough to be ready. The issue for me is whether he is in top shape and feeling confident about himself. The last 2 races I saw he ran extremely well and nearly had Bolt at the line. If he were to get a similarly good start on Bolt, feel confident in himself, and run the sub-9.8 time that he is capable of, then look out!

But while our athletes may be their own biggest obstacle, we also have other challenges in this Olympics. The Americans are in form, and I suspect that Justlin Gatlin has been to see a voodoo man in Haiti – he too has a lean and hungry look, and the glint of medal in his eyes. Tyson Gaye also seems extremely focused. And there are others.

Anyway, here are my predictions for the final:

1. If security around our training camp is slack and our boys can slip out to party, then we will get bronze and nothing more.

2. If Asafa Powell is again in love with someone very attractive, and feels confident in himself, he may run hard enough to get silver; if he’s not in love then he’ll be 5th.

English: Asafa Powell after his 9.72 win and t...

Asafa Powell (Photo credit: Wikipedia) When he’s in love he can perform

3. If the final is run on a cold, bleak, dreary, typical London day, then we should be happy if the boys finish the race.

4. If there is some quarrel in the camp, and ‘bad-blood’ sets in, then silver is the best we can get. (And all hopes for the relay would be lost.)

5. If the boys are not given Jamaican porridge for breakfast, if there is no yam to be found in Brixton to make their lunch, and if there is no cold milo readily available, then Jehovah bless us! We are doomed!

If all is well – Bolt is not allowed to party, Powell is in love, Blake the Beast gets his 12 bananas with his breakfast, and our guardian midgets are merciful – then its 1-2-3. As for the order of that 1-2-3, I’d say Blake, Bolt, Powell.

So mi seh aya!

—-

Postscript:

Prof. Mary Hanna, foremost literary critic in Jamaica, has published a book in which she lists the 50 best Jamaican books to read for Jamaica’s 50th anniversary. She selected 16 works of fiction, and Disposable People is one of the 16! You can find her book, JAMAICA WRITES 50 Great Reads for Jamaica’s 50th, on Amazon.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: