Jamaicans: Show Dem Love, Mon!!!!

By Chris Murray
Updated: August 28, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — Now that the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing are now a memory, you will read and hear in all the Olympic post-mortems of the disappointing performances of the U.S. men’s and women’s track and field teams in the sprint events.

It seems that everybody from journalists to officials from USA Track and Field are up in arms of Team USA’s inability to beat the Jamaicans in both the men’s and women’s 100 and 200 meter dashes as well as the 4×100-meter relays as both American teams dropped the baton.

It was like the men’s basketball team four years ago when they brought home the bronze medal we all thought it was some sort of national disaster. If Team USA doesn’t win every year, there’s something wrong.

A couple things bother me about all this fuss we’re making over Team USA’s performance on the track. No. 1 — all the media outlets throughout are erroneously reporting that this is the first time the U.S. has been shut out in the sprint events in the modern history of the games.

Excuse me, but the last time I checked, the 400-meters along with the 4×400-meter relay, the 400-meter hurdles and the 110-meter hurdles ARE sprint events. On the men’s side — Uncle Sam swept both the 400-meter dash and the 400-meter hurdles.

The fellas won the 4×400, got second and third place finishes in 110-meter hurdles. That’s not half bad, but you know how we Americans feel if we don’t win everything, it’s disappointing.

Give me a break.

On the women’s side, Sanya Richards, a Jamaican by birth by the way, and company won the by 4×400-meter relay, the women also picked up a win in 100-meter hurdles with Dawn Harper.

The women also picked up silver medals in the 200 and 400-meter dashes. It wasn’t as good as it should have been, but it wasn’t a total loss either.

No. 2 for all the fuss over what the U.S. team didn’t do how about the giving the Jamaicans credit for what they did do. They went out there and won. As U.S. sprinter Lauryn Williams said, the Jamaicans, our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, brought their “A” game.

The Jamaicans are definitely feeling “Irie” because of what they did on the track and deservedly so. Somewhere Donald Quarrie, gold medalist in the 200-meters in 1976 and Merlene Ottey, a winner of a record eight Olympic medals, are brimming with pride for their younger countrymen and women.

Usain Bolt’s triple world-record performance in the 100-meter, 200-meter dash and the 4×100 meter relay as well as the women’s medal sweep of the 100-meters, their gold medals wins in the 200-meter dash and the 400-meter hurdles were the results of their outstanding youth and high school programs.

It goes to show you that hard work really does have its rewards. It was inevitable that the Jamaicans would come away the performance that they did in the Beijing Olympics.

You see them every year in Philadelphia at the Penn Relays. Schools like Vere Technical, St. Jago, Holmwood, Camperdown and Wolmer High School for Girls — that gave us gold-medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser — have beaten American high school teams over the years in the High School Championship of America in the 4×100 and the 4×400.

Bolt ran at the Penn Relays for William Knipp High School in 2004.

American colleges and universities routinely go down to Jamaica to recruit their track and field athletes. In some cases, those Jamaican athletes have helped American college teams win national championships.

During my days as a reporter covering high school track in Maryland, some of the best sprinters were the sons and daughters of Jamaican immigrants.

What happened at the Olympics was really a coming out party for Jamaica to show the world the strength of their track programs. From what I understand and what I have observed, the Jamaicans take track and file as seriously as we take basketball here in the States.

The irony is that Jamaica doesn’t have all the top-notch facilities that we have in the States. Shelly-Ann Fraser began her track career in primary school running barefoot.

No, the U.S. Track and Field team’s performance at the 2008 Olympics is not because of any decline in the American sprint program.. It wasn’t because the U.S. lost, it was because the Jamaicans won.

So please spare me the USA always has to win arrogance and just work hard to do better at the 2012 Olympics in London. For now, give the island that blessed us with Bob Marley some credit for what they did on the track.