What Went Right for #TeamJamaica at the #London2017 World Champs

The 2017 World Championships in London, England, have finally come to an end, and not a moment too soon. To understate the obvious, things did not go well for Team Jamaica at this meet. At all. In fact, everything that could’ve gone wrong, did. Usain Bolt got injured in his very last race, after having to settle for bronze in his final individual outing. Elaine Thompson just wasn’t herself in the women’s 100m final and didn’t even medal. Another of our heroes, Novlene Williams-Mills, who is also hanging up her spikes, lost the chance to leave London with a medal as Anneisha McLaughlin-Whilby went down on the second leg of the women’s 4x400m relay, amidst news of a physical altercation between two teammates earlier in the day. At the bitter end, Jamaica finished with just four medals—one gold and three bronze, our second lowest total ever, last achieved in 1987.

There are just no words for how ‘salt’ this whole event has been. Nerves on the team and among concerned fans are frayed, and everyone is trying to figure out what was the catalyst for all of this ‘crosses.’ Whatever it was, I certainly hope things can be ironed out in time for the Commonwealth Games next year, as we have to get on with the business of rebuilding a formidable team.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to look among the wreckage for some good news, because a few things did go right. Here goes:

  1. Two words: Omar. McLeod. He took on the responsibility of providing a light for the team as spirits were low, and he did so in spectacular style. In winning the men’s 110m hurdles final, McLeod secured the only global title that had been missing from his collection—and Jamaica’s only gold medal at the meet. He also saw the need for another fast, steady and experienced presence in the 4x100m relay squad, and made himself available to fill the role. Many fans were prepared to hang him high in case anything went wrong, but he is no novice and more than proved himself with a brilliant opening leg. I daresay his spot as the designated starter has been secured. He has proven himself to be a leader and a warm, open personality, and I for one believe the mantle has unofficially been passed from Bolt to McLeod—in Biblical terms, he is the Elisha that we need now that Elijah has left the building.
  2. Ristananna Tracey makes good. It had looked sticky for the former Edwin Allen High School star, going up against defending champ Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic, and the American duo of Kori Carter and Dalilah Mohammad—Olympic champ and world leader. It would take a miracle—or a massive personal best—to wrest a medal away from these three. Well, this was the World Championships of upsets, and our Rista swept past Hejnova to convincingly take the bronze medal behind Carter. Her performance proved that she’s on the upswing, after making the finals at the Rio Olympics last year. Welcome back, Rista.
  3. Our throwers came to the fore in a major way. Fedrick Dacres and Traves Smikle both qualified for the men’s discus final. Dacres narrowly missed out on the podium, finishing fourth, and his teammate took the eighth position. It’s been a tough couple of years for Smikle, and this result should motivate him to keep pushing. On the women’s side, Danniel Thomas-Dodd created history as she became the first Jamaican woman to qualify for the shotput final. She not only made the final, but put up a valiant fight. It was heartbreaking to watch the bronze medal slip away on the very last throw as Hungarian Anita Márton’s massive put pushed her down to fourth. She’s certainly a brilliant prospect for the future.
  4. Our distance runners gave their all. Kemoy Campbell also created history, overcoming an Achilles injury just a few weeks ago to become the first Jamaican to qualify for a 5000m final. He proved he could hang with the big guns and finished a respectable 10th. Aisha Praught qualified for the 3000m steeplechase final with the fourth fastest time, and looked set to challenge for what would’ve been a historic medal. She suffered a major foot injury in that race, but showed up like a true warrior on finals day, giving it her all, despite the severe pain. Unfortunately, she finished at the back of the field before being disqualified. Much respect to these two trailblazers, who are working hard to prove that Jamaicans can go the distance.

I want to close by saying thank you to all our athletes, every single one. Thank you for working hard and making the sacrifices to represent our little country on the world stage. It’s not easy, and we know it. Things didn’t go as well as we’d have wanted, but brush yourselves off, get some rest as the season winds down, and come back refreshed and ready to take on the 2018 season.

Tracey-Ann Wisdom is a freelance writer and editor based in Kingston, Jamaica. You can find her online at www.writtenbytracey.com.