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REFLECTIONS OF RIO…!

CaribZone Commentary: Aubrey Campbell –Wednesday, August 24th

Another day above ground, folks, and giving thanks to God, the Almighty Father, for waking mercies and blessings of the day.

You know I get drunk easily when it comes to track & field athletics, but I’m no fool and will not be fooled. Think ….Tom drunk but Tom nuh fool..! Saying that to say that, I’m still in a Rio frame of mind, I’m a jungle-ist, if you please!

Good to see that the wheel of justice is turning as fast as how that ungrateful bastard of a swimmer, Ryan Lochte, won those medals in the pool. The USOC can continue to treat him with kids gloves because of any privileges, white or white (sic), real or imagined!

‘Double standard pon top a hypocrisy! Speedo and a few other companies know a criminal when they see one and have acted accordingly. ‘Dun di bwoy, A dat mi sey from lang time, brethren! He has now become toxic for your brand and sports, in general!

The USOC has a full plate going forward, including how to fix a badly broken department in the men’s sprint relay that has not delivered since 2000.

Not far away is Jamaica, a little country that is causing a big commotion, anytime the two line up in the same race! Reading the initial assessment from the team’s technical director, Maurice Wilson, I am a bit concerned about Jamaica’s immediate future in the sport and I know where he is coming from.

It’s a hydra-headed monster of a problem. You chop one piece off and it regenerates immediately, some place else. Big problem! And that means the JAAA needs to do more in terms of aligning the technical aspects of the program with the abundance of talent that is available. It seems to me that team selection cost Jamaica the gold medal in the women’s sprint relay.

Let me be clear and quick. I have never seen four women run so scared in a relay, like their lives and country depended on it, and running from lane 1, at that?

That is revenge and redemption, beautifully blended in, brethren!

USA and Jamaica left Rio with gold medals and memories by the score, but left behind, a Rio, a Brazil and a population in the world’s fifth largest land mass, that was brought back to reality in less than sixty seconds after the Games ended, a reality that goes to the very top of government and the likely impeachment of its female president.

While that political potpourri plays out, the post mortems will be conducted for quite some time, not unlike the ones dogging the People’s National Party of Jamaica since the polls closed on the fateful night of February 25, this year!

Rio managed a clean hand-off to Tokyo, something the US men did not, but the next leg will take four years to run and that’s a long time in any sport. It’s like a generation!

So after Rio, what’s next? Here then is one perspective, reprinted with the kind permission of the AP News Service

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Usain Bolt is leaving and insists he’s not coming back.

How will track and field ever be the same?

The departure of the sport’s most electric athlete from the Olympics certainly makes the Tokyo Games feel like a less enticing prospect.

That’s hardly the only issue track and field faces as it tries to clean up its act and find some new headliners before 2020.

A look at what the sport might look like — needs to look like? — four years from now.

SPRINT GAME

Somebody will have to claim center stage in the marquee events, the men’s sprints. The early candidate is 21-year-old Andre de Grasse of Canada. As a teen, he ran one of his first races wearing basketball shorts and borrowed shoes. He stood up in the blocks while others crouched. It launched his career and led him to signing a big contract with Puma — the same company that sponsors Bolt.

In his own small way, de Grasse may have helped nudge the narrative of Bolt’s story in Rio a bit off line. His pushing of Bolt in the 200-meter semifinal — probably unnecessary and maybe even a bit reckless — made for the only real “race” the Jamaican faced all week.

Bolt conceded that push-to-the-finish semifinal played into his inability to break his 200-meter world record a night later in the final. A small victory for de Grasse, even if it was a loss for everyone else.

“I was just happy to be part of history with him,” said the Canadian, who finished second in the 200 final, and third in the 100. “If people are talking about him, they’re probably talking about me, that I was in the same race.”

STARS AND STRIPES

Allyson Felix is 30. She has nine Olympic medals. Six are gold, a record for women on the track. After a long, hard season that didn’t go the way she planned, she said Tokyo is nowhere in her thoughts.

“London,” she said, speaking of next year’s world championships. “That’s next on the agenda. As far as the next four years, taking it year by year.”

When Felix goes, who can step in as the next great female American track star? Here’s a nod toward 400-meter hurdler Sydney McLaughlin, who made her first Olympics at 17. McLaughlin is the junior world-record holder in the event who really wasn’t thinking about the Olympics this year.

She made it to the semifinals at the Olympics. Now, it’s back for the start of her senior year of high school in New Jersey.

CRIME, DOPING, CORRUPTION

Once the action got going, a lot of this sport’s troubles receded to the background. Still, the absence of the Russians could not be ignored. It was emblematic of a wide-scale doping crisis that has roots in the upper reaches of the International Association of Athletics Federations.

President Sebastian Coe has taken over the organization, but there are still questions about what he knew, and when, while serving as vice president under Lamine Diack, who is accused of using blackmail to help perpetrate the Russian doping scandal.

The IAAF banned Russia from the Olympics — all but long jumper Darya Klishina, who lived and trained in the United States — and many viewed that as a positive step, and one the International Olympic Committee was unwilling to take regarding the rest of the Russians.

But the depths of the corruption in IAAF and Russia will continue to be exposed after the Olympics end. The IAAF is undergoing changes, including grappling with a proposal to handle drug testing independently. For the sport’s sake, this storyline needs to shift well before Tokyo.

RELAY MATTERS

The 32 medals the US grabbed pretty much hit the mark that Duffy Mahoney, the chief of sport performance for USA Track and Field, predicted if the Russians didn’t show.

The US won gold in three relays. Not bad. Oh, but that fourth one. The men’s 4×100 team flamed out again with an illegal pass of the baton. The US is medal-less in that event for the past three Olympics, hasn’t won gold since 2000, and it can’t all be blamed on the pressures of racing Bolt.

There have been so many studies and working groups and practice plans for this team, and none of them really work.

One suggestion: Find runners who want to make relays their top priority. Take a look at the program in Japan, which captured a silver medal Friday night.

A MODEST PROPOSAL

The final scene of Bolt in action on the track came in the wee hours of Saturday morning. He was throwing a javelin. Think of the possibilities.

Yes, he says his Olympic career is over, but also concedes his coach, Glen Mills, has told him not to rush into retirement.

In the past, Bolt has talked about trying the long jump. More realistic — how about a return to the 400 meters that was once tabbed as his second race, after the 200?

He hates the training, but you could see a little gleam in his eyes after South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk broke Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old world record and set the mark at 43.03s. Only two guys really ever had a chance to break that, Bolt said: van Niekerk, of course, and himself.

Bolt turned 30 on Sunday. He’s got four or five decades of retired life ahead.

What to do?

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” he said. “You just stressed me out.”

Folks, what’s a conversation without your input? Keep them coming. As usual, you have the last word. Share your thoughts.

 –end–

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