Jamaican glory in stark contrast to Indian fiasco

Jamaican glory in stark contrast to Indian fiasco

Last Updated: Tue, Aug 20, 2013 09:37 hrs
Moscow: Usain Bolt wins relay gold

Usain Bolt and company excelled as per expectations in the World Athletics Championships, but from an Indian perspective, their performances only emphasized the glaring differences in standard that saw just one Indian, Vikas Gowda in discus throw, even making it to the final round, much less win a medal.

The rest of the Indian contingent vanished in an avalanche of excuses that should be dismissed for what they are. The bitter truth is that Indian athletes are just not good enough to even participate on the world level and every time they do, it is more embarrassment for the country.

Perhaps, it is time that Indian athletes limit their international appearances to the Asian level until they produce results that justify their presence in the Olympics or World championships. Incredibly, long jumper Anju Bobby George remains the only Indian medallist in World athletics following her bronze in 2003 and silver in 2005 before she too faded away.

In the meantime, there is a lot that needs to be done at home. Even as the curtain came down in Moscow, an Indian contingent made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Some 20-odd young athletes were kicked out of Nanjing, China, for being over-age and they returned home without participating in the Asian Youth Games. And typically, the blame game and finger-pointing has begun in right earnest.

While we revel in Bolt and Shelly-Ann, the two Jamaicans who walked away with a treble each, they put on such a grand exhibition that the nasty doping controversy that had erupted in the weeks before the Moscow event, was quickly forgotten, at least for the time being. It is to be hoped that we will be spared of more such incidents so that heroes remain heroes and not banished as cheats.

The Moscow meet again threw up several champions who won on the back of sheer determination that helped them overcome odds which would have broken lesser mortals. Shelly-Ann, for instance, emerged from the ghettos of Jamaica and the long distance medalists from the Rift Valley region of eastern Africa yet again underlined their amazing ability to raise a gallop over the last 50 metres.

Most of them looked grossly under-nourished, but for these athletes, sport is the best way out of poverty and not an end in itself. Perhaps, that is the secret of their success as the youngsters work hard to gain scholarships abroad and use it as a launch pad to further their athletics prospects and thus eke out a decent living.

If at all you needed evidence that Jamaica has overtaken the United States as the hub of world-class sprinters, then the likes of Bolt, Carter, Ashmeade and Shelly-Ann, apart from the absent Blake, provided it in ample measure.

The sheer depth in sprinting talent reminds me of the array of fast bowlers that the region produced in the 1980s and ‘90s, inspired by the success of Hall and Griffith. Likewise, I expect Jamaica to throw up more talented sprinters to follow in the wake of Bolt and Shelly-Ann.

After all, the champion sprinters have shown that sport is a top option for youngsters in the Caribbean rather than hanging around street corners and getting sucked into a life of crime. While many youngsters have moved to the US to play in the NBA, it is pretty certain that a Bolt-inspired generation would look to athletics as an alternative to basketball or even cricket.

Yet, there remain a few dark clouds of doping that threaten to taint athletics further. Two US sprinters, Powell and Gay, and Jamaicans, Campbell-Brown and Simpson, were some of the high-profile world-class athletes who were trapped in the doping net ahead of the Moscow meet. As such, it is quite understandable if we view performances with a touch of suspicion.

It is a pity that many a hero has fallen by the wayside caught doping and all the more reason why there is so much riding on Bolt and his fellow-Jamaican sprinters. Only they can stamp the seal of legitimacy on their performances by staying free of drugs that have spread their cancerous tentacles deep into the sport.

As for the Indians, the Moscow event should serve as an eye-opener. Currently, Indian athletics is more about hope and hype rather than performance, and given the mess that the Indian Olympic Association is in, even as our athletics officials fumble and bungle, it would take a couple of generations before we could leave a mark at the highest level.

Until then, it is best to keep the head down, work harder and talk less.

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