I have no crystal ball, neither have I ever pedalled myself quicker than Granny Luces’ fastest running speed, but, with my experience around athletes of the highest level in many sports, I am enthusiastic about the chances of Njisane Phillips in both his events. He may well have been the best-prepared athlete in our national team in London. He has often been able to communicate his own progress from ride to ride very analytically, and knows what he has got to do to become better. Having seen the likes of Roger Gibbon, Gene Samuel, Leslie King, Ian Atherley at their best in tournaments across the world, give me credit for grasping the mindset of a budding champion. He has already claimed that the track here in London is excellent and with the wide turns, it suits his style of riding. Some claim that it’s the best cycle track they have seen and much is expected in terms of speed from the wheelmen. With butterflies starting their flight around in the stomachs of our track and field athletes, our country awaits patiently for satisfactory performances in the various events.
With the glamour of our silver medal thrust in Beijing four years ago, we should really have been grabbing at the bit to get into starting positions. Their camp in Cardiff brought some fine comments from the athletes that spoke to the media, but the heat during that period may differ a great deal with what presently exists in London. Yesterday, the thermometer showed 20.9 degrees, and many performers had to increase their warm up sessions before facing the starter. There have been rumours that our medal contender Kelly Ann Baptiste has been troubled with a slight Achilles tendonitis, albeit not yet inciting a default from her. She has been absolutely outstanding in her overall preparation over the past two years and her times over both the 100 and 200 metres, compare favourably with the best women sprinters at the games. Without having recorded any injuries in the men’s camp, it is difficult to make a confident case for too many of the guys. Keston Bledman, Rennie Quow and Rondel Sorrillo have been showing gradual improvement over the past six months. Bledman in particular has hit the 100-metre tape under ten seconds four or five times in the last year and a close look at his rippling muscles will tell its story of readiness. I will admit that together with Richard Thompson, Emmanuel Callendar, and the veteran Mark Burns, Bledman could take this group into the final of the relay.
Some may wish to claim a medal in advance for the quartet, but, unlike Jamaica, maybe Great Britain and the USA, the times run by our relay runners have not been startling. This simply means the need for a smooth handling of the baton and doing a bit better than their best times. Two years ago, the BBC made a documentary on the outstanding teenager Jehue Gordon, the 400-metre hurdler after witnessing his success at the youth international level. It did not surprise me. The guy has all the ingredients of a quality hurdler and he found the distance to his liking. He may not have had the exposure which some of his teammates were able to obtain. However, the past few weeks have shown that spark once more and if he can take the preliminary rounds to provide him with that extra zip in the final 50 metres over the hurdles, the results could be interesting. For Rennie Quow, that wonderful run in the final in Beijing has remained in the memories of many and they live with the hope that he will go one better. Injury was once a setback, but his times did not go much better than what he showed four years ago. However, he has the fighting spirit that tells me the field will have to be at their best to keep him out of the final. And while we struggle to show our country’s name on the medal scoreboard, China, USA and France are showing the world what excellence is all about. The Chinese are constantly causing chaos in the minds of those who are astonished by their 16-year-old female who broke two records by wide margins.
By Alvin Corneal