Zaheer Clarke – LIES AND STATISTICS
With Jamaica’s non-participation in the FIFA World Cup in Russia later this year, and with this year being a non-Olympic year, the major event for most Jamaican athletes in 2018 will be the 2018 Commonwealth Games. As a result, the performances at this event can serve as an early predictor for the 2018 National Sportsman and Sportswoman Awards scheduled for formal announcement in early January 2019.
Barring some world-record-breaking performance later this year or an exceptional gold medal performance at the World Championships for a sport outside of athletics, the clinching 2018 Sportsman and Sportswoman of the year performances took place in Gold Coast, Australia between April 4-15.
Jamaica sent 110 athletes to the 2018 Commonwealth Games to participate in 17 different sporting disciplines. In the end, Jamaica produced a record haul of 27 medals, with one of the 27 coming in a para-sport event. Jamaica’s previous best medal hauls of 22 medals came at the 2006 edition in Melbourne, Australia and at the 2014 edition in Glasgow, Scotland. On both occasions, Jamaica captured exactly 10 gold, four silver and eight bronze medals. This time, Jamaica’s 27 medals included 7 gold, 9 silver and 11 bronze medals.
Though Jamaica never eclipsed the 10 gold medals it achieved in 2006 and 2014, nor captured any golds in the famed sprinting events as in previous years, the majority of Jamaica’s casual and dedicated sporting fans were pleased with the overall performance of the team. It was a far improvement on the fortunes which befell some of its athletes on the track and field side at the 2017 IAAF World Championships or the recently concluded 2018 IAAF World Indoor Championships.
Interestingly, the seven gold medals for Jamaica all came in track and field, with three of the seven coming on the field side and six of the seven coming in individual events. Fedrick Dacres, in the men’s discus; Danniel Thomas-Dodd, in the women’s shot put; and Kimberly Williams, in the women’s triple jump were Jamaica’s gold medallists on the field. On the track side, Ronald Levy in the men’s 110 m hurdles, Aisha Praught in the women’s 3000m steeplechase and Janieve Russell in the 400m hurdles were the other individual gold medallists. In the team event, the women’s 4 x 400m relay, Christine Day, Anastasia Le-Roy, Janieve Russell and Stephenie McPherson powered Jamaica home to the other gold medal.
The 2018 Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year winners should come from the previous paragraph. For the men, the frontrunners are Levy and Dacres. Levy, who joined a list Jamaican 110 metres hurdle Commonwealth gold medallists such as Maurice Wignall and Andrew Riley, could join Omar McLeod and give the 110m hurdlers back-to-back Sportsman of the Year Awards.
Levy’s main competitor for the award, Dacres, produced a Commonwealth Games record of 68.20m in the discus throw. Dacres, the national record holder in the event, is the slight favourite for the award. With solid performances on the Diamond League circuit later this year and possibly breaking his national record, which he thought he did this year, could give him the edge in the judge’s books.
On the women side, the fight for the award is between four worthy candidates, Thomas-Dodd, Williams, Praught and Russell. Williams, who repeated her 2014 gold medal performance, eclipsed her countrywoman, Shanieka Ricketts with her last jump of the event in a new personal best of 14.64 m. However, I doubt Williams will get the nod for the award. Jamaica’s female athletics is very competitive.
Praught, with arguably the shock Jamaican performance of the Commonwealth Games, beat the Kenyans as she emulated the performances of her American training partners Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs at the 2017 IAAF World Championships. Her gold medal was a pleasant surprise and a determined one after years of disappointment and bad luck. However, like Williams, I doubt Praught will win the title this year.
Thomas-Dodd, who may be the sentimental favourite for the 2018 Sportswoman award, captured Jamaica’s first medal in the women’s shot put at a major championship event. She narrowly missed a medal at the 2017 World Championships, however, at the Commonwealth Games she threw a new national record to beat four-time World Champion, three-time Commonwealth Games champion and two-time Olympic champion, Valerie Adams. She would be my pick for the Sportswoman of the Year, however, the judges might think otherwise.
Russell, like a Phoenix, has risen from the disappointing ashes of 2016 when she got injured prior to the Olympic Games in Rio. Russell, who is from the stable MVP stable of women 400m hurdlers left the Commonwealth Games with two gold medals, in the 400m hurdles and relay events. Unlike the other three women gold medallists, Russell was able to compete in two events. This should not be held against the other three nor her.
Of the four women, only Thomas-Dodd produced a national record at the games with her performance and when the calibre of athlete she beat for the gold medal is factored in, she should be the clear winner. Similarly, Dacres Commonwealth record performance along with his gold medal should give him the nod over Levy.
Predicting the future is a fickle task with several unforeseen loopholes ahead. Nevertheless, Dacres and Thomas-Dodd are my current picks for the 2018 Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year. However, come January, they may not be the eventual winners.
With the World Championships in swimming slated for December, Alia Atkinson might try to repeat her world-record equalling gold medal performance of 2014. Similarly, with a peeved McLeod, not in attendance at the Commonwealth Games, he could be extra motivated and might just produce a world record performance in the Diamond League this year. Keep your fingers crossed Dacres and Thomas-Dodd, eight months left in the year.