By Colin E. H. Croft
Last week included cool, weird and wild runnings. Nothing prepared us for what occurred over World Athletics competition, confusions, medals, surprises that we had no clue would happen!
We could mention Manchester United beating Arsenal with a bingo score, while West Indies Cricket Board had serious talks with Guyana’s Cricket Board on politicization of GCB! What a wacky week!
“The Caribbean has, in song and in verse, in political philosophy, and in all other actions, long been a source of articulation of both the lamentations, and great aspirations, of black people everywhere.”
“When Africans were wrenched from their own continent, they carried Africa with them and made the Caribbean a part of Africa!”
“My hope is that their children play in open fields, not tortured by pangs of hunger or ravaged by disease, or threatened by ignorance, molestation and abuse…these children are our greatest treasures!”
These are all inimitable words of the world’s most revered living person – Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
The World’s Athletic Championships in Daegu, South Korea, has shown, once again, that His Excellency, “Madiba”, who celebrated his 93rd birthday last July, was absolutely correct. Our youth have excelled!
The Caribbean has been tremendously well represented. Perhaps the island of Grenada, with only 110,000 inhabitants, had the greatest cause for celebration, when, with just one month of professionalism in his belly, 19 year old Kirani James shocked everyone to win the 400 meters!
While this is not about race or evolution, the boy showed that his ancestry, that of Africa, from Kenya, or Ethiopia, or wherever in that most athletic continent on earth, could overcome mega-zillions of money, to produce raw courage and victory. Much money does not always buy success!
In his winning comment, James suggested that all of Grenada must have been watching the race, as most had even taken the morning off, to view the 400m final, if not indeed the rest of the day, after he had won. I sincerely hope that the rest of the Caribbean did likewise. It certainly was worth it! Cheers!
No country spends as much money on athletics as United States of America, with its 300+ million people, or United Kingdom, with its 65 million people. Yet, with simple determination, enthusiasm, foundation, talent and will, Grenada triumphed. Size does not matter, eh! It is how you use it!
To compound that, Jamaica, with 2.7 million people, continues to sparkle like the athletic diamond is has always been. When any country that small, in population size, that is, could lose world record holder, Usain Bolt, disqualified in 100 meters final, and still win the race, at a canter, it must be special too.
Yohan Blake, who will be 22 in December, won the race for Jamaica in 9.92, not a fast time, not by Bolt’s standards. One thing is certain, though. Those special brews, or plantains, or eddoes, have worked!
Amazingly, the “Old Man’, 35 year old Kim Collins, of St. Kitts & Nevis, who won 100m way back in 2003, still managed enough speed to be 3rd! Youth and fast are good; do not underestimate aged and slow!
I will get back to athletics presently, but I must also note Manchester United’s obliteration of Arsenal; 8-2; last weekend. The game was not that close, and even for me, a major MUFC fan, it was embarrassing.
What stood out was that the average age of both teams – winners and losers – was a very pup-like, 23 years old. Youth are indeed our greatest treasures. We must always caress and endorse them; always!
It was not the men who provided the most excitement or consternation at Daegu 2011, even with Bolt’s disqualification. Indeed, it was the women who were much more dominant, especially the Kenyans.
Over the last month or so, I have travelled much over North American major highways. I drove from Miami, to Orlando, to North Carolina, to New York, all in USA, then to Toronto, Canada, then back directly to Orlando, and then Miami; more than 4,000 miles, all in the aid of cricket, and family, too.
With the miles I have run as a cricketer, my odometer is still ticking, but I had exemplary commentary of BBC’s radio coverage, via XM Satellite Radio, of World Athletics Championship 2011, for company!
I also love middle distance running. It is all good for the shorter, explosive races – 100m, 200m flats, 110 m (men), 100m (women) hurdles, 400m, flats and hurdles. They are mostly about power and strength.
When it comes to 800m, 1500m, 5000m, 10,000m and 3,000m steeplechase, not to mention the marathons, power, strength, determination, longevity, elasticity and sheer hard-headedness all play a tremendous part for success. It takes really special people to win these longer, more convoluted races.
For me, the toughest races must be the 400m hurdles, or 800m, as neither is a sprint or distance race, while the 3,000m steeplechase, heptathlon and decathlon must be almost like killing oneself daily!
I make reference to distances because I cannot imagine how many miles Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya may have travelled over her 28 years, to become both 10,000 and 5,000 meters champion, in Daegu 2011.
Indeed, she was defending her own 5000m Worlds crown that she had won in Berlin, Germany, in 2009. She was truly unbelievable, remarkably winning with such dominance, poise and ease. Wow! The scariest thing was that in the women’s 10,000m, the first four, yes, four, placements, were Kenyan – Cheruiyot, Sally Kipyego, Linet Masai and Priscah Cherona. In the 5,000m, Cheruiyot was also followed home by another Kenyan, Sylvia Kibet. Another African, Ethiopian legend, Meseret Defar, was third.
There races followed the opening days successes for other Kenyan women. The first three places in the ladies marathon were also won by Kenyans – Edna Kiplagat, Priscah Jeptoo and Sharon Cherop. These women are machines, not unlike the Kia Forte EX that I was driving, and could run to the end, forever!
This is no fluke. Back in 2000, I remember being in Kenya, for ICC Champions Trophy, then called ICC Knock-out, which many do not remember was actually won by New Zealand, courtesy of Chris Cairns.
Through the auspices of a beautiful family that are friends to this day, I attended a village long distance championship. The young ladies running that day were not yet physically developed to be recognized as such, yet it was plainly evident that they would be great runners. Like race-horses, it is in the pedigree!
While Kenyan women have been dominant, 23 year old David Rudisha, also of Kenya, did win the 800m.
Caribbean women also did magnificently. Veronica Campbell Brown just failed to defend her 100m crown, losing to USA’s Carmalita Jeter, with Trinidad & Tobago’s Kelly-Ann Baptiste, a tremendous third. V-C-B had her revenge for the 200m, trading places with C-J, with the USA’s Alyson Felix third. Whew!
To top that all off, Usain Bolt would probably have won the 200 meters, by print time, putting all that transpired at the 100m out of his mind, at least for the moment. Jamaica and the world will celebrate!
Mandela was right. Africa and Caribbean are as close as skin, in a very positive way; athletics! Enjoy!
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