Friday, April 19, 2024

Passing baton way to grow


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I promised myself this time I would go around and see more sports.
In Athens the only event I saw live where there were no Caribbean competitors was the men’s basketball final.
This time I was going to see Brazil play women’s volleyball. I was going to watch Brazil in men’s football at Wembley. Beach volleyball was a must as well as Lebron James, maybe Roger Federer and some cycling.
I didn’t get to see any except during the BBC recap after midnight.
I saw athletics and it was great. The defining competition moment was David Rudisha’s run in the 800 metres. Days later I was still struggling for words to describe it. That moment will live with me forever.
Kenya has a strong middle and distance running tradition and Rudisha was following in the footsteps of his father Daniel who won a 4x400m relay silver medal in Mexico 1968.
The process of passing the baton is a very important one in the development of sport.
Those who have dissected West Indies cricket to the bare bones point to that critical period in time when those whom we now refer to as Legends were booted out of the sport.
They were not there to mentor the younger generation and it started a spiral of decline from which the team is only now showing some signs of recovery nearly 20 years later.
Perhaps that is also affecting other sports but I will address track and field here.
For many Barbadian athletes, Jim Wedderburn was someone you read about in books. Elvis Forde, who came along 24 years later, also migrated to the United States.
It took 16 years before the Obadele Thompson/Andrea Blackett/Victor Houston group appeared but they also live in America.
It was another seven years before Shane Brathwaite won a world title and Ryan Brathwaite got one two years later. Perhaps we can take comfort in the fact that the year cycles are getting shorter and we are seeing athletes like Greggmar Swift, Kierre Beckles and Akela Jones with the potential to make it on the world stage.
During the 200 metres press conference the question of the injured Asafa Powell was raised. Usain Bolt said it was tough seeing anyone get injured but it was tougher because he was a Jamaican. Blake, however, gave the answer that resonated with me.
Powell paved the way and Bolt took over from him. He was looking to take over from Bolt and someday, someone would take over from him.
Warren Weir, who was sitting at the table and had hardly fielded a question, raised his hand indicating he would be next in line.
Who among you are willing to put your hand in the air?
The challenge for this generation is to keep passing the baton so that Rivaldo Leacock, Tristan Evelyn, Jamahl Burke, Ajani Haddock and even little Samiya Dell can one day put out their hand and take it if they want to.
Don’t put it down and pick it up every ten years.
• Sherrylyn A. Toppin covered the London Olympics for the NATION’s newspapers.

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