On Track with Jamaica

This is my attempt to jump in on the #30in30 blog series started by Erik Parker which I learned about via writer Aliya S King. I’m starting 5 days late, so I’ll have to do some 2-a-days if I want to finish on time with everyone else. Bear with me, I haven’t written anything non-legal in a while. We’ll see how it goes…

I woke up at 5:35 am on Saturday. I just jumped right out of my sleep, without an alarm. This is no small feat for me, given that I am terribly nocturnal and am barely able to wake up with an alarm, much less without. But at 5:35 am the first Jamaican would be on the track for Olympics 2012. Of course I got up.

My love affair/obsession with athletics is longstanding. It’s irrevocably intertwined with my infatuation with all things Jamaican. Given Jamaica’s history of success in the sport, it makes perfect sense. Though it is ironic to me that I would choose sports as the object of my affection when I have never been athletically inclined. I played netball in prep and high schools, but no more than the average Jamaican girl. I have never been a great runner. When my ninth grade class was learning to hurdle, I was one of three students excused from participating because we were so short our teacher didn’t think we could safely clear the hurdle. Thank God; the hurdles were intimidating. 

Yet somehow, I have always been obsessed with athletics. I watch all the competitions; not just Olympics or World Champs. I search for live streams for all the events. I love reading the stats. I follow athletes from high school champs in Jamaica and investigate the backgrounds of NCAA athletes in the US. I really should find a way to get paid for this.

There’s something about seeing our athletes shine on the world stage that just brings so much pride and joy to my heart. It’s hard to verbalize, particularly to anyone who’s not Jamaican. Why do we run around screaming when a Jamaican wins a race? Why do we get so excited just to see one of our athletes on the track?

But maybe they get it too, a little bit. So many news sources have noted that we get the most thunderous applause when we enter stadiums. There’s a little bit of magic in our island, I swear. Or maybe a lot. And everyone knows.

My past few days have been scheduled around the times our athletes would be on the track. Whenever someone invited me somewhere, I had to double-check to ensure I wouldn’t be missing a race. Someone mentioned that I could miss the heats and semi-finals yesterday since only the Women’s 100 m finals were important. No they’re all important! 

You see, it’s not just about the winners. Despite the fact that Jamaica has been the sprint factory  for so long, we never won our first gold medals in the 100m until 2008. Thank you Usain and Shelly-Ann. There many silvers and bronzes, but never the golden prize. Prior to that, our only other sprint golds were Donald Quarrie’s and Veronica Campbell in the 200m, in 1976 & 2004.* Our gold medals in the 400m flat and hurdles were few and far between. Yet the pride and admiration we feel about our athletes is so immense.

Many have expressed in recent conversations that we’ve become spoiled by the success. Two-time 100 m winner Shelly-Ann Fraser said she wouldn’t call us greedy, but we do expect a lot from them. I cannot lie. I wish we could win everything. Give us all the medals! The beautiful simplicity of a good 100m race is that it demonstrates the resilience and winning power of our people in a mere 10 seconds. The fighting spirit that Jamaicans have that inspires me. It’s readily apparent in track but look closer, and you’ll see it in other aspects of our lives too.

And how cool is it that we had an equestrian compete this year? Can you imagine traveling all the way from Kingston to London with your horse in tow?! 

I haven’t blogged in a while but just seeing our talented athletes in their black,green and gold made me want to do any- and everything; sing, dance, scream, write – you name it. Maybe shed a tear, or ten. It will give me such pleasure to watch them raise our flag and play our national anthem in London today, 50 years to the date after the British flag was lowered in Jamaica for the last time before Independence.

Thankfully, Jamaica won’t be back on the screen till around 2pm today so waking up at 5:35 am wasn’t necessary. But I will gladly do it again to see them in action. On your marks, get set… WIN

* I’m excluding 400m from the sprints. Though I was taught it is a sprint in Phys Ed, all my friends who are athletes refer to it as a middle-distance race. Hence the exclusion of Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley’s 400m golds in 1948 and 1952.

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