media_artricles :: 2017
Test of class
I raise the case of succession and Blake here because there is relevance in the Trinidad and Tobago context.
This year, the local contingent will be heading to London without Richard Thompson. Since the Beijing Olympics in 2008, when he surprised nearly everyone with his silver medal behind Bolt in the 100m and a lagniappe silver in the 4x100, "Torpedo" has been a constant at big Games, helping T&T to further relay silvers at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin and at the London Olympics (retroactive).
However, he has decided to stay off the track in 2017. And at age 32, the end is getting closer.
After 2008 when a year of consistent sprinting on the American collegiate circuit climaxed with those fine Beijing runs, Thompson seemed the natural heir to Ato Boldon. And in the relays, he certainly took up the baton from Boldon and Mark Burns. But whereas Blake is the obvious go-to man in Jamaican male sprinting, there seems no such person for T&T at this time.
The prospects look a little better at 400 metres where T&T will again be sending Machel Cedenio, Lalonde Gordon and Renny Quow who were all part of the 4x400m quartet that won silver at the Beijing "Worlds" in 2015. Gordon is also himself an individual Olympic medallist at the distance and Quow has a World Champs bronze medal, while Cedenio capped an impressive 2016 with a national record run in placing fourth in that unforgettable Olympic final in Rio, not even getting into the frame on TV behind Van Niekirk despite stopping the clock at 44.01 seconds.
The concern, however, is none of this trio has had a very solid season so far.
Cedenio's 44.90 at the National Championships last month was promising and one can only hope that it was a sign of genuine improvement and not another one of the out-of-the-blue fast times that the Hasely Crawford Stadium track seems to produce.
It will really be important for T&T track and field that people like Cedenio perform solidly in London because, since the Boldon era, consistency has eluded the majority of the country's better athletes.
Since his gold medal run in the 400 hurdles at the Moscow World Championships in 2013, for instance, Jehue Gordon has had a painful time on the track. Literally. Injury has plagued him for four years and likely affected his disappointing performance at the National Champs this year.
Jehue and others have been unable to follow up their big breakthroughs with similar quality efforts, unlike what London 2012 javelin champ Keshorn Walcott managed to do last year in Rio, adding bronze to his gold.
Walcott also had to adjust to the higher standard his unexpected Olympic success demanded, but he seems to be coping with the pressure while continuing to learn about his discipline. He should be in the medal mix in London.
The distractions that inevitably come with sudden fame have derailed many careers; but today's athletes like Walcott, Cedenio, Jehue and female sprinter Michelle-Lee Ahye have a great opportunity to set new standards for those who come behind.
For the likes of Jehue and his compatriots whose careers have been hampered by injury, Yohan Blake can be an inspiration; a reminder that perseverance can overcome the darkest of times.
Class does not go away so easily. If you truly possess it
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Improving form: Machel Cedenio