Track and Field -The end of Caribbean athletic dominance

The end of Caribbean athletic dominance

IAAFThe IAAF World Championships 2017 which concluded in London yesterday may have marked the decline of Caribbean Track and Field performance. The failure of the Jamaicans, in particular, in track events which they had previously dominated is a sure signal that fortunes of the Caribbean in international athletics are on downward curve.

The spotlight was naturally on the farewell performance of Usain Bolt, arguably the world’s greatest athlete ever. He showed why it is important for athletes to know when to leave the world stage. He went to races beyond what he should have gone and was soundly defeated, to the point, by his own standards, of being humiliated.   

In one of the weakest 100 meters fields ever in a World Championship, the World and Olympic record holder came lamely out of the starting blocks and could never turn on the boosters in time to finish better than third. His relay performance effectively sounded his retirement gong, when back in the field in the 4 x 100 meters relay, he found himself back in the field and pulled up with cramps. Cramps or no cramps, he was never going to do better than a third place.

Usain Bolt, over the past 11 years had come to symbolize Caribbean athletic dominance. He belonged to an era during which Jamaica, the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago, produced a number of world and Olympic Champions, both male and female, at the individual and in team races.

That era has ended. In 2015, Jamaica was commanding in the World Championships held in Beijing, China. Jamaica tied with the Kenyans for the most gold medals (7). They won a total of 12 medals at those championships, third only to the USA which had a total of eighteen including six gold, and Kenya, which had 15 medals including seven gold.

In comparison, the Jamaicans could only manage a quarter of what they achieved in Beijing. They only secured four medals of which only one was gold. Trinidad and Tobago, an emerging start in world athletics only managed two, one of which was gold in a fantastic display in the men’s 4X 400 meters final. Bahamas, another of the Caribbean’s top sporting nations also underperformed. Kirani James’s injury and the shock defeat of Elaine Thompson, have raised serious doubts about the future of Caribbean athletic supremacy.

On the other hand, the Americans have brought out a new crop of athletes so that when some of their big name athletes leave, the reserves would have already acquired a formidable international experience and reputation. The Americans were far superior to any other nation at the World Championships 2017. They ended with a staggering 30 medals, dwarfing even the mighty Kenyans.

The decline of Cuba in world track and field and now Jamaica means that the Region has reason to worry. It was Jamaica which had picked up the baton from Cuba, long considered, the Caribbean’s track and field colossus. Cuban supremacy dipped in conjunction with its economic fortunes. It no longer produces athletes of the pedigree of the great Alberto Juantorena, Silvio Leonard or Anier Garcia. Jamaica’s decline, as evident in this year’s world championships means that regional athletic supremacy has come full circle.

Cuban athletic dominance was based on state-support of sport. When that support declined, the international performance dipped appreciably. Jamaica’s sporting dominance was a result of investments which were made in providing its young stars with international exposure. That formula has now run its full course.

Sporting supremacy tends to come in waves. Jamaica’s big splash is over. The Caribbean’s moment in the sun is over. With Caribbean cricket at an all-time low and with Bolt retiring regional fans, as well as those in the Diaspora, are likely have little to cheer about for a long time.



It was not the fastest 400m of Usain Bolt’s career (his lifetime best will go down in history as 45.28, dating back to 2007) but it was a landmark circuit for the Jamaican who has illuminated track and field these past nine years with his superhuman talent and his stellar personality.
Twenty four hours after his final race ended in the anguish of a torn hamstring on the anchor leg of the 4x100m, the Jamaican phenomenon was back on the track in the London Stadium, soaking up the adoration on a fitting farewell lap of honour at the end of the final session at the IAAF World Championships London 2017.

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IAAFHome of World Athletics – 2017 Results

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  • Doggedly Yours  On August 18, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    Bolt was exciting… no doubt.

    •  On October 24, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      Got to disagree this is the end of Caribbean Dominance. They have dominated way back to Arthur Wint and Hasely Crawford. And they will produce again if not sooner rather than later.

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