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TrackLife International

Jamaica Needs an 800m Prodigy


It has been a long, dry, lean season. It has been decades long; but there is no end in sight. Jamaica is truly blessed, but certainly not with the gift of a promising 800m talent.

If you are reading this, and you were born in 1977, it was a very good year. It was the last time that a Jamaican man proved that the country’s athletes can successfully compete at the international level, at any distance above 400m. Incidentally, that man, Seymour Newman, was also a credible 400m runner albeit an underachieving one.

Jamaican middle distance runners distinguished themselves, starting at the London Olympics in 1948, when Arthur Wint captured gold in the 800m. Wint still participated with distinction after those heroics, and along with the redoubtable George Kerr, helped form the nucleus of Jamaica’s greatness in the event for a few years. But the dry spell has been long and painful for track and field enthusiasts. Thus the continued ascendancy of sprint, hurdle and field stars have helped to highlight the abysmal record of a reputable or up-and-coming 800m star.

In 1976, a young Newman narrowly missed the 800m final at the Montreal Olympics, being inexperienced on the big stage, and perhaps a little bit of bad luck to boot. According to legend, had he employed the front running style for which he became later known, he might have been an Olympic finalist. The final was won by rising Cuban star, Alberto Juantorena. Newman went on to qualify for Americas2 team to the inaugural World Cup meet in Dusseldorf, Germany. He ran a personal best and still-standing Jamaican 800m record of 1:45.21secs. He went on to take, in the Cuban’s presence, the 400m in another national record of 45.66, marking Juantorena’s first defeat in either event in more than a year. The Jamaican, many felt, did not realize his full potential, as his only other important success was a silver medal winning performance behind Kenyan Mike Boit, in the 1978 Commonwealth 800m.

It has almost been 40 years, the drought has been long and excruciating, but there is no marked help on the way. Someone needs to reach out to the Kenyans or Nigerians or Australians or British, even the Qataris, with the advertisement: Desperately Needed, an 800m Prodigy, for Jamaica!

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