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Five to Watch in 2015


NEW YORK –There was a plethora of outstanding performances at the New York Grand Prix, held at the Icahn Stadium, Randall’s Island, on Saturday, 13 June.

Indeed, all of the commotion over the East River was punctuated by the only undefeated global champion ever – the incomparable Usain Bolt. However, on this occasion, he got a scare before winning the 200m in a, for him, pedestrian 20.29secs. The magician’s world record stands at a jaw-dropping 19.19secs, and on an average day he can cruise and still be just ticks away from that time, or at worst, be able to blow away the competition this side of Justin Gatlin, the man of the moment.

But as Bolt, his handlers and fans contemplate a reversal of form before August and the Worlds, I am struck by the grace, joy and thought, of five athletes during their post-race question-and-answer session.



Jamaican Nesta Carter, winner of relay gold medals at every global championship, is a world record holder in the men’s sprint relay, and is, by virtue of a solid 9.78secs in the 100m, ranked as the sixth fastest man of all time. He did not win in New York, but that did not dampen his enthusiasm and expectation for the remainder of the season. Asked if he was disappointed with his form, not having come close to the 9.98secs he had run to open his season weeks earlier, Carter quickly said no. He reasoned that he had not yet started sprint training although he was in full preparatory training mode. Said he: “No-one can tell the clock what time to give them. The clock has a mind of its own and therefore you get what you give. I am not time-concerned. If I execute well the fast times will come.” The man from Manchester said that he knew what he needed to do to garner a successful season. He expects to be close to the form that has made him one of the top men in the century dash. Only time will tell, no pun intended.

Carter’s compatriot and fellow sprint man, Rasheed Dwyer, came to New York to sharpen his form and gauge the extent of his preparation. He was comfortable with the status of his training and looking forward to representing Jamaica at the Worlds. He does not have a preference between the 100m and 200m, except that the longer sprint requires added preparation although he is prepared to give his best performance at a moment’s notice. He noted that with the depth of talent that Jamaica currently has, it will be an uphill battle representing the country in either sprint.

Sprint Hurdler Shermaine Williams, sister of Danielle Williams, who competes in the same event is well aware of the history and pride of place that Jamaica’s female hurdlers hold on the world stage. She feels some pressure to fill those big shoes but is confident that her time will come, as long as hard work and focus remain the hallmark of her training. Her intent for the season is to continue to improve and to record a personal best (PB) along the way. That, to her, would cap a successful 2015 campaign and continued maturation into becoming one of the island’s elite women hurdlers.

American 400m sprinter Francena McCrory is undoubtedly one of the world’s best. A very confident sprinter, there is no subtlety in what her season’s intentions are. She came to New York, according to her, to run sub 50.00secs for the metric quarter and easily achieved that by running a world best 49.86secs, after a strong finish. McCrory has been a staple on the American quarter mile scene over the last few years, but she has now found that ‘happy medium’ of running well in invitational meets as well as global competitions. The 2014 World Indoor 400m champion looks set to have her best individual season ever.

The ultra philosophical Jason Richardson is not only a great sprint hurdler, but one of the great spokespersons in the sport. Richardson exploded onto the international scene, winning the 2011 World title, and followed up with the silver medal at the London Olympics. Way back in 2003 at the World Youth Championships in Canada, he won gold in both the 110h and 400h. Had he chosen to specialize in the latter, he might just have been as successful. He is usually reserved and focused before the start of an event, but once it ends, he is in full conversational mode. But the road to, as he calls it, a ‘happy place’ did not come easily. He had a, for him, lean last 18 months during which he was on a journey, as he called it, to find ‘that place.’ He moved four times in one year and changed coaches an equal number of times. He feels that he has struck that balance now, and is once again ready to take on the world.

Looking back at his life and career so far, he feels that if he were not a track and field athlete he would be involved in computer technology; he is a fan of social media. Philosophically, he feels that one should always believe in self, work hard and always put God first, and all good things will follow, unconditionally.

Sport results are compounded by preparation, opportunity and a little luck. How will these titans fare in 2015? Only time will tell. Just ask Nesta Carter.

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