Analysing Jamaica’s tremendous Rio performance
BY DON ANDERSON
Sunday, August 28, 2016
No praise is too high for Jamaica’s superlative performance at the Rio Olympics with 6 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze medals. This performance, however, has to be better contextualised for the magnitude of this success to be fully appreciated. Apart from finishing third overall in the Track and Field section behind the USA and Kenya, Jamaica ended up 16th out of the 206 countries that competed in the Games.
Jamaica competed in four sporting disciplines compared to 31 for the USA, for example. When this performance is calculated, using medals won per 1,000 of population, Jamaica with 2.8 million people is indeed the best ranked of all the countries, along with New Zealand.
Both countries won .0039 medals for every 1,000 persons within their respective populations, significantly more than any other country. This is appreciably better than all the big powerhouse countries, like the USA (ranked 16th on this scale), Germany, France, Canada and host country Brazil.
In Rio, over 125 of the 206 countries, many far better economically resourced than Jamaica, failed to win a medal.
Of the countries winning 10 or more medals, Jamaica recorded the highest percentage of gold, with 55 per cent of the medals won being of this quality. This equals the unforgettable Beijing performance, even if quantitatively this was less than the 12 medals won in London in 2012.
We also need to look at the performance of the country since 1948, our first entry into these Games, to fully appreciate the enormity of the achievements since the turning point in Beijing, when we amassed a double-figure medal count for the first time.
Jamaica has won 78 medals overall since 1948, competing in some 17 Games over this period, with 34 (43 per cent) of these coming in the last three Olympic Games since Beijing.
Over this time, we have won 23 gold medals with 16 of these (or 70 per cent) coming in the last three Games since Beijing. Forty-seven per cent of the medals won since Beijing have been of the golden variety, a remarkable achievement, which should not be taken for granted.
Nine of the 16 or 56 per cent of these have been won by one super athlete, super human being and legend Usain St. Leo Bolt.
It is impossible to say too much about the performance of the team in Rio, and congratulations must go out to all the winners of medals of whatever colour, but in particular to the fantastic Elaine Thompson (2 gold), Omar McLeod (gold), the relay teams (gold and 3 silver), Shericka Jackson (bronze) and female sprint legend Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (bronze). Congratulations indeed to the entire contingent and all the management personnel who helped to make this unforgettable performance possible.
What of the future
The imminent retirement of Usain Bolt from the Olympic environment raises questions about the continuity of this magnificent performance. Let’s face it, Bolt cannot be replaced; he is a phenomenon, a one of a kind that comes along once in a generation or more. It was his electrifying run in Beijing that first ignited the team to the successes in those Games. It is his continued demonstration of class, confidence and indomitable spirit that has inspired this Jamaican team to our now accepted record-breaking performances.
I am convinced, however, that in track and field we have the depth and the breadth, with our strong reputation now established, without a doubt, to continue this fantastic run at the Olympics, the pinnacle of sporting events, for years to come.
But let us not take it for granted. 11 Beijing, 12 London, 11 Rio, Have we plateaued? The data beg the question. Let us not become complacent and be spoiled by our success. The team will need another "folk hero" around whom to revolve and Elaine could very well be that person.
She has the qualities, athletically and otherwise, to fit this role. These just have to be honed carefully. But we have an abundance of talent in track and field waiting to exhale, with the proper nurturing and management. Again, there is no shortage of excellent coaches to guarantee one aspect of the requirements, the development of the athletic prowess.
Breath in T & F/more sport disciplines
In Rio we widened our track and field participation with entries in female hammer throw, female discus, and steeplechase, to name a few. This is welcome news, and efforts need to be focused on building these and other track and field disciplines for Tokyo and beyond. There should be concern, however, that despite being represented in some 13 different Olympic sports since 1948, we have not been represented in more than five at any one Games.
In Rio we were represented in four – track and field, swimming, diving and gymnastics. Jamaica performed exceptionally well against the odds in both diving and gymnastics. There is no question that this will require a holistic effort at harnessing talent, supporting national federations and significantly enhanced organisational and marketing effort on the part of the national federations, but it can be done, if we are serious about broadening our pool of medal chances and indeed increasing our medal tally achieved over the last three Games. We have had just one non-track and field medal since 1948.
Case for a significantly accelerated pace towards a National Sports Museum project
Sports has been the strongest positive associated with this country, unquestionably and increasingly so since Beijing. Not only have we not successfully or relentlessly pursued a strategy to maximise the benefits from these positives, but we also have not sufficiently advanced the project towards the establishment of a National Sports Museum to create a permanent record of these achievements.
Barbados and a few other countries in the Caribbean, to their credit, currently have a National Sports Museum. Indeed, concrete steps have been taken to erect our own with the voting of some $40 million by the Government last year and Cabinet approval for land adjoining the stadium for this purpose. Major discussions with interested parties locally and internationally have already taken place and we are now eagerly poised to embark on the next phase of this development.
This cannot come too soon. The exploits of Rio have served to sharpen focus on this urgent need and it is expected that the wheels will once more begin to roll soon to ensure that this National Sports Museum becomes a reality in the near future.