New book looks at Jamaica’s accomplishments in track

By RON FANFAIR

Little did Delano Franklyn know at the time that an article he wrote during last year’s summer Olympics titled, Jamaican Athletes: Why Do They Run So Fast?, would elicit massive global response and lead to the publication of a book that captures the country’s overwhelming success at the Olympics in the last six decades.

“After Usain Bolt ran a record time in the 100-metre final, I decided that I ought to do something to capture his performance and I started to focus on him,” the former Jamaica Cabinet minister told Share while in Toronto recently to promote his latest book, Sprinting Into History: Jamaica and the 2008 Olympic Games. “With other Jamaicans winning gold medals, I then thought I needed to go beyond Usain and look at the team’s overall effort in Beijing and Jamaica’s participation in the Olympics that started in 1948.

“What, however, really triggered this book was the huge response I got to the article I wrote that was carried in both local daily newspapers. A lady working in the Japanese tourism sector sought my permission to photocopy and circulate the story while the Cuban ambassador called wanting to know what was happening in Jamaica and how we were doing it. The response was so great that I had to hire someone to take care of the huge flow of e-mails I was receiving.”

Jamaica dominated the sprint events in Beijing last summer, winning five of the six events and finishing fourth overall in track and field with 11 medals (six gold) behind the United States (23 medals, seven gold), Russia (18) and Kenya (14).

Franklyn said Jamaica has the best developmental program in the world which is the primary reason the island has achieved phenomenal success in the sprints.

“Champs (the annual high school championships event which celebrates its 100th anniversary next year) is part of the structure of athletic meets and programs that has contributed to the sprint achievements,” he said. “When Champs is on, we are talking about having young people between the ages of 13 and 18 running before crowds of about 35,000.

“Their mettle is tested right there on the track so when Usain Bolt entered the ‘Bird Nest’ in Beijing with 90,000 spectators which is more than the 35,000 at the National Stadium in Jamaica, the atmosphere is one and the same for him. He was already exposed to pressure and tension back in Jamaica at a very young age and that’s why the Jamaican athletes, in my mind, are way ahead of the average sprinter.”

An attorney at law and chair of the committee that organized the homecoming celebrations for the Jamaican athletes after the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, Franklyn suggested that Jamaica’s accomplishments in Beijing should be utilized for nation building.

“One of my greatest fears is that the goodwill efforts that we demonstrated in the celebrations when the athletes came back home are not just a nine-day wonder,” he said.  “The question is how do we build on this and capture the spirit?

“When you look around, you will see that our athletes are in the 18-30 age range.  Jamaica has a big challenge with crime and violence and the young people involved in the perpetuation of crime come from the same age group as our stellar athletes.

“It’s my belief that we can use in a very creative manner a lot of our youngsters who have been on the right path doing the right things to be role models…We could take our Olympians across the length and breadth of the island in a structured, organized and consistent program and not in a one-shot manner.”

The 501-page book is available at A Different Booklist, 746 Bathurst St. (at Bloor St.)

The book costs $24.95 plus tax.

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