Sun | Apr 5, 2020

Hubert Lawrence | Wright adds depth to Ja’s discus throws

Published:Thursday | February 20, 2020 | 12:25 AM

Often in the sprints and sprint hurdles, Jamaica sends forth a trio of entrants to the Olympics. Since the introduction of the defending champion’s wild card by World Athletics in 1997, it has become commonplace for Jamaica to have four competitors in specific events. Outside of that speciality, we struggle to make our three-athlete quota.

In that context, the Olympic qualifying throw by Chad Wright on February 8 is extra special. His 66.54m personal best at the King of the Ring all throws meet puts him alongside World Championships runner-up Fedrick Dacres and Traves Smikle, the Pan American and Commonwealth Games silver medallist, as a qualifier for the Tokyo Games.

It’s hard enough to qualify one person for the Olympics. Outside of the 100m, 200m, 400m, the sprint hurdles and the 400m hurdles, Jamaica has never had its full quota of three qualifiers in a throwing event. Neither has that ever happened in the 800m, 1500m, 5000m, the marathon, the high, long and triple jumps, and the shot put, disciplines in which Jamaican men have seen Olympic action in the past.

A special moment

So this is a special moment. Moreover, it could galvanise other discus throwers either for this year or for 2021 when the World Athletics Championships goes to the USA for the first time. Young prospects like 2018 World Under-20 champion Kai Chang and Roje Stona, the two-time Carifta champion, and Basil Bingham, training partner to Dacres and Smikle, could have the confidence and capability to qualify.

If that happens, there would be a fight for team places at the National Senior Championships. It’s an enticing concept.

Wright has paid his dues. A last round record throw of 63.11m won him the 2010 Carifta Under-20 gold in Grand Cayman. In 2012, he became the first Jamaican to win the discus at the NCAA Division 1 Championships. When Jason Morgan won the bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Wright was sixth.

Since his days at Nebraska University, he has soldiered on, working and travelling to small meets across Europe in pursuit of his dream.

His sacrifices are paying off. He was in Doha last October competing for Jamaica at the 17th World Championships. Now he is paving his way to Tokyo.

He still has to come to the Nationals and, if others achieve the qualifying standard of 66m, he will have to win one of the three team spots the hard way. Even so, Wright can be justly proud. Like Dacres and Smikle, who met the standard last year, he has one foot on the plane.

Wright, Dacres, and Smikle were all coached at Calabar High School by expert Julian Robinson, who still instructs the last two while Wright takes instructions from the godfather of the local throws movement, Michael Vassell. Everyone involved should take a bow.

Inspired our jumpers

The women’s long jump, triple jump, and men’s long jump might soon follow suit. That’s because world champion Tajay Gayle has inspired all our jumpers and the list of possible Olympians is growing.

The 100m, 200m, 400m, the sprint hurdles, the 400m hurdles and the relays are as important as ever, but the Jamaican track and field portfolio is getting broader. As it grows, so does the possibility of bigger Olympic and World Championships medal hauls than we ever imagined in days of old.

Troubles for Elaine Thompson Herah and Omar McLeod bumped three medals away in Doha, but our athletes took home a dozen anyway. Thanks to people like Chad Wright, and with some financial support to the effort of athletes in less popular events, we can work towards even more.

Hubert Lawrence has scrutinised local and international track and field since 1980.