Thu | Jun 4, 2020

Tanya Lee | We will bounce back

Published:Friday | April 10, 2020 | 12:12 AM

Yesterday morning, I came across Usain Bolt competing in the 200m in the 2004 Athens Olympics. The then 18-year-old prodigy was at his first Olympic Games and looked nervous but confident at the start. But things didn’t quite go his way and he placed fifth and crashed out in the first round of the heats.

This was a far cry from the man who would then switch coaches, regroup and appear some four years later to become the champion over 100m and 200m and eventually, the undisputed king of the track.

For me, this was a timely reminder of the indomitable Jamaican spirit, that no matter the circumstance, we tend to face our losses, retool and try again.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make its way across Jamaica, I can’t help but think about how many businesses, big and small, will be negatively impacted by these new global developments in the short and long-term.

The hope is that with the disruption in many supply chains and shifting consumer habits, there will be a high level of innovation, a diversified approach, and new partnerships that will see many businesses rebounding well, and even thriving after COVID-19.

That will take a meteoric approach of guts, innovation and belief, the type great athletes have shown time and again.

It is my hope that as a nation we will bounce back, and we can take our cue from sports. We will bounce back like Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who recovered from a toe injury, pregnancy, and some two years away from the track to stand on top of the World Championships podium in 2019. At 32, Fraser-Pryce became the eldest 100m female World Champion in track and field history.

The eldest male 100m World Champion is also a test in resilience and self-belief. American Justin Gatlin was written off by the track world who took relatively little notice of his return to competition in 2010 after serving a four-year doping ban. The 2004 Olympic Champion returned at a time when Jamaica was dominating the sprints and Bolt was King. Gatlin, seemingly undaunted by his detractors, continued to show up against the sport'’ goliath and eventually became the only man to rob beat Bolt to a gold medal in the 2017 World Championships 100m. The 35-year-old Gatlin did this to a sea of boos at the London Stadium.

That type of resilience resembles that of Portmore United's team from the 2015-16 Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) season. If you recall, Portmore were relegated in the 2012-13 season and spent two years out of top-flight football. They had lost their star power and for 2016, they were bracing for the tough challenge of bolstering the team and just being mentally and physically ready for the competition. The team went on to play creditably that season, making their way to the RSPL final which they lost to Montego Bay United. From relegation to finalists. Impressive comeback.

While we’re on the topic of impressive football comebacks, no one will soon forget the 2005 Liverpool Team that won the UEFA Champions League against AC Milan in the most unlikely circumstances. This match was dubbed the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ as Liverpool were down 3-0 at half time, with AC Milan scoring as early as the first minute of the match. But Liverpool was in no mood to go home empty-handed and they managed to claw their way back and equalise by the end of regulation time. Liverpool eventually won 3-2 on penalties in what was possibly the greatest comeback in sports history.

Manchester United's 1999 UEFA Champions League final was also a classic comeback tale as they were down 1-0 against a steely Bayern Munich outfit. Both teams badly wanted the win to seal their treble for the season. But it was Manchester United who saw a massive turnaround to their fortunes as they pressed Bayern until Teddy Sheringham slotted home an injury time goal in the 91st minute, followed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s goal in the 94th minute. Most impressive of all? Both men were substitutes in this massive final.

So, while we are in a time of despair, we are reminded that there are many businesses that were either formed or thrived during global recessions and other crises. Time and again, sports has taught us that with enough belief and persistence, we can bounce back irrespective of the odds. One Love.

Tanya Lee has over 10 years’ expertise as a Caribbean sports marketer and is also an athlete manager and publicist.