Kingston - The
hunt for a successor to Usain Bolt gets under way on Thursday as
Jamaica stages its national championships looking to unearth a new crop
of sprinters capable of challenging for major titles.
For the first time in more than a decade, Jamaica is preparing for an IAAF
World Championships without Bolt, the eight-time Olympic gold medallist
and 100m and 200m world record holder.
At his peak, Bolt was the most celebrated product of a Jamaican
sprint factory which had churned out an array of talent, which also
included the likes of former world record holder Asafa Powell and 2011
100m world champion Yohan Blake.
But in the years since Bolt hung up his spikes after the 2017 world championships in London, Jamaican men's sprinting has been in the
No Jamaican man has come close to threatening the world's fastest
times over 100m and 200m in 2018 or 2019, where a new crop of US talent
led by Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles and Michael Norman has emerged as
the dominant force.
More than 70 entries will line up in Kingston this weekend chasing
one of the three spots in the 100m for the world championships, which
take place in Doha, Qatar this year from September 28 to October 6.
So far, however, none of the entries has indicated they have the pedigree to fill the void created by Bolt's departure.
While Olympic champions Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce
look set to keep Jamaica in the medals hunt in the women's short
sprints, the same cannot be said for the men.
Blake heads a motley crew
comprised mostly of US college standouts and sprinters that have yet to
make a mark on the global circuit.
Tyquendo Tracey won the 100m at last year's inaugural IAAF Athletics
Cup in London but is only the 75th fastest over the distance this
Blake meanwhile has the fastest 100m time of any Jamaican this
season, clocking 9.98 in Florida in May. That though remains
substantially outside Coleman's world-leading time of 9.85 set in Oslo.
Other hopefuls include US college athlete Andre Ewers, Purdue University senior Waseem Williams as well as Raheem Chambers.
Powell, meanwhile, is also listed as an entry with the 36-year-old chasing a spot on his fifth world championships team.
While the hunt for a successor to Bolt goes on in the men's events,
the only question on the women's side will be establishing who joins
Fraser-Pryce and Thompson for a place in Doha.
Seventeen-year-old Briana Williams, the IAAF Under-20 double sprint
champion in Finland last year, is ranked number eight in the world with a
National Junior record of 11.02 set two weeks ago.
Jonielle Smith, who anchored the women's team to silver in the
women's 4x100m at the World Relays, Nataliah Whyte and Rene Medley lead
what is expected to be the next generation of female sprinters.
Fraser-Pryce meanwhile says expecting any of her male counterparts to replace Bolt is unrealistic.
"I don't think any athlete should try and pressure themselves to fill Usain's shoes," Fraser-Pryce told AFP last month.
"What he did was remarkable for the sport, so for us it's just a case of trying to do our best."
Away from the track, Jamaica may also challenge for medals in field
events, with discus thrower Fedrick Dacres leading the world this season
with a mark of 70.78m set in Rabat on Sunday.
O'Dayne Richards, a bronze medallist in the shot put in Beijing in
2015; Danniel Thomas-Dodd, the Commonwealth Games champion and fourth
place finisher in London 2017 are also eyeing podium spots in Doha.