Bailey praises Jamaican sprinters
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Oslo – Jamaican-born Canadian Donovan Bailey, a former 100m world record holder and Atlanta Olympics gold medallist, has hailed the halt of the drain of top sprint athletes from the Caribbean island.
The 43-year-old Bailey, who set a then-world record of 9.84sec when he won the 100m gold in the 1996 Atlanta Games to follow up on world gold in Gothenburg a year earlier, emigrated to Canada at the age of 13.
And in the world of athletics, many Jamaicans have found themselves competing for other adopted countries, but Bailey said improved infrastructure has helped and will continue to help persuade many more to stay put.
“Jamaica has been dominating sprints for many years. That's really no news,” said Bailey, whose Olympic record was eventually broken 12 years later by Jamaica's current double world and Olympic champion Usain Bolt in Beijing.
“But the big news is that they (Jamaican-born sprinters) now represent the island. Some athletes now have the opportunity to actively stay homegrown: born in Jamaica, train in Jamaica, go to school in Jamaica.
“(Coaches) Stephen Francis and Glen Mills have created a great system. They have done a proper job ensuring athletes are there staying in school and dominate the world.
“Kids come in and there's a proper infrastructure for them to train and be succesful and the world is seeing the results right now.
“I'm a real fan of these guys and what they are doing,” Bailey said of Bolt's coach Mills and Francis, head of the MVP team that includes Asafa Powell in its books.
Bailey, speaking ahead of Thursday's Bislett Games when Bolt will run the 200m, credited the 24-year-old Jamaican and American arch-rival Tyson Gay, among others, for “rewriting the history books”.
“When I was competing against Linford Christie, Frank Fredericks and the Americans, we met each other every week,” Bailey reminisced.
“There wasn't the sense of dodging or avoiding each other. We were focused on breaking down opponents mentally.
“Now the guys are faster and stronger and are going to run faster times.
“If you ran sub-10sec, you used to belong to an exclusive group, but now that exclusive club is sub-9.8sec.”
Bailey, who still holds the record of 5.56sec for the rarely-run men's 50m, set in Reno, Nevada, in 1996, said concerns over Bolt's early-season form were baseless.
“It's the start of the season. He hasn't lost so that's one good thing,” he said.
“Usain spoilt us by running 9.58sec (the world record when winning the world title), so obviously running 9.90sec is not a great result anymore.
“He's coming from a nine-month lay-off, and he's definitely trying to work the kinks out.
“He's also eight weeks away from a World Championships. He's showing fine early season form and he'll be preparing for the worlds in Daegu.”
Bailey added: “(Jamaican) Steve Mullings and Tyson Gay are running fast. If you want to get a mental edge on someone, right now's the time.”
Bailey was an out-and-out 100m specialist and only ran two 200m races in his career: one of those races came in the 1997 Bislett Games here, when he won in 20.14sec.
“That is slow!” he beamed at his time, a considerable distance off Bolt's world record of 19.19sec. – Sapa-AFP