In the Jamaican camp
Three days before the track and field competition begins inside China’s national Bird’s Nest Stadium here in Beijing, Jamaica’s management team and athletes are oozing with confidence.
Why? Simple! The possibility exists that the small nation with a population of 2.7 million people is on the cusp of reaping their most medals in a single Olympics.
The Caribbean Islands previous best was seven at the 2000 Sydney Games.
However, that figure has since been increased to nine, following the disqualification (Under IAAF rule 32.2a) of disgraced American sprinter Marion Jones in the 100m and 200m.
The resulting redistribution of medals saw Merlene Ottey (100m) and Beverly McDonald’s (200m) being upgraded from fourth to third respectively in the 100m and 200m.
A two-day (August 9-10) visit to Jamaica’s mandatory pre-Olympic in Tianjin, located approximately 100km outside of Beijing revealed what can be described as a well-oiled machine as the athletes acclimatized to the infamous smog-filled, humid conditions in China.
Head coach, Glen Mills, who personally conditions world 100 m record holders Usain Bolt, believes Jamaican is well placed to achieve plenty here in Beijing.
"I think that we are in a position where we could surpass any performance we have ever done in the Olympics and we are working assiduously to see if we can make it a reality," Mills told the BBC after Saturday’s evening training session at the University of Tianjin.
Jamaica staged two daily training sessions for the duration of the camp (July 31-August 11) in Tianjin.
"The athletes have been working very hard and we are happy with where most of them are.
As you know we are very strong in the sprint relays and even though the preparation may not have been ideal, hopefully we can go out there and get it done," Mills added.
Sports psychologist, Kadija Richards, who was embedded in the camp in Tianjin as the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association left nothing to chance, says the athletes are mentally prepared to deliver their best performances.
"For the athletes that have sought my services they’ve been just working on things that they have brought forward from home," Richards said.
"I haven’t had any problems really, nobody has come to me with anything besides the usual pre-competition jitters and concerns,
so that been mainly what I’ve been working on," explained Richards, who has a Bachelors Degree in
Feeding the team
Unlike previous major championships (Olympics, World Championships) where Jamaican officials struggled to find food to the liking of athletes that has not been the case in Tianjin because Jamaica’s ambassador to China, Wayne McCook, seconded his chef, Novelette Samuels, to prepare meals at the camp.
Dr Herb Elliot, a member of the IAAF Medical and Anti-doping Commission, said the Jamaican cuisine made a world of difference.
"She has brought an excellence of cuisine that is nutritious, that is gastronomically effectively so that the team has not lost weight," Dr Elliot said, nothing that the athletes should be firing on all cylinders.
"It has made a great difference in the morale (of team) and in the nutritious status of our athletes," he added.
Meanwhile, all of Jamaica’s medal contenders looked race-Sharpe and in high spirits as fine-tuned in preparation for competition.
The sprinters, including Asafa Powell, Bolt, and Michael Frater all worked on their start as they seek perfection for the men’s 100 m, one of the most anticipated races in the 29th Olympiad.
Reigning 200m champion, Veronica Campbell-Brown, who will be competing in her third Olympic Games, also looked majestic in the practice sessions witnessed by this writer.
So too was Sherone Simpson and Shelly-Ann Fraser.
Jamaica has six of the fastest women in the world this year entering the 100 m with Kerron Stewart 10.80 leading their charge.
Campbell Brown (21.94), Stewart (21.99) and Simpson (22.11) are also the quickest women entering the 200m.
Technical leader of Jamaica’s 52-member track and field team Donald Quarrie, the 1976 Olympic 200 m gold medallist, described the camp as an overwhelming success.
"We have had camps in the past and they have assisted our athletes… this one has done the same so we are anxiously awaiting the start of the games," Quarrie said.
"We are anticipating outstanding performances from our team," he added.