‘New stars will emerge to boost track and field’
Jamaica’s first gold medallist at the World Championships speaks about the changing face of the sport over the years.
It was 36 summers ago that Jamaica’s Bertland Cameron won the 400M gold in the first edition of the World Championships in Helsinki. The sport has witnessed sweeping changes since then.
“Athletes’ gear, approach to the races, venues, tracks, media coverage – so many things have changed,” said Cameron, who is in Doha with his national team as a coach.
Have the changes contributed to an increase in athletics’ appeal or does it lag behind other sports in global popularity?
That is an area which needs to be looked at more closely, felt Cameron, who represented Jamaica at three Olympic Games – 1980, ’84 and ’88 – winning a silver in the 4x400M relay in 1988.
“I wouldn’t say the sport is losing its popularity. The people who run it should step up a little more. You need a few changes,” said the Jamaican.
Stars could make a difference in spreading athletics’ appeal, but at the moment the sport is bereft of big names, more so after the retirement of Usain Bolt.
“Big stars have always boosted the sport’s image. In my time we had Carl Lewis and till recently you had Bolt. Maybe now we’re at a stage where you can’t single out anyone, but that’s not too much of a worry. Stars will emerge. It’s a phase that athletics is going through,” he said.
Cameron felt a little bit of aggression would also help.
“The athletes today are too nice. They just come to the starting blocks, do their thing and are off. They don’t trash-talk each other like athletes used to do in the past. Maybe that’s what’s missing,” he said, bursting into a hearty laugh.
Another change that has come about relates to the athletes’ entourage.
“It was just me and our team coach then,” he said. “Today’s athletes have it so easy, they’ve a manager, a coach and an agent. We didn’t have such luxuries,” he added.
Without all these Cameron travelled to Helsinki with a ‘no one can beat me’ feeling and went on to win the gold in 45.05sec.
Aided by all modern facilities and with Cameron at their side, can Jamaica strike it rich in Doha?
“Yes that’s possible, but we’ll have to wait and watch,” he said.