Thursday 4 June, 2020

Hot in 2019 – Gayle soared to new heights, Fraser-Pryce on top again

As 2019 draws to a close, we’re continuing our annual tradition of celebrating the hard work that sports persons and teams achieved in the past year.

We kicked off the series by featuring Jamaican junior sprint hurdler Britany Anderson, who didn’t just beat a world U20 record this year but broke the curse on age-group sprint hurdles bests.

So grab a beverage of choice as we continue our trip down 2019 memory lane! 

Tajay Gayle competes in the men's long jump final at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019

Saturday, September 28, 2019 will be forever etched in the annals of Jamaica’s storied track and field history as it was on that day that the little known Tajay Gayle mesmerized an entire nation as he soared to victory in the long jump in a big personal best and national record of 8.69 metres at the 2019 edition of the World Athletic Championships in Doha, Qatar.

It was the first global gold medal for Jamaica in the event and was the highlight of a successful World Championships for the Jamaican team, in particular because the contingent was not as strong on the men’s side as in recent times.

The performances in the field events largely compensated for that, contributing four of the 12 medals won by Jamaica. This placed the country third behind the United States and Kenya.  Apart from Gayle’s big jump to land the gold medal, Danniel Thomas-Dodd in the women’s shot put, Shanieka Rickets in the women’s triple jump and Fedrick Dacres in the men’s discus throw all won silver medals. That was an unprecedented rich haul in the field for Jamaica at a senior global meet.

Gayle, who is just 23-years-old, was the golden boy of Jamaican field events in 2019 and his winning jump in Doha now have the eyes of the track and field world firmly fixated on him. Analysts are predicting that he can jump much further.  Gayle won the gold medal on his fifth jump to flatten a quality field which included Cuba’s Juan Miguel Echevarria, the pre-championship favourite. Importantly, his first jump which was measured at 8.46m would have been enough to win.

To put things in perspective, Gayle’s winning jump was a world lead which dislodged Echevarria from number 10 on the all-time world list. It was also the longest jump seen in a World Championship final for 24 years - since Ivan Pedroso’s 8.70m leap in Gothenburg. Gayle is all but assured of winning the RJR/Gleaner Sportsman of the Year Award next month.

Gayle’s 8.69m mark is a Jamaican national record which erased James Beckford’s old mark of 8.62 which was set on April 5, 1997 in Orlando, Florida. The 8.69 metres registered by Gayle puts him at 10th on the all-time list of long jumpers. The Papine High School graduate who is coached by MVP’s Stephen Francis, is the second Kingstonian after Beckford to medal at the World Championships; Beckord won two World Championship silver medals in 1995 and 2003 and Olympic silver in 1996.

Jamaica’s newest World champion did it in style by bettering his PB twice in the finals. He had signalled his intentions from earlier in the year when he won the silver medal at the 2019 Pan Am Games with a jump of 8.17 metres behind Echevarria. The lanky Jamaican turned the tables on the Cuban at the World Championship, as the gold medal favourite could only manage third place. He had finished third in the IAAF Diamond League Finals in the summer and despite putting together a fairly consistent season, was not expected to finish top of the medals in Doha.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce wins the women's 100m finals at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019.

SHELLY-ANN FRASER-PRYCE THE WORLD’S FASTEST MOM

The world’s fastest mom, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce had a stellar 2019 during which she won an unprecedented fourth 100m title at the World Championship when she destroyed a quality field in Doha, Qatar in September. Her winning time was 10.71 seconds.

She left in her wake the likes of Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith who finished second and the Ivorian athlete, Marie-Josee Talou who won the bronze medal. Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson, one of the pre-meet favourites finished out of the medals.

Fraser-Pryce, the doyenne of track and field, won her fourth title, a little over two years after giving birth to her son Zyon, with whom she took her victory lap inside the Khalifa International Stadium after crossing the line first. The Pocket Rocket, as she is affectionately called, was 32-years-old when she achieved the feat. No other athlete, male or field has won four 100m titles at the World Championships. She celebrated her 33rd birthday on December 27 and has indicated that she intends to run both the 100m and the 200m at the Tokyo Olympics next summer.

Fraser-Pryce completed a stellar championship in Doha by guiding a young Jamaican team to the gold medal in the 4x100m relay. The team was completed by Jonielle Smith, Natalliah Whyte and Shericka Jackson.

Fraser-Pryce is widely regarded as the greatest female sprinter of all time. With her exploits in Doha, she has now won the 100m at the Worlds in 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2019. She has won four of the five world 100m titles she has contested, as well as two of the last three Olympic 100m titles having won in 2008 and 2012. She won the 200m at the Pan Am Games this summer and won seven of the 10 races in which she competed during the year. The Jamaican ambassador has now won nine World Championship gold medals, second only to Allyson Felix of the United States who has 13.

Fraser-Pryce is considered a shoo-in to cop another RJR/Gleaner Sports Woman of the Year Award to be handed out in January. She previously won in 2012, 2013 and 2015. She was among five female athletes who made the shortlist for the IAAF Female Athlete of the Year Award following her exploits in 2019. The award was won by American world champion and 400 metre hurdles world record holder, Dalilah Muhammad.

Reggae Girlz striker Khadijah Shaw.

KHADIJA SHAW, JAMAICA’S TOP MARKSWOMAN

Khadija Shaw has emerged as a top striker not just in Jamaica but world football. The 22-year-old, who currently plies her trade at French club Girondins de Bordeaux, had a very good 2019.

This was so, although she was unable to inspire the Reggae Girlz to victory in any of their three group stage matches during their historic debut appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France in June. However, she provided the superb pass that was scored by Hanava Solaun, who scored Jamaica’s first and only Women’s World Cup goal in the 4-1 loss to Australia in their group game. In any event, Jamaica had perhaps the toughest group as they were drawn alongside football powerhouses Brazil, Australia and Italy.

Shaw signed a two-year contract with Girondins de Bordeaux on June 6, one day before the World Cup got underway. By the start of December she had scored 10 goals for her club which is headquartered in the city of Bordeaux. The club plays in the first division of French football. Apart from signing with a professional team, Shaw also completed her degree in communications in 2019.

Such was her impact on the game that the skillful and prolific goal scorer was listed as one of the top 100 female footballers for 2019 by British newspaper, the Guardian's International Edition. She was ranked at number 80 on the list.

Shaw is also the all-time leading goal scorer for Jamaica (male or female) and is the youngest female player to achieve 40 goals for her national team. She achieved this feat during the Caribbean leg of Women's Olympic Qualifiers in October.

THE REGGAE GIRLZ: HISTORIC WORLD CUP DEBUT

Having made history in 2018 when they became the first women’s team from the Caribbean to qualify for the FIFA World Cup, Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz made their much anticipated debut appearance at the eight edition of the showpiece event in June, 2019.

The Reggae Girlz.

It was not the fairy tale experience that Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean were hoping for, however the Girlz would have gained valuable experience and exposure competing on football’s biggest stage. The Girlz left France without a point as the 53rd ranked Jamaicans were beaten heavily in their three group stage matches against much higher-ranked opponents. However, they did leave after scoring one goal.

In their opening fixture against Brazil, the Girlz were beaten 3-0. They were then drubbed 5-0 by Italy before going down 4-1 to Australia. It was in that game that substitute Havana Solaun created history by scoring Jamaica’s first and only Women’s World Cup goal. And she was assisted by the team’s most exciting player, Khadija Shaw who, after running directly at the Australian defence, made the perfect pass to Solaun who rounded the Australian keeper. As the ball rolled across the line, the crowd inside the stadium erupted in support of the Jamaicans.

The Reggae Girlz did not fare well at the Pan American Games at which they were expected to shine as salary disputes and the withdrawal of top players from the squad hampered their chances. On August 3, they would bow out of the tournament which was held in Lima, Peru, without a point after crashing to a 3-1 defeat against Paraguay in their final Group A match. Chanel Hudson-Marks’ 31st-minute strike was Jamaica’s only goal at the tournament.

The Girlz would bounce back in October to dominate Caribbean rivals in the Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament. They easily qualified for the final stage of the competition where they will face much tougher opponents. The final round of competition will feature 2019 FIFA World Cup champions United States and fellow World Cup participants Canada and is scheduled to take place from January 28 - February 9, 2020.

Jamaica will play alongside Canada, Mexico and St Kitts and Nevis in Group B while Group A will feature the USA, Costa Rica, Panama and Haiti. Only two teams will qualify for the Olympics to be held in Tokyo, Japan next summer.

THE REGGAE BOYZ: HIGHEST FIFA WORLD RANKING IN 14 YEARS

Jamaica’s national senior men’s football team, coached by Theodore Whitmore, had a sensational year in 2019, a season in which the Reggae Boyz achieved their highest FIFA world ranking in 14 years.

Concacaf Gold Cup 2019 action between the Reggae Boyz and the United States.

The Reggae Boyz took advantage of a very weak group in the inaugural Concacaf Nations League and will end the year at number 48 in the world. They were sitting even higher in October when they were the 45th ranked team in the world.

The Concacaf Nations League, a new centralized men’s national team competition representing a new era of national team football for Concacaf Member Associations, was officially launched in March 2018. 

The league was played in the official FIFA match windows in September, October and November 2019 with a Final Championship to be played in March 2020.

All eligible Concacaf Member Associations were assigned by sporting performance into three leagues: A, B and C. 

Each league was sub-divided into groups, in which the participating Member Associations competed in a home-and-away, round-robin format over the course of the group phase.

The Reggae Boyz, based on a one-off qualifying phase in September 2018, were placed in League B, which contained four groups of four teams.

The winner of each League B group will be promoted to League A, and the bottom team of each League B group will be relegated to League C for the next edition.

Reggae Boyz coach Theodore Whitmore (right) receives the Order of Distinction from Governor General Sir Patrick Allen at the National Honours and Awards Ceremony in October, 2017.

The Reggae Boyz finished the 2019 Concacaf Nations League season with an unbeaten record of 5W-1D-0L and the top spot in the group and as a result will feature in League A in the next edition of the tournament.

The Reggae Boyz’ Concacaf Nations League campaign started with a 6-0 demolition of Antigua and Barbuda followed by a 4-0 thrashing of Guyana, both in September. An unconvincing 2-0 victory against Aruba at the National Stadium in October was righted in the return-leg with the Boyz coming away with a 6-0 victory.

The Boyz then closed out the year with a 2-0 victory over Antigua and Barbuda before drawing 1-1 with Guyana in November.

The Reggae Boyz’ 14-year high FIFA ranking was also fuelled by their performance in the Concacaf Gold Cup, where they were knocked out at the semi-final stage on July 4 by hosts United States, which won 3-1.

The Reggae Boyz ended the year with 1437 points for their top 50 world ranking and fourth in the Concacaf region behind Mexico (1621 points for 11th in the world), the United States (1540 points for 22nd in the world), and Costa Rica ( 1442 points for 46th).

The ranking puts the Reggae Boyz in a good position to qualify directly for the final round of the Concacaf World Cup Qualifiers set to begin next year.

On July 10, Concacaf announced a restructured qualifying format for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The new format gives the top six teams in the region based on FIFA rankings automatic passage to the hexagonal round in which three teams will automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup to be held in Qatar. 

The rest will play to determine which nation meets the number four team in the hexagonal in a home-and-home playoff for the right to meet a nation from another region in another home-and-home playoff for a World Cup berth.

It is one of the best positions that the Boyz have been in since the FIFA rankings started in 1992, bettered only by two periods since then.

In Jamaica’s football golden era during the Road to France campaign, Jamaica were ranked 32nd in 1996, 39th in 1997 and 33rd in 1998 when they participated in the FIFA World Cup in France. They dropped to 41st in 1999.

In 2000, the Boyz were ranked at 48th before improving to 46th place in 2003 and following up with a 42nd place ranking in 2005.

 

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