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A THORNY ISSUE: Still hope for Brathwaite

Andi Thornhill

A THORNY ISSUE: Still hope for Brathwaite

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Still hope for Brathwaite
I don’t see it as a bad thing at this stage. In fact, I think it is good for Brathwaite that the spotlight isn’t on him because he will not be under any great pressure going to London.  
Some of his more illustrious opponents will be.
When you take into account the blistering 12.87 seconds clocked by China’s Liu Xiang at the prestigious Prefontaine Classic on Saturday, it is instinctive to install him as the early favourite to win Olympic gold.
I don’t think he will go beyond that time again before London, so the expectations will be enormous for him to show the same level of command once he gets there.
Lest we forget, too, there will be a couple of rounds before the final, whereas the current meets only involve a one-off event even though they still remain good pointers about the athletes’ form.
There are those who don’t want to peak before the day of reckoning. Some will, for strategic purposes, show you the smoke, leaving the fire for showtime at the big party.
Nevertheless, Liu would have sent his rivals the biggest warning yet that he’s the man to beat.
Things can change in any of the events two months away from the greatest sporting show on earth.
I am not stating this thinking it will improve Brathwaite’s chances of standing on the podium in London. It would be very naïve to consider such when you know that Cuban Dayron Robles will make a strong defence of his crown and world champion Jason Richardson of the United States, among others, are likely to be in the mix for medals.
We know it will not be easy for Brathwaite who bacame a World champion in 2009.
Indeed, we have seen him fall from grace since then and he didn’t even make it past the first round at the World’s last year in South Korea.
Perhaps, it was the kind of shock experience he needed to bring him back to reality.
A year ago, he looked overweight, more in the vein of a light heavyweight boxer than a world track king who was in the right shape and the right frame of mind to defend his title.
From all his reports, he has responded to the wake-up call and is nearing his 2009 form which brought him international glory and several national accolades.
His best time this year is 13.29 seconds, which is not bad in that at the same time last year, he was more likely to post around 13.67 seconds which was snail’s pace and reflected his decline.
Richardson, mind you, won in South Korea in 13.14 seconds, the time which earned Brathwaite his World title. I am not forgetting that Robles was the original winner in a faster time and was disqualified for bearing down on Liu.?But a fit Brathwaite could have been in line for honours again.
Truly, we might be in a better position to assess his form and prospects for the Olympics when he competes at the forthcoming National Champioships.
Clearly, I wouldn’t expect him to post anything close to what the Chinese achieved on Saturday but we can get some kind of indicator about his form.
After last year’s Nationals, we were virtually on the same page predicting that it would be easier to move Lord Nelson’s statue again than for Brathwaite to defend his World title successfully in South Korea.
There has been a transformation since then and a recent victory in Taiwan would have been great for his confidence.
I still believe he and his trainers have enough time to guage and analyze where he is at and where he needs to be by the time he gets to London.
Choosing the meets to compete at before the Olympics is crucial because at some point he must race against some of the best to honestly evaluate the situation.
Introspection will help him to determine if he has what it takes at this stage of his career to join Jim Wedderburn and Obadele Thompson as Bajans with Olympic medals.
It will not be an easy hurdle to clear, but it is not impossible either.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced award-winning freelance sports journalist.