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All hail Akela


Andi Thornhill

All hail Akela

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But for the stunning resignation of Owen Arthur from the Barbados Labour Party, I think the elevation to world champion status of Akela Jones would have been the top story in Barbados in the past week.
However, the Jones conquest shouldn’t  be relegated from our minds as quickly as the nine days’ wonder the Arthur departure is likely to be.
Outstanding sports personalities seldom get their due here perhaps because their contributions on the world stage and their input to national development don’t carry the same weight as accorded to major achievements in other areas.
It’s that perennial psyche that continues to demotivate many of our sporting ambassadors and those who are turned off by the way most are treated.
Some like Ronald “Suki” King soldier on despite our perceptions that the state as a whole could’ve done  much more for him as a world champion for more than two decades but more on that later.
For now, let’s give Jones her due for her phenomenal rise from primary school to the present.
It’s not only talent that makes you a winner or champion at any level.
It’s not even the fact that you may train hard and be dedicated to your craft or chosen discipline.
From my observations, you can have all of the aforementioned qualities but you don’t cut it unless you are competitive. And you have to be competitive particularly when you’re up against the best in the world, junior or senior.
To cut the chase, I believe Jones’ competitive nature stands out in my opinion as the main attribute that has fuelled her success throughout her career. In fact, it is true to say her competitive nature has been the perfect foil for her multi-talent.
I’m not going to be surprised when she reaches the summit of whatever discipline she settles for in her promising track and field career. That she is now the world’s leading junior female long jumper comes with the path she is currently trodding.
Jones believes she can conquer any obstacle in her way and that she has a right to be first in whatever she does. With such a mentality all things are possible.
The truth is that the young phenom has been like this from primary school at Hilda Skeene through to secondary level at Springer Memorial and with the national teams.
Perhaps some will agree that the event she was least expected to win at the Carifta Games this year she did. The 100m hurdles was captured through pure hunger and determination and yes ruthless competitiveness.
It helped her to earn the prestigious Austin Sealy Award. Prior to that, she dominated the pentathlon at the NAIA Championships for her American university.
Now she has added a major distinction to her resumé – a world champion, albeit at the junior level – but she has the pedigree to mix it up with the seniors in the near future.
I hope she stays fit and the authorities give her all the support she needs to take her to the next level.
I know she’s already being showered with the expected accolades but I want to see that transformed into something more sustained and tangible because sweet talk alone won’t get the likes of an Akela Jones to the point she can reach.
Hint: The Rio 2016 Olympics are just around the corner!
While Jones has just been crowned a world champion, Ronald “Suki” King lost his world go-as-you-please draughts title to Italian Sergio Scarpetta.
He held the accolade for 23 years, since 1991, longer than anyone who played the sport, including  the late Dr Marion Tinsley, who many regarded as the best ever before King’s spectacular advent on to the world stage.
You name them, King Suki outmanoeuvred some of the best – the late Derek Oldbury, Jim Morrison, Elbert Lowder, Richard Hallett, Alex Moiseyev and his own local nemesis Jack Francis. The harder they came, the harder they fell.
However, I must concede that I was among those who didn’t expect King to lose to the Italian, who now holds the three move restriction title as well like the Bajan legend once did. But as we review his lengthy stay at the top, can we as a nation have a clear conscience about the way we treated him?
It seems to me that we treated him more like a commoner than the true king he is.
He isn’t perfect and has made some errors along the way like all of us but it appeared as if we dwelt more on his weaknesses than his strengths, which helped to promote the island positively.
We need to strike the correct balance when it comes to recognising the efforts of our sporting icons.
Akela Jones is now beginning her ascension and I hope that she and others of her ilk are dealt with fairly in the future and given the respect they deserve.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports journalist. email:[email protected]
 

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