BLAKE, THE REAL DEAL

On the night of Thursday, September 8, shortly after Yohan Blake blasted through the finish line in Zurich stopping the clock at 9.82 seconds, he spread his arms, his palms upturned and sank to his knees. The horde of photographers moved closer, snapping pictures at the speed of light, the flash of their bulbs illuminating the Jamaican, who was clad in his green and black Adidas running suit.

Yohan Blake had arrived and was soaking up every second of the moment. It was only just about two weeks before that the former St. Jago track star at 21 years and 244 days had become the youngest man ever to win the 100-metre title at the World Championships. At first glance his winning time of 9.92s may have seemed relatively slow when compared to the winning times over the past few championships but when one considers that the race was run into a -1.4m/s wind, Blake’s gold-medal run was at least as fast as Justin Gatlin’s and Tyson Gay’s times in 2005 and 2007 respectively. Usain Bolt’s 9.58s set in Berlin in 2009, stands alone was the fastest time ever run.

At the time of writing, Blake followed up his win in Zurich with another 9.82-second win in Berlin. This time the wind was 0.1 m/s. Back to back 9.82s in similar conditions. When his times are adjusted for wind and altitude, in all of history, only four men are now better – Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, Maurice Greene and Asafa Powell. Incredible!

In Zurich, Blake put paid to any concerns over his true speed with his blistering run to defeat a quality field that included former world record holder Asafa Powell (who was not at his best and ran accordingly), World Championships silver medalist Walter Dix as well as Michael Frater and Nesta Carter. When allowances are made for the lack of wind (there was no wind factor in Zurich), Blake’s time is as fast as Powell’s 9.78 run in Lausanne, that was aided by a 1.0 m/s wind. It also makes Blake fourth fastest in the world this year behind Powell, Tyson Gay 9.79 (1.1m/s) and Steve Mulling (9.80, 1.3m/s) in Eugene, Oregon.

In 2010, Blake broke through the 9.90-second barrier to join the small number of elite sprinters including the three Jamaicans to break that barrier joining Bolt, Powell and Carter. Michael Frater and Steve Mullings joined those ranks this year but Mullings’ times have been tarnished by virtue of his positive tests for Furosemide at the national championships in June. In May this year, Blake raised eyebrows when he ran 9.80 to win the 100 metres at the Jamaica Invitational. The trailing wind of 2.2 m/s was only slightly over the allowable limit but those who saw it realized that Blake was ready to run with the Big Three – Bolt, Gay and Powell.

None of this success, however, seemed to have fazed the Jamaican 100-metre junior record holder. Listening to him after his run in Zurich you get to understand that this is where he has always wanted to be. “I’ve always wanted this. Whenever I see Usain Bolt go out and get this massive cheer, I always wanted it. So I said to myself I have to go out and train hard. Usain gave me tips on what its like to be out here and today I’m loving the crowd,” he said.

Embracing the spotlight is a step in the right direction. Not many people can handle it because with the spotlight come a lot of other things that are not as nice but which he will also have to learn to willingly embrace.¬†As world champion, Blake will have to continue to run fast in order to continue to silence the critics who will argue that Asafa Powell’s groin injury and Bolt’s false start opened the door for him to step through and become world champ.

For the time being he can argue that at least he had the presence of mind to grasp the opportunity with both hands and revel in it. Zurich was the first step. Now, the real work begins. He will have to run fast and also understand how to make the most of his opportunity. Staying healthy is key – but Blake must also be prepared to work on his personal development. He is a diamond in the rough. As hard as he works on his physical preparation, he needs to work even harder on being even more interesting.

On the world stage Blake is now a novelty, something new to gasp and fawn over, but the honeymoon will soon be over. Once it is, the scrutiny will be more intense and the characterizations might not be so flattering. To negate potentially unflattering criticisms in the future he has to smooth over those rough edges and work on maximizing on his potential earnings by attracting multiple sponsors. His agent Cubie Seegobin has done a great job so far but his responsibilities will now increase ten-fold as he works to make sure his young client gets the best out of his new found stardom.

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7 Responses to “BLAKE, THE REAL DEAL”

  1. Jakan says:

    Most urgently, he needs to curb his mouth. Rule number 1-never answer any question about another athlete (or anybody else for that matter). They can answer for themselves better than anybody else can and what is more fellow athletes have managers and agents who are paid to deal with those things for them.

  2. R Davis says:

    5 Men Nester Carter run 9:78 before

  3. JM says:

    Great piece

    Care must also be taken in teaching him how to manage his finances, as a sprinter’s career is very short and his finances have to be handled wisely

    Yohan’s interviewing skills have gotten better, but still needs quite a bit of improvement. He is on the world radar now, and interviews will now be the norm for him.

    Being able to understand him is a must if he intends to capitalise on endorsements.

    His english is not very good and is always interspersed with quite a bit of patois, which no one but us and the Caribbean understand. But this can be improved upon.

    On a related note, what is happening in the J.A educational system? As an eg. if you’ve been to any track websites, Jamaicans can immediately be identified. Sadly it is by the (extremely) poor grammar and punctuation(and not occasional slip ups which we all make).

    Something has to be done about this

    Congrats again to Yohan

  4. maurice says:

    with speed adjusted for wind amd altitude blake has a 9.76 in +1 wind conditions which would make his time the fastest this year ,and only gay bolt and powell ever being better.

  5. sport guy says:

    Great writing and well thought out, in fact good reporting. I am sure the Jamaican Olympic 2012 team will benefit from the multiply track personalities at the 100 and 200 meters.

    The 100 and 200 for men looks very interesting. However, what the team needs now is balance by producing a few more winners at the 400 and 800 distance which will make the team a real contender in 2012.

    What the Jamaican team accomplished in the last Olympic Games,by dominating the woman and men sprints, was expected by those who follow the team. However, for this team to excite the crowd next time they will have to do more, like wining in the 400 or 800 distances.

  6. c blake says:

    Nothing can be taken away from this young man. His level of determination is second to none.You can see that he just doesnt want to be a good athlete he wants to be the very best.If he remains focus you know that jamaica will have on its hands potentially two of the greatest athletes ever this
    could make all athletes wanting to train in jamaica and potentially make millions for the country.

  7. Monica Shand says:

    I have been living in Canada for over 30 years, as a little girl growing in St. Ann, I was involved in track and field which is my favourite sport. I have never missed the chance to see my fellow country men and women running all over the world. I planned my weekends to watch them. I just want to say CONGRATULATIONS to you guys for the great job that you are all doing on the world stage.
    I cant wait for the 2012 olympics. I know that I will not be able to be there, but I will be taking my summer vacation to watch all the games. I am praying that you all stay heathy and strong. Thanks again for making all Jamaicans very very proud.

    Monica Shand from Brown’s Town, St. Ann
    YOU GUYS ARE THE VERY BEST IN THE WORLD.

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7 comments so far
levyl Posted by: levyl September 11, 2011 at 8:51 am