There was something different in the air at this year’s Adidas Grand Prix Track and Field Meet, held earlier this month at Randall’s Island in New York City. An air of maturity indicated that West Indians were beginning to take responsibility for their own destiny, and seized the opportunity to celebrate the golden anniversary of the achievement of Independence of Jamaica and T&T. The colours that dominated the landscape were red, white and black and black, green and yellow. The display of Caribbean patronage, especially by the Jamaicans, could not be missed, given that country’s proven status as a superpower in the world of track and field via the feats of Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake and their predecessors.
Jamaicans, Trinbagonians and other West Indians came to cheer their heroes, who lined up against the best athletes representing the US and other parts of the world. There was pandemonium when Blake sprinted to victory in the men’s 100 metres dash ahead of T&T’s, Keston Bledman, who came in a very close second.
Both of their times were faster than that clocked by Tyson Gay of the USA, who had earlier that day won another one of the men’s 100 metres races. It was no different when Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce of Jamaica triumphed in the women’s category of that event, which included a world class line-up featuring world champions Camelita Jeter and Allison Felix of the US, and Kelly Ann Baptiste of T&T, a bronze medalist at the last world championships. Amid the successes and disappointments on the track, it was not possible to neglect the activities on the field. In the women’s shot put event, Cleopatra Borel of T&T showed that the Caribbean is not only famous for fast runners, but also for world-class field athletes. Borel took fourth place in an event that was won by the reigning world champion from New Zealand. The Caribbean was not to be denied more celebration when Sanya Richards-Ross, Jamaican-born, turned US competitor won the women’s 200 metres event.
Other Caribbean athletes from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and the Netherland Antilles also showcased their running, throwing, jumping and leaping skills. In true Caribbean style, the occasion was ripe for partying and a large segment of spectators, who had assembled as early as 11 am stayed back to fete. Dance hall artiste Shaggy started off proceedings and had patrons scanting, dancing and singing in the stands with a number of his chart topping hits. Richie Stephens of Jamaica invited the faithful to sing along with him as he dished out a number of reggae flavored gospel songs.
Without taking away from the spirit of praise, Faye Ann Lyons, daughter of high-priest of soca, Super Blue, came on immediately after Spice and encouraged the audience to “mash up the place.” At one point, the stadium was reminiscent of a Carnival fete in Port-of-Spain. With an entourage which included a disciple bearing a banner with his image emblazoned on it, dance hall star, Shabba Ranks entered the arena to make his contribution to the 50th independence anniversary celebrations. He showed why he is often referred to as the original “rude bwoy.” His lyrics were laced with sexual innuendos and his dance move did not leave much to the imagination.