Sat | Feb 23, 2019

Hubert Lawrence | Goule’s big chance

Published:Thursday | February 14, 2019 | 12:09 AM

Aside from the word on the ongoing recovery for Kemoy Campbell, the best news of the week is the continued good form of Natoya Goule. Though her 2019 win streak ended at the Millrose Games, Goule cut the Jamaican indoor record to 1 minute 59.13 seconds.

She was well beaten in the end by American Ajee Wilson, the 2017 World Championship bronze medallist, but the record bears special significance. The 2008 Olympic 800-metre finalist Kenia Sinclair and Goule herself are the only Jamaican women ever to have gone fast outdoors.

In a country rightly devoted to excellence in sprinting, Goule has taken up where Sinclair and Inez Turner, the 1994 Commonwealth champion, left off. She has accelerated out of her successful 2018 season, which peaked with a national record – 1 minute 56.15 seconds – in Monaco, and medals at the Commonwealth Games, the NACAC Championships and the Continental Cup.

Life doesn’t guarantee straight-line progression from one stage to the next, but if Goule peaks on time for the World Championships, she could go there with a real chance at a medal. As things stand, Sinclair is the only Jamaican to have made a World final. That was eight years ago in Daegu, South Korea. Goule has a chance to match or surpass Kenia’s 5th place there.

Beyond that, Goule, Sinclair and Turner represent real hope. Our sprint heritage makes athletes, parents and coaches gravitate to shorter events. That movement drains Jamaica’s potential in longer races.

The knock-on effect limits Jamaica’s potential medal haul at major championships.

Remember the rush you get whenever Jamaica is at the top of the medal table early on at the World Championships and the Olympic Games? It’s brilliant. Unfortunately, it always dissipates like the boost from a bad energy drink.

At 28, Goule is young enough to improve her own standing in the sport. With the World Championships coming this September, the Olympics in Tokyo next year and the Worlds again in 2021, this is prime time for her. As good as Kenia was, with her 2006 Commonwealth and World Indoor silver medals and being a World and Olympic finalist, Goule could overtake her and become, without question, Jamaica’s best-ever 800-metre runner.

Be inspired

Hopefully, young girls like Western Relays Youth Awardee Shaquena Foote of Petersfield and Charokee Young of Hydel High School will try to follow in Goule’s footsteps.

Talk to Veronica Campbell-Brown, Sherone Simpson and the likes of hurdler Delloreen Ennis-London and they regale you with stories of how the wonderful Merlene Ottey inspired them. Ottey and fellow World champion Bertland Cameron sat listening to the radio when Donald Quarrie won the 200 metres in Montreal at the 1976 Olympics.

Then just 16, Merlene and Bertland got up from the broadcast inspired to emulate DQ.

This could happen with Goule. On top of the benefits she will derive personally from success, she could also make middle-distance running fashionable in Jamaica and broaden the base of local athletics.

This isn’t just about the girls. Hopefully, Goule will become a symbol for the boys who run the 800m. Last year, Calabar bombarded the Penn Relays 4x800m record into oblivion with a marvellous run of 7 minutes 26.09 seconds, with St Elizabeth Technical also well under the old mark.

Three members of that Calabar team – Devannah Gayle, Rivaldo Marshall and Kimar Farquharson, the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships Class Two record holder, are in school and on track. Jamaica College and Kingston College also have good prospects in harness. Hopefully, they will be made to see Goule as a hero.

Hubert Lawrence was present when Sherwin Burgess set the Champs record of 1.48.84 in 1987.