Hubert Lawrence | The tale of two quests
By the time you open your eyes tomorrow morning, two important sporting quests will be afoot. In Liverpool, the Sunshine Girls will begin their pursuit of a title the country has never won at the Netball World Cup. Later in the same day, 100-metre hurdler Danielle Williams will settle into the blocks in Monaco, knowing that her only route to the IAAF World Championships is to win the Diamond League.
Both quests are compelling. For as long as I can remember, Jamaica has been one of the world’s top four netball nations. However, its trophy case is filled with bronze medals from the World Cup and the sport’s other summit meeting, the Commonwealth Games. Our history has great players from every era and smart coaches, who counter our small size and limited spending on facilities and player support. As evidence, the local netball federation was compelled to seek funds this year by asking the public for contributions of $500 apiece.
Widespread school and league play and, more recently, exposure for our stars at the world club level, have kept Jamaica right up there. Now the Sunshine Girls go to Liverpool ranked at number two.
Perhaps, in the inverse logic of how national teams attract sponsorship, the Girls will get more help if they win. Those funds can hopefully be used to the build the sport’s foundations and an indoor home it can call its own. After all, world netball has long been an indoor sport and the more we play outdoors, the more we risk being left behind.
So that quest is important for more reasons than one. The Williams Diamond League quest is compelling. Blighted at the National Championships last month by an uncalled faulty start, she must first qualify for the League final in Brussels in September. She won the first meet of the IAAF showcase in Doha in May, but that was before the drama at the Nationals.
She stepped to the line rated number four in the world by Track a nd f ield n ews for 2018, with times of 12.48 and 12.49 seconds respectively, and with a victory over world record holder Kendra Harrison in her last race of the season, the IAAF Continental Cup. She left under a cloud of discontent after an extraneous sound, reportedly the bursting of an air-filled noise maker, occurred after the field was called to the set position but before the starter fired his pistol.
To this point, the surprise disqualification has barred her from selection for the Jamaica team to Doha, where the World Championships will begin on September 28. The journey begins in Monaco. The simple advice is for her to take each race as it comes. Like the Sunshine Girls, Williams seeks a world title for Jamaica and for herself; she seeks to regain the world title she won in 2015.
The League has changed a bit. When it began in 2010, a winner could accumulate enough points at the various meets to make the final a formality. From 2017 onwards, those points only gain entry to the final, which is more like a championship. For this year, Diamond League winners get the added benefit of entry to the World Championships.
Monaco is the first of three Diamond League meets that will stage the 100-metre hurdles before the Brussels finale. Given the circumstances, fans will watch Danielle every step of the way. The same goes for the Sunshine Girls, who uphold a long-standing tradition of Jamaican excellence in netball. Hopefully, both quests will go very, very, very well.
Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.