Oral Tracey: Protect Taylor from ‘burn out’
Boys and Girls’ Champs 2016 is now done and dusted. Once again, it showcased brilliance as Jamaica continues to lead the world in the systemic production of young track-and-field talent. With two early individual records in the 200 and the 400 metres, along with an overall four gold medals, Christopher Taylor of Calabar High was undoubtedly the most dominant athlete on show. The precocious 16-year-old talent must be looked at beyond the scope of setting Champs records and lifting the Mortimer Geddes Trophy for Calabar. Taylor’s supreme talent is a rare gift to be nurtured and showcased by Jamaica for the wider world. Many observers, myself included, are seriously concerned for the future of Taylor in term of realising his potential as a genuine world beater. The World Youth champion over 400 metres is in his fourth year at Calabar High, where he has been nothing but a fearless and aggressive competitor and a champion. He competed in 10 races at Champs 2016 and was flat out in at least eight of those runs. Outside of the physical rigours of doing so much work at such a young age with such a frail physical structure, the possibility of physical, mental, and psychological burnout of this young gem is a clear and present danger. In terms of making the successful transition to the senior level, it is a potentially lethal combination to be as talented as Taylor at such and early age and to attend a Champs-chasing school like Calabar. Rising to the pinnacle of personal performances and team achievements, 14- and 15-year-old provides for a lofty emotional ride for any young athlete. The satisfaction of excelling repeatedly at Champs from such a very early age could be debilitating for the development and transition process of a special young athlete like Taylor. The story has been told of a former Champs star who instructively also attended Calabar and was competing at a World Junior Championships. When he was approached by his national coach with words of motivation and encouragement before the start of his event, the youngster’s response was: “Coach, it’s not Champs, but I will try my best.” The scary history is there for all to see. None of our current senior international male world beaters were outstanding Champs stars at Class Three and represented Champs-winning teams. The athletes who make the transition are generally not from the top Champs schools and generally were not Class Three standouts. Usain Bolt never won at Class Three and competed for William Knibb; Asafa Powell never won at Champs, he went to Charlemont High; Yohan Blake was a big star at Champs for St Jago, but not at Class Three. As great as Taylor is as an athlete, and as a ruthless as he is as a competitor, he is still human and it would a be a tragedy of immense proportion if this youngster – who is already the best in the entire world at his age group – does not make the successful transition to the senior ranks. He is the most special athlete to emerge from the Jamaican production line since Bolt and while the dynamics are different, we must remember that there were moments along the way when we almost lost Bolt. Just as was done for Bolt, Taylor should be protected from ‘burn out”. One more year in school maximum to facilitate the completion of his physical development, then the deliberate and meticulous process should begin of moulding Taylor into the international star he is destined to be.