The 102nd staging of Jamaica’s Boys’ and Girls’ Championships, popularly known as Champs, which was held at the National Stadium at the end of March, surely stoked excitement both on and off the track. For quite a few lucky fans, Champs 2012 will undoubtedly be etched in their minds for some time to come.
In the courtyard adjacent to the stadium during one of the extended breaks from the track & field competition, the Lime company kiosk was surely the place to be (LIME is regarded as the Caribbean's leading communications company). As it happened, two of Jamaica’s elite sprinters, Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell, who will represent the country in the upcoming 2012 World Olympics in London seemingly appeared out of nowhere and dropped anchor in front of the Lime stall with stacks of their own posters to autograph for the flock of fans who had shuffled and formed a make-shift line in front of the athletes.
Meanwhile, just a short distance away Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce toyed around with fans in a small fenced off area (which was accessible by fans) where there was a basketball hoop and other games. Shelly attended the Wolmer's High School for Girls and often makes her rounds at the Champs event while cheering on her alma mater.
Yohan Blake, of course, was the winner of the 100 metres at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea last summer after his training partner, Usain Bolt, had been disqualified for a false start (and did not run). Blake then sped to victory in 9.90 seconds.
Asafa Powell competed in the 100 metres at the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but failed to convert his success to the world stage, finishing fifth both times. However, in Beijing with the Jamaican team he won a gold medal and set the world and Olympic record in the 4 × 100 metres relay. In that race, Powell took the hand-off from Bolt in the anchor-leg position and scampered across the finish line way ahead of the rest of the field.
Fraser-Pryce, who trained for the Olympics with teammate Asafa Powell, became the first Jamaican woman in history to win an Olympic gold medal in the 100 metres sprint. Fraser's gold medal for Jamaica in the 2008 Beijing Olympics completed a famous double for the country, coming hot on the heels of Usain Bolt's astonishing performance to win the men's 100 metres in a new world record.
All in all, the fans that got autographs on their posters and photos with Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell, and Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce were immensely excited and gleamed with broad smiles and laughter as they made their way back to their seats to continue watching the track and field action. Blake later showed up in the grandstands, shook hands and chatted with some of the competition’s spectators. One giddy fan, who got signed posters from all the athletes, even used the phrase that is very popular in the streets of Jamaica right now…’A Yah So Nice’.
* Nicholas E. Ford is the son of KCOB Ray Ford and lives in the Washington D.C. metro area.