Move over the men with fast switch fibres, Discus thrower Fedrick Dacres showed that there is more to Jamaican athletics than the Caribbean island’s now legendary legion of sprinters.
The 17-year-old from Jones Town, an inner-city area in Kingston, took Jamaica’s first throwing gold medal at an IAAF World Athletics Series event when he launched his 1.5kg implement out to 67.05m in the final round at the IAAF World Youth Championships on Wednesday.
Domination the order of the day
Any one of Dacres’ five valid throws would have won the competition.
However, his winning effort - achieved with the last throw of the competition with the gold medal already in his grasp - put nearly six metres between himself and the best of the rest of world.
It was one of the most dominating displays of Discus throwing seen in recent decades at a global athletics event.
The mark was not only the best in the world this year by a youth but moved him up to sixth on the world all-time list for his age category.
Showing just how remarkably different Dacres is, at least in terms of his geographical origins, four of the five men in front of him come from Eastern Europe while the other is an Australian.
The win was not an upset though, Dacres could already boast of a mark of world-leading 66.42m before travelling across the Atlantic. Nevertheless there is always pressure on performers, particularly on teenage talent, when they reach a major championship but it is clearly one that the effervescent Dacres hardly felt in Lille.
He learnt his lessons about how to rise to the occasion last summer, when he won at the famed Carifta Games in the Caymen Islands which earned him a trip to Singapore for the first Youth Olympic Games.
Even though he finished next to last in the qualifying competition there, the structure of the Youth Olympic Games meant he got to throw again and it was in the B final that he showed his competitive spirit by throwing what was then a personal best of 54.79m and beating several ostensibly better throwers.
Confidence in the circle
Dacres knew before Wednesday’s competition that all eyes were on him, at home and overseas-at-large.
"The first medal or the first gold would really set the pace for the team and motivate everyone else to go out and do what is necessary to medal, or at least make their final, so I'm going out there to do everything to give us a good start," Dacres told the Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner earlier this week before his departure for Lille.
“I'm very proud about my personal best but I would really love to actually better it at the championships although I'll be thankful for a win," he added.
"My preparation has been going very well, my technique has been coming along very well and my coach has been working closely with me so I'm actually feeling pretty confident about bettering that personal best and medal."
Now that Dacres has got his team off to such a stunning start, the Jamaican team management are now looking to end the five days of competition with their medal tally reaching double figures for the first time; hopefully improving on their previous record haul of nine from four years ago when the Championships were held in the Czech city of Ostrava.
Dacres credited his training partner Traves Smikle, who got the bronze medal at the World Youth Championships two years ago and who attends the same Calabar High school as this year’s champion, as well as his school coach Julian Robinson, as the men who helped him mint his medal.
Sadly, Robinson was not on hand to watch his latest prodigy perform but Dacres showed his maturity by coping relatively comfortably with his absence.
"I'm used to my coach being there but he will give his orders and I'll follow, so maybe it won't be that big of an issue but it certainly would feel better if he was there,” admitted Dacres before his departure.
"I will give him a training plan and instructions on how to prepare for the competition. He will apply that strategy and system and I think he will do well,” reflected Robinson, talking to another newspaper The Jamaican Star, which indicated the level of interest in the young Discus thrower and the impact he has had at home.
“I think he has what it takes to medal and he is a good competitor so I am hoping and praying that he is able to execute what we have been working on in training both mentally and physically and if he is able to do that then he will do well for Jamaica, Calabar and himself,” added the coach, who had clearly done a good job.
Technique tells for the teenager
It was a triumph of technique over brute strength for the relatively slender teenager in Lille.
To quote Katherine Merry, Great Britain’s 2000 Olympic Games 400m bronze medallist who was in the northern French town broadcasting for the IAAF: “He looks more like Usain Bolt’s younger brother than one of the big men you normally find throwing the Discus.”
Now the two big questions are: firstly, can Dacres carry on confounding the Jamaican athletics stereotype and win at next year’s IAAF World Junior Championships, which will also be held on European soil in Spain’s second city Barcelona?
Secondly, with Bolt having been boasting of his new found prowess in the weights room this winter, it made several people wonder in Lille: “Who would win if there was a competition to push the kilos between the sprinting superstar and the talented teenage?”
Phil Minshull for the IAAF