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Stars align for Jamaica’s U20s at famous Pasqual

Published:Thursday | July 28, 2022 | 12:11 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
Donald Quarrie
Donald Quarrie
Christopher Taylor
Christopher Taylor
From left: Serena Cole, Brianna Lyston, Tina and Tia Clayton.
From left: Serena Cole, Brianna Lyston, Tina and Tia Clayton.

THOSE WHO believe in signs will surely expect success from Jamaica’s team to the 2022 World Under-20 Championships. The event takes place in an old stomping ground for Jamaican track stars, Estadio Olimpico Pascual Guerrero in Cali, Colombia, where the great Donald Quarrie (DQ) and new star Christopher Taylor have made athletics history.

The Pascual, as locals call it, seats 35,000 and opened in 1937. In August 1971, Quarrie arrived there as a bright sprint prospect and left as a world record holder. Then just 20, he took the 100 metres by 0.03 seconds over Olympic silver medallist Lennox ‘Billy’ Miller. In the 200, DQ cruised his semi-final while American Marshall Dill hurried to victory in 20.34 seconds in the other one. That was close to Quarrie’s best 200-metre time, announcing that Dill was a threat.

In his classic ‘Donald Quarrie: The Career of an Olympic Champion’, legendary sportswriter Jimmy Carnegie wrote, “if there was such a thing as a perfect race, this was it. Young Dill equalled his previous best of 20.3, but he was five whole yards back and earned the reward for his perfect race by equalling the world record with 19.8, beating his own previous best by half a second - a virtually unheard of achievement in a sprint race at that level.”

On August 5, Alfred Daley, Miller, Carl Lawson and Quarrie finished the job with a clear 4x100 win over Cuba and the United States.

Taylor raced at the Pascual 44 years later at the IAAF World Under-18 Championships. He won his semi in 45.30 seconds, an Under-18 world leading time, and he wasn’t finished. In the final, he lowered his personal best even further, to 45.27 seconds.

He had to work to deny Josephus Lyles of the United States, who nabbed a lifetime best of his own, 45.46 seconds.

“I did not expect to run that fast,” the 15-year-old Taylor told The Gleaner.

“I went that extra to come home, as I know I had trained for it. So I just did what I had to do”, he explained.

That was Jamaica’s only medal of the 2015 World Under-18 Championships.

World record established

The world record established DQ as one of the world’s best sprinters. Five years later, he won gold in the 200 at the 1976 Olympics and silver in the 100. Taylor made his mark as a senior athlete in 2021, with a personal best of 44.71 seconds in the Olympic final in Tokyo, Japan.

Those who wear Jamaica’s colours in Cali this week will be walking in Quarrie’s footsteps. The team will include Serena Cole, Tina Clayton, Brianna Lyston and Tia Clayton, who set a disallowed World Under-20 4x100 record -- 42.58 seconds -- in Kingston at the Carifta Games. Incidentally, their final is set for August 5.

On that date in 1971, Quarrie sealed his golden Pan-American Games sprint triple. No sign could be better than that.