Friday 20 September 2019

Book review: Jamaica's sprint factory is viewed from inside camp

The Bolt Supremacy
The Bolt Supremacy

Remember those summer evenings huddled around the T.V. watching athletics for probably the first time in four years; it's one hundred metre final time at the Olympics.

Almost ten seconds of super high-pressure sporting entertainment. Then remember how you heard a few months later that the winner that night had tested positive for some banned substance.

Well, it's those two events that form the basis of Richard Moore's book, 'The Bolt Supremacy'. Don't be fooled by the name of the publication, that's just there to attract the reader to the book, the subtitle is more telling - 'Inside Jamaica's Sprint Factory'.

Sprinting, and winning those events, has become the norm for the Caribbean Island nation and Moore wants to find out why that's the case. Of course, Bolt is the epicentre for Jamaican sprinting as everything revolves around the world record holder, but bubbling under is a conveyor belt of talent few nations can match in any sport.

It's that success that makes the author, and the public in general, doubtful. It gives rise to questions but it's not easy to get relevant answers as Moore finds in this 320-odd page publication. He looks at any number of factors that could have helped Jamaica become the sprinting capital of the world but always comes back to drugs.

It certainly feels like the author went to Jamaica hoping to uncover some elaborate doping ring, but he falls a long way short if that was indeed the goal. Moore looks a little into the history of the country and its record in sprinting before setting his sights on the up-and-coming athletes.

This insight provides some of the most interesting work in the book as he talks to youth sprinters that seemed destined for greatness before later returning to track their progress. It's those lives, the ones that are on the cusp of moving from poverty into potential world champions, that makes the reader realise how important sprinting is to the country.

But Moore always rounds back to drugs and the performance-enhancing aspect. He looks at the visible line between banned substances and legal supplements and shows how some of the failed tests that have come out of Jamaica have origins in the latter category.

He interviews the testers (really insightful segments) and the enforcers. He speaks to the athletes, and the trainers of the athletes, that have failed tests and discussed those findings. There seems to be little remorse and most are painted as 'someone else's fault', for a myriad of reasons. It might seem too heavy but without the PED's angle, this book would be seriously lacking and Moore knew it.

The presentation of the publication is excellent with almost no errors, and it's paced in such a way that the reader is casually bounced from one topic to another with little trouble.

Is 'The Bolt Supremacy' worth the price for the average sports fan? That's a tricky one. The ardent reader will definitely enjoy the content as it's one of those books that seldom grates. It doesn't come up with all the answers that you'll naturally want but if it did you would undoubtedly have heard of, and read this publication, before reading this review.

For the ardent track and field follower this book is really a must read, simply because the access that Moore gets to some of the sport's best-known figures is second to none. And while the conclusion might be lacking, the journey to that point will really broaden your knowledge of Jamaica and their sprinters.


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