Incomparable Usain Bolt leads the charge, but lingering fitness concerns over several stars could see Jamaican athletes struggle to repeat their 12 medal haul of London at the Rio Olympic Stadium.
Women’s 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, London 110m hurdles bronze medallist Hansle Parchment and world rated women’s intermediate hurdler Janieve Russell have all dealt with recent illnes or injury.
Additionally, two falls in his last two outings have caused concerns over the form of 100m hurdles gold medal favourite Omar McLeod.
The sprints which have been the mainstay of Jamaica’s Olympic campaigns since 1948 will still be expected to deliver the bulk of the medal again with Bolt seeking his third consecutive Olympic Games triple-gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay.
The conservative estimate could be between nine and 10 medals — barring another shock gold as was the case with Danielle Williams at the World Championships in Beijing last year.
Maurice Wilson, Technical Leader for the team, however, thinks the quality of this team is similar and might be even of a higher standard than the one in London.
In reports published in Jamaica recently, Wilson who also held the same position in 2012 and during last two World Championships, said the team “could be one of the best ever”.
“When you look at the breakdown, in terms of the quality of the athletes we have this year, it is, in my opinion, similar or even at a higher standard. Irrespective of who we have, we have to perform during the course of the championships.”
Addressing the injury concerns and with a number of athletes getting “medical exemptions” from the recent Olympic trials in Kingston, Wilson reasoned that if the athletes are able to prove their fitness by the August 8 deadline “this could be one of the best performances.”
With Bolt ‘proving’ his fitness with a 19.89-seconds 200m in London this month — after he withdrew from the trials with a hamstring issue — the prospects for Jamaican suddenly looked much better.
Until he is toppled, Bolt is still the sprint king and he has enough quality support in the relays to retain all three titles.
After her spectacular 10.70 seconds at the Jamaican championships, Elaine Thompson has emerged as the new queen of speed, especially given Fraser-Pryce’s struggles with a toe injury this season.
– Blake back in form –
Yohan Blake has shown a return to form after a series of injuries kept him out of top class competition since 2012 and he could once again feature in the medals in both short sprints.
Ironically its McLeod’s blazing speed that is his problem in the hurdles and if he can fix that issue by the start of the competition, should be favorite to win the gold.
Parchment has long battled injuries and hasn’t run since the Prefontaine Classic in May, but his quality cannot be overlooked.
Fedrick Dacres, a World Youth and Junior champion and finalist in Beijing last year, is a dark horse for a medal in the discus.
On the women’s side, in addition to Thompson, Fraser-Pryce should not be counted out for a medal in the 100m and both female relay teams should take home medals.
Shericka Jackson won 400m bronze in Beijing last year and while she has been inconsistent away from Kingston this season remains a podium threat in what could be one of the toughest events in the entire program.
Until she fell in training in mid-June and injured her thigh, Russell was ranked number two in the 400m hurdles. The loss of training time could hurt the 2012 junior World Champion’s bid for a first major senior medal.
Triple jumper Kimberly Williams has never failed to make it to the finals in major competition and could get back to fitness come Rio and finally crack the top three.