ASAFA vs. USAIN: The Measure of Success

The disparaging comments and other negative responses to Asafa Powell’s failure to once again win a coveted World Championship individual medal, despite making it to the 100m final yet again, took me right back to High School and made me question how we measure, see or judge success. It seems many of us really don’t have a balanced view of success or great achievements. How many of you remember Student Report Card Day, when your parents were required to visit your high school to collect your report, and meet with all your teachers to get a feedback on your performance over the school term? I remember those days well but not with very pleasant memories. Most if not all of us were very apprehensive and fearful of the results because it seems Jamaican parents all live by one mantra, which is also a motto for many schools, “only the best is good enough!” So if you did not get straight A’s your performance was met with strong disapproval and never mind if you were placed in the top 10 or top 5 in your class. There were even parents who were upset with their children because of the quality of the A, never mind that you got 95%, you did not make the 100% mark.

Success on a Continuum

In the same way, never mind that Asafa Powell consistently makes it to the finals of these two major events, being among the top 8 great athletes at the World Championship and the Olympics for the past 10 or so years! Never mind that he rarely runs below 10 seconds in those finals! The fact is that the top medals remain elusive especially since we know he has the potential! The way many Jamaicans talk it’s as if Asafa is a complete failure and worthless because the top individual medals continue to elude him. What message therefore are we sending the younger generation about the measure of success and their value or worth to a field? Have we considered the perspective that success is on a continuum? In academic terms there is typically a B range often 70 -84% and an A range 85 -100%. In the music industry, there is the Bill Board top 10 or even 100, and making it in the top 10 is still considered a success. Why should Asafa hang up his boots and abandon his career because unlike Usain Bolt he is not number one? The fact is, he is still among the greats and his grit and determination in my book, is unmatched by anyone in the sport over such a long period, except perhaps for Merlene Ottey, another great Jamaican athlete. The fact is, he is still striving to do his best in his chosen field and still makes it to the finals, the top 8 at the age of 33! He still wins races although not individually at these two illustrious events.

A Wholistic View of Success

The way Asafa has been assessed clearly shows that we seem to value the individual performance rather than team effort. It also shows that we often do not consider the bigger picture and have a very limited view or perspective on life and success. Never mind that Asafa is a tremendous asset to Jamaicas 4×1 relay team! Never mind his contribution to the field of athletics! Never mind the world records he set before! Never mind his achievement in being promoted to team captain! Yes, hang up your boots Asafa! Give up your profession and stop earning a living in athletics because you have not won the most coveted individual titles!  Why do we focus so much on people’s deficits and weaknesses? Yes, forget his strengths and any another achievement!  Only the top 3 places are good enough! One person commenting on youtube in reference to Asafa said, “history does not remember losers.” Is Asafa really a loser given all his accomplishments over the years? Common, get a proper perspective! In the greater scheme of athletics history, Asafa will always have a place and a positive one too! I do not like the message about success that many Jamaicans are sending. Asafa is still an asset to athletics and success should be measured on a continuum. Let’s not use a keyhole view to form a world view.

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