You gotta love it! The 30th Olympics in modern times, London 2012, already has new pin-up girls, and we have not really started the athletics fully or completed cycling or swimming. What a feast of sports! Sometimes, perhaps even most times, with our actions, we ponder about the future and those replacing us. Indeed, as George Bernhard Shaw once suggested, “Youth is actually, really, wasted on the young!” Sometimes, though, exuberance of youth, and ignorance of what we call ‘real life’ do allow authentic, original performers, with clear heads and consciences, to show themselves. One is ‘Lithuanian Ruta’! Not specially financed by any multi-national entity, or from some country with zillions in its coffers for sports, like USA, China or UK, Lithuanian 15-year old school-girl Ruta Meilutyte still man-handled, or should that be ‘child-destroyed’, the swimming world last week, stunningly overpowering the world’s best, while winning 100 meters breaststroke final at XXX Olympiad; London 2012! What a swim, girl! Back in 1972, former USSR’s Olga Valentinovna Korbut, No. 253, was my first ‘Olympics Girl’. I was just becoming a name in cricket, and, as now, was fortunate enough to have been in United Kingdom then too – my first travel outside of the Caribbean - for those XX Olympiad, held in Munich, (West) Germany. I immediately fell in love with Olga! That little playful pixie, complete with slightly disheveled hair, probably elastic spine, painted-on leotard, heart-evaporating smile, aged 16, somehow without evident female body protrusions for that age, wowed the world like no other had done before, or even, since! Olga had been training at gymnastics since age 8. In terms of real sports, she was already an eight-year veteran by the time those eventually extremely disastrous games came around, but not even Black September’s cowardly commando raid on the unfortunate Israeli athletes could erase Olga’s triumph!
Indeed, to this day, her almost impossible maneuver, ‘The Korbut Flip’, is still used extensively world-wide, and has, in some ways, become the very hall-mark of modern gymnasts. What a great move! Olga was interviewed at London 2012’s gymnastics. She purred! “I am just back, simply to enjoy what I think I had started 40 years ago. It is so very exciting to have begun something special and new; to see that the girls, especially the Russians, are still performers, not just robots!’ Oh, she still looks lovely too! This was so very similar to the Olympic episode, and re-invention in high-jumping skills, by “The Fosbury Flop”, named for absolutely revolutionary efforts by USA high-jumper, Richard Douglas “Dick” Fosbury. He was also only 19 when he won that gold medal with a then Olympic record, at XIX Olympiad; Mexico 1968. Every world-class high jumper, including all now too, adopts that technique. Youths; they rock! Also, there might even be underlying consternation, probably jealousy, especially from normally poorly-losing Americans, at the ease with which new world-record holder for 400m individual medley, China’s 16 year old sensation, Ye Shiwen, that other full event-stopper, decimated the entire pool of swimmers. Could it be that some are trying to denigrate her country, China, for progress, where others often fail? So what that Ye beat her previous best by a whopping five seconds? With youths, anything is possible! To paraphrase actor Will Smith, as he flew one of the invading alien’s own space-craft into battle against them, in “Independence Day”, I definitely want some of what Ye Shiwen has been taking, whatever it is! Oh no, youth it is not always wasted on the young. Only youths, certainly in body, hopefully in minds too, could perform such gyrations without fear of consequences. Oh, for such real innocence again! Like Olga and Dick, Ruta and Ye are already heroines at home. After London 2012, expect stamps to be made of their likenesses, along with severe, real ‘mulah’ and overt attention that they would receive, especially in our modern Twitter-world. All they need do is keep those toothy grins and keep winning!
With focus on winning, West Indies beat New Zealand last week; Test No. 1. In cricketing terms, someone remarked, as No. 1 and No. 2, England v South Africa, try to gore each other to death; ala epee - dueling swords; West Indies win was like minnows eating tadpoles! Now, Windies needs bigger bait! Youth was again to the fore, in the visage of West Indies fast bowler extraordinaire Kemar Andre Jamal Roach, who, at only 24, is still just a pup in international cricket. While his production has not been as it should have been; only 77 wickets in 20 Tests; he is by far the leader of the present fast bowling pack! Excitingly, Roach already has five five-wicket hauls in Tests, with a ten-wicket match haul too, including 5-60 garnered as West Indies set up only 102 to win Test No. 1. When, not if, he learns all things needed for really good fast bowling; erasing technical fallibility for no-balls and approaches; he could be great! The last such “small” fast bowler to be termed “great” was my late fast bowling partner, Malcolm Denzil Marshall, who also made his Test debut at age 20. “Macco” always said that he learned from us, ‘The Big Boys’ - Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Colin Croft and Joel Garner - on the job, not from manuals! All of those named, including me, I guess, have been termed “Legends,” at least in our own minds! Roach, with his start, and much needed help in future, could easily eclipse all of us, injury permitting! Roach could even try to emulate Marshall in his approach to the wicket, before launching “Exocets!” Marshall actually had two approaches, one much longer than the other, used accordingly to conditions afoot. Yet, for all of his 81 Tests, and highly successful results; 376 wickets; he seldom bowled no-balls!
Roach is obviously learning as he goes along. Regrettably, unfortunately for him, there is no-one now in his team to teach him anything about fast bowling. That he bowls many no-balls, some particularly very costly, actually getting “no-wickets”, is expectedly normal. He only operates on his own basic instincts! Doubly embarrassing in this scenario is that Ottis Gibson, England’s bowling coach when fast bowlers Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad appeared to be England present spear-head fast bowers, is now West Indies Head Coach. Where exactly is Gibson in these totally miserable foot-fault failings by Roach? To add to Roach’s youth, 22 year old opener Kieran Powell actually outplayed his more illustrious partner, Chris Gayle, to achieve a first Test century, 134, in 10 Tests, while Gayle magnificently bulldozed his 14th; 150. Also, Powell should have been named “Man of the Match,’ so polished were his efforts! All that Powell must now do, as Clint Eastwood suggested in “Magnum Force,” is know his limitations, clearly understanding his role, that he is not Chris Gayle. Indeed, there can only be one Chris Gayle! Sunil Narine, 24, continued in Test No. 1 where he left off in limited-overs games, his herculean, marathon 85 overs, match figures 8-223, demonstrating that youth knows no boundaries. At Sabina Park, he needs more productivity from the other bowlers, including Roach. Youth is still boss! Enjoy!.