Looking for the next Fastest Human Alive? Start here.
Maybe you’ve noticed: Jamaica is home to the fastest athletes alive. In track events at the 2016 Summer Olympics, they took home gold medals in the women’s 100- and 200-meter races, the men’s 100- and 200-meter races (both won by Usain Bolt), the men’s 110-meter hurdles, and the men’s 4 x 100 relay. But come 2020, the Jamaicans will have a Bolt-sized hole to fill, after the man who couldn’t be beat runs straight into retirement. The good news? Right in the country’s own backyard are the Inter-Secondary Schools Boys and Girls Championships. Better known simply as “Champs,” it might be the best place in the world to find the next Fastest Human Alive.
Held inside Kingston’s 1960’s-built National Stadium, the four-day event is a track-and-field meet between Jamaica’s high schools. Though perhaps that is understating it. You’d be better served to think of it as Jamaica’s Super Bowl: a place where alumnus from all over come back in their school colors, creating such tense frenzy that winning runners can no longer do a full victory lap for fear of flying debris; a spectacle so in-demand that guards with dogs now have to be posited near the stadium’s edges to prevent those without tickets from scaling the stadium’s walls; a portal to an international stage so fleeting that young hopefuls can barely contain their emotions crossing the finish line—be that unbridled joy in a defiant shushing of the crowd, or bowed under the weight of defeat, knees on the track, head in hands.
It’s an event better seen than described. So we sent photographer Nils Ericson inside. The evocative stills he returned with don’t just bring it to life, they do what no one else can: capture the fastest young men and women on earth.