The University of Texas-bound Kevona Davis said Jamaica missed something special this past March when the Inter-Secondary School Sports Association (ISSA) cancelled the annual Boys and Girls Championships because of the threat of the spread of the Coronavirus, COVID-19.

I remember it like it was yesterday; my anxiety at the beginning of races. I’d kneel in the starting blocks and timidly look at the finish line. I knew it would be out of reach. Running was difficult for me.

Though I wanted out, the races continued. Coaches would classify runners by age and gender. There were four classes for girls. Class 1: under 19, class 2: under 17, class 3: under 15 and class 4: under 13. For the most part, runners were free to choose five other competitors— as long as they were from the same class and gender.

I was in class two. Class two had really good runners- and by good, I mean fast. The athletes were dedicated and gave races a lot of effort. They were so good that they made running look easy. While I participated in the same exercises for the same amount of time and shared a similar diet as them (since we were told what and what not to eat), running didn’t come easy for me. This is how it actually felt:

Lonely

I remember vividly not having any friends. All the girls had something in common- they were fast runners. I’d watch them share tips about posture and form with each other. Other times they’d discuss the personal strategies they use to dominate the track. Meanwhile, I couldn’t relate.

Awkward

 I didn’t run like the others. The only similarity was my laser focus on what was ahead of me – everybody else. I was always dead last.

In addition, my hands did their own thing. It’s recommended that you keep your hands at waist level and run with opened palms. I never did that. It was natural for me to run with my arms in front of my chest and my hands in fists. I also shrugged. Sometimes my form made it difficult to see. My hands were too close to my face, which affected my vision.

Neither my feet nor legs did what they were supposed to either. I ran on my toes. Coach hated it. She wanted me to use more of my feet, almost flat. To make matters worse, my legs kept bending— putting me in a sitting position almost. While my hips were sinking, other runners ran tall.

Exhausting

I was always doing more work than others. It was obvious because I would breathe heavily during races. I would be so exhausted that I would forget how to breathe. Most times I breathed through my mouth instead of inhaling from my nose and exhaling through my mouth.

I also thought the 100 metres race wasn’t for me. It was way too long. A 50-metre race would’ve been more my speed.

Painful

Running was also painful. I couldn’t feel my legs at the end of races. Especially if I did multiple that day. My shoes weren’t tight or anything but my feet hurt. I simply wanted to give them a break and lie on the ground at the end of a race. I couldn’t and that hurt. Coach didn’t allow me. She’d shout, “walk it out!” I hated that. It took everything in me to comply.

Pointless

Frankly, running felt pointless. Especially because I wasn’t planning on sticking around to see if I would get any better at it.

And just like that, running led me everywhere but the finish line.

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Last week, Jamaica was flooded with much-needed good news regarding a number of its top high-school athletes accepting scholarships to a number of great universities in the United States.

Having signed for Mississippi State University (MSU) in the USA this past week, Kingston College star jumper Shacquille Lowe is looking forward to winning titles and battling with former teammate Carey McLeod when he begins his collegiate career, hopefully in the fall.

In track and field, breaking a world record is special. Breaking a world record at the Olympic Games is extra special.

Excelsior High School star Ackera Nugent and Holmwood Technical High School’s Kavia Francis will both be attending Baylor University when the next academic year begins this Fall.

World Athletics has launched a $500,000 fund alongside the International Athletics Foundation (IAF) to help athletes affected financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

The world of sport has been decimated by the outbreak of COVID-19, which has seen the Olympic Games in Tokyo postponed by a year until 2021.

That had a knock-on effect with the World Athletics Championships, originally scheduled for 2021 in Oregon, pushed back by 12 months, while the 2020 European Championships have been cancelled.

A World Athletics statement said the fund will be used to help athletes who have lost the majority of their income from the suspension of international competition.

Resources from the 2020 and 2021 budgets of the IAF, of which Prince Albert II of Monaco is honorary president, will be allocated to help athletes. 

World Athletics president and IAF chair Sebastian Coe will front "an expert multi-regional working group to assess the applications for assistance, which will be submitted through World Athletics' six Area Associations".

Olympic champion and 1500 metres world record-holder Hicham El Guerrouj and Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi are among the members of the working group, which will convene in the coming week for talks over how to award and distribute grants to individual athletes and to assess means of raising additional monies for the fund.

"I would especially like to thank Hicham for bringing this idea to us, and Prince Albert for his strong support of this project," Coe said. 

"I am in constant contact with athletes around the world and I know that many are experiencing financial hardship as a consequence of the shutdown of most international sports competition in the last two months. 

"Our professional athletes rely on prize money as part of their income and we're mindful that our competition season, on both the track and road, is being severely impacted by the pandemic. 

"We are hopeful that we will be able to stage at least some competition later this year, but in the meantime we will also endeavour, through this fund and additional monies we intend to seek through the friends of our sport, to help as many athletes as possible."

El Guerrouj added: "The pandemic is causing economic pain to people from all parts of society, including athletes, and this is a time when we must come together as a global community to help each other. 

"I am delighted that Seb and World Athletics reacted so positively to my suggestion that we create a fund for athletes, and have made it happen with the support of the International Athletics Foundation. 

"The suspension of competition has had a huge impact on many professional athletes because they can't earn prize money so I'm really pleased that we have found a way to assist them."

Prince Albert II said he hopes the initiative can help athletes continue preparations for next year's Games.

"I created more than 35 years ago the International Athletics Foundation with the late Primo Nebiolo to encourage and promote athletics and grant financial assistance to athletics federations and the most deserving athletes," he said. 

"Since its inception the Foundation has distributed for these purposes more than $30million. I am delighted that we can put our resources behind this initiative so we can make a difference to the lives of athletes who are suffering financially at this time. 

"We hope that this support will help those athletes preparing for international competition, including next year's Olympic Games, to sustain their training, support their families and that this will relieve them of some stress in these uncertain times."

The Olympic Games in Tokyo will be scrapped rather than postponed again if they cannot be held in 2021, according to event president Yoshiro Mori.

The Games were pushed back from July to next year due to the coronavirus pandemic following weeks of uncertainty as the IOC considered the best course of action.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise globally despite some of the hardest-hit countries having had some success in reducing the rate of transmission and the number of attributable deaths.

However, Tokyo 2020 president Mori says there is no prospect of the Games being delayed further if staging them in 2021 is unfeasible.

"No. In that case, the Olympics will be scrapped," Mori told Japanese publication Nikkan Sports.

The comments came after Yoshitake Yokokura, the president of the Japan Medical Association (JMA), suggested it would be difficult for the Games to go ahead if a vaccine against COVID-19 has not become widely available.

"Unless an effective vaccine is developed I think it will be difficult to hold the Olympics next year," Yokokura told reporters.

"I'm not saying at this point that they shouldn't be held. The outbreak is not only confined to Japan. It's a worldwide issue."

The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus has passed three million, with just over 13,600 of those in Japan.

Almost 212,000 people to test positive for the virus have died.

The United States collegiate and Jamaican Track and Field community are in mourning over the passing of former George Mason University coach, Dalton Ebanks, who died Saturday from complications of the Coronavirus Covid-19.

Retired Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt has listed the 2015 Beijing World Championships 100m struggle against American Justin Gatlin as one of his toughest ever races.  

Heading into the championships, Bolt, who was recovering from injury, was short on fitness with many doubting his capacity to hit top gear.  It would have taken a brave man to bet against the Jamaica sprint king but some were convinced an upset was on the cards as the American had looked imperious.  Heading into the event, Gatlin had dominated opponents all season to put together a 28-race win streak.

“I was totally not the favourite this time,  I could tell that,” Bolt said in an interview with India media outlet Power Sportz.

“This was the first time Justin Gatlin was going to have me chasing after him (wearing favourite tag).  But, when I knew he was nervous was when I went into the warm-up area and he was talking to me.  That was strange, he never speaks to me.  So, it clicked to me that he was nervous as well because this was the first time we were ever going to compete and he was favourite.”

In the end, Bolt only just came past a faltering Gatlin at the death to snatch victory by one-hundredth of a second.  Well short of his best, but good enough for gold.

“I happy but you couldn’t see it on my face because it was so much pressure that came off me.  I just thought, thank you.  For me, that was one of the hardest races I’ve run in my life.”

 

Usain Bolt shocked the world in 2009 when he raced to a world-record 9.58s to win the 100m at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Germany.

Former Jamaican high-school star athlete Christopher Taylor says he is thriving in Florida where he is training under the guidance of internationally acclaimed coach Rana Reider.

The Wanda Diamond League today suspended a further two meetings in June as it continues to adapt the 2020 season calendar in the face of the coronavirus crisis, while Oslo’s Bislett Games are to be staged in an alternative format.

In recent weeks, the Wanda Diamond League has been forced to suspend a number of its early-season meetings as a result of health and logistical concerns brought about by the global coronavirus crisis.

Today the series announced the postponement of further meetings in Eugene, scheduled for 7 June, and Paris, June 13.

As with previous suspensions, this decision was reached in close consultation with all relevant parties and based on concerns over athlete safety as well as widespread travel restrictions which make it impossible to stage the competitions as planned.

Meanwhile, the Bislett Games also announced plans to host an alternative athletics competition, an exhibition event dubbed 'The Impossible Games', on June 11, the original date of this year’s Oslo Diamond League meeting.

The concept will see a number of world-class athletes take part in a one-off showpiece event in full observation of Norway’s coronavirus regulations and social distancing rules.

The programme is currently set to include a world record attempt from Norwegian hurdles star Karsten Warholm and a long-distance pole vault battle between world record holder Mondo Duplantis and record Diamond League Champion Renaud Lavillenie.

Organisers were nonetheless keen to stress that the full programme is yet to be confirmed and subject to changes.

The hour-long event will be shown live by Norway’s public broadcaster NRK and will be partly financed by the Norwegian National Athletics Association and World Athletics.

“This is really positive news for athletes and fans and promises, even in this early stage, to be another great night of athletics from the Bislett stadium. Congratulations to the Oslo Bislett Games for dreaming this up and following it through, working within the pandemic guidelines set out in Norway,” said World Athletics president Sebastian Coe.

“We are delighted to support the event by releasing the funds World Athletics makes to each Diamond League event but with one caveat, which is that the entire amount we are contributing goes to prize money for the athletes competing.”

Oslo meeting director and Bislett Alliance CEO Steinar Hoen said the athletes were “hungry for competitions”.

“We want to give them a high-class event. We have had a very positive dialogue with both the municipality of Oslo and the infection prevention superior in Oslo, and have confirmed a concept that is well within the government's infection control requirements,” he added.

 

 

It is no secret that Yohan Blake’s work ethic is the stuff of legend.

That ethic helped the 2011 World 100m champion become the fastest man in the world, not named Usain Bolt. His 9.69/19.26 over the 100 and 200m is testament to that fact. In fact, had it not been for the presence of Bolt, Blake might well have been a double Olympic champion in 2012 when his 9.75 and 19.44 saw him win double silver.

However, the past few years have been unkind to the man formerly known as The Beast. Hamstring injuries have slowed Blake to the point where he missed out on winning medals in 2016 in Rio and 2017 at the World Championships in London.

The Tokyo 2020 Games would have been another opportunity for the 30-year-old Blake to re-establish himself as one of the world’s best sprinters. However, with the Games being postponed to the summer of 2021, Blake is leaning once again on that work ethic. While the pandemic rages across the globe, Blake is putting the work he deems essential to get back to being at his best.

“My career in athletics has been a dream come true.  For that, I give thanks every day.  But with injuries things get difficult. Yet, I don't stop, I keep pushing to come back,” Blake said on Instagram on Wednesday under a 90-second video of him executing some excruciating leg exercises under the supervision of his coach Gregory Little.

“With Coronavirus everything is postponed right now I am making the most of it.  I am using this time to talk with my body and unlock the power of my mind to conquer and overcome what has been holding me back on the track. I am working hard to get back to that dangerous form.”

 

With a personal best of 9.86 in the 100m, Keston Bledman is arguably one of the most-talented sprinters ever to come out of Trinidad and Tobago.  His talent was evident from very early on when he won a bronze medal in the 100m at the World U18 Championships in Marrakech in 2005.

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