The resurfacing of Jamaica’s National Stadium track and a similar project at Catherine Hall Sports Complex are scheduled to get underway in coming months, according to Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange.

Both projects will fall within the remit of a government maintenance program geared towards ensuring that money is set aside for upgrading the island's stadiums.  According to Grange, resurfacing work at the National Stadium is expected to begin “any time now, with Catherine Hall Sports Complex penciled in as a priority for the next year.

According to Grange two factors will determine when the work gets going at the National Stadium.  The first is the fact that the track has to be laid on a completely dried surface, and the process must therefore await the end of seasonal rains.  The other factor is the ability of the manufacturers' representatives, BSW of Germany, to leave Germany to come to Jamaica to supervise the project and that will depend on COVID restrictions.

“The material for the resurfacing of the Stadium track is on site. Upgrading after 10 years of usage is now necessary for the track to retain its Class 1 certification by World Athletics, formerly the International Association of Athletics Federations. The track was laid in 2010 with a projected lifespan of eight years. But because of maintenance and care we were able to extend it by another two years to 2020,” Grange said.

 “The Government is putting a maintenance/replacement program to ensure that there is money for upgrading stadiums. It is through such a plan for the National Stadium that we have money for a new track. Money was actually put aside for the National Stadium because of proper planning and going forward we will be using that approach for upgrading of the facilities.”

I recently had a rather eye-opening conversation with an 18-year old about one of Jamaica’s greatest ever female sprinters Merlene Joyce Ottey.

I would say this young man has a strong working knowledge of sports but especially of Jamaican athletes and their accomplishments.

It, therefore, struck me by surprise when the name Merlene Ottey did not resonate with him, certainly not in the way I would have expected.

It isn’t that he hadn’t heard the name before but the significance of it did not immediately dawn on him, not in the way speaking of a modern star like Usain Bolt or Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce would.  Sadly, I find this of most I speak to from the younger generation.

I will admit when Ottey was in her prime his generation would not have been born but to me, she is such a legendary figure that her legacy of placing Jamaica and the English-speaking Caribbean on the female track and field map must never be forgotten.

And so, I took the opportunity to educate this youngster about Ottey and her stunning career, from becoming the first English-speaking Caribbean female to win an Olympic medal in 1980, to her switch to and subsequent major appearances for Slovenia post the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

I especially focused on some narrow misses for World and Olympic 100 metres gold at the 1993 Stuttgart World Championships and the 1996 Olympics, on both occasions narrowly, and some would say controversially, losing to American Gail Devers.

This young man seemed in awe, as he should be.

“She was cute too,” he said as he watched the 1993 IAAF World Championship 200 metres final when she finally won a global outdoor gold medal.

So many youngsters are unaware of the history and believe Jamaica’s track and field success started at the Beijing Games with Bolt and company.

But since 1948, the world has respected what we have offered in the global track and field space and for 20 years 1980-2000, Ottey stood front and centre as the leading figure not only but especially for women in the English-speaking Caribbean.  

She won nine Olympic medals, including 7 in individual events, the most by any woman in track and field.

She backed that up with 14 World Outdoor medals and 7 World Indoor medals and she still holds the 200m world indoor record at 21.87 seconds.

Just this week, Ottey was again recognised at the National Honours and Awards ceremony on Heroes’ Day, receiving the country’s fourth highest honour, The Order of Jamaica.

This is a well-deserved and timely reminder of the greatness of the woman.

She was dubbed “Bronze Queen” as 15 of her 30 global medals, indoors and out, were of that variety.  She had many narrow misses for gold but Merlene Ottey’s impact in inspiring generations of Caribbean female sprinters is worth honouring and celebrating even to this day.

So, this is in honour of Merlene Ottey.

May we never forget her impact on Jamaica, the Caribbean, and indeed global track and field.  

Reigning Olympic double sprint champion Elaine Thompson-Herah kept up a recent run of good form, with another brilliant performance, this time at the Doha Diamond League meet on Friday.

Thompson-Herah blitzed a field that included World Championship silver-medalist Marie-Josee Ta Lou, to stop the clock at 10.87 seconds.  Although slightly slower than the 10.85 recorded in Rome last week, it maintained an impressive run of form for the sprinter.  The time was the fifth sub-11 mark for the athlete this season.

The Jamaican, whose 10.85 seconds is the fastest time in the world this season, also owns four of the top six times in the world with compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce having the second and third best times.

The athlete, who has been plagued by Achilles issues in recent years, had a fair start before seizing control of the field before the midway point of the race and later pulling clear down the stretch.  Talou was a distant second behind Thompson, stopping the clock at 11.21, with American Kayla White finishing third in 11.25.

In the men’s 200m, Julian Forte ran a season's best 20.39 seconds to place second in the men's 200m.  The race was won by the Ivory Coast’s Arthur Cisse who ran a new national record 20.33 seconds, France's Christophe Lemaitre was third in 20.68 seconds.

 

 

  

Jamaica’s Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) has sought consensus and some direction from high school coaches regarding the possibility of staging the popular Boys and Girls Championship next year.

The event, which is typically staged in the month of March, was cancelled this year due to the credible threat of being a coronavirus super spreader event.  Since then, ISSA has announced the suspension of all school competitions scheduled for the Christmas term.

With no creditable solutions coming to the fore as yet regarding the best possible ways to returning to the staging of high school sports, amidst the pandemic, concerns had been raised regarding the protentional of next year’s event being cancelled as well.

In a letter issued to the coaches, ISSA was quick to point out that the December term cancellations had no impact on next year’s event.  But, in light of the need to satisfy restrictive COVID-19 protocols for staging the event, the body also pointed out that creative solutions were needed in order to host the competition.

“ISSA has cancelled all ISSA competitions scheduled for the 2020 Christmas term.  This decision, however, does not have any impact on the staging of the 2021 ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls Championships,” the letter read.

“However, the national COVID-19 protocols dictate that if Champs 2021 is to be a reality, then adjustments have to be made to the general structure and scheduling of the meet.  These changes could possibly have implications for the number of athletes, classes, events and days of Champs 2021,” it continued.

“We, therefore, invite each group of regional coaches (as per Regional Meets, Western, Central, Eastern, Corporate) to meet virtually amongst themselves and discuss possible suggestions as to what the 2021 ISSA/GraceKennedy Champs may look like in the context of COVID-19.  It is expected that from the regional discussions, coaches will submit their suggestions via an appointed team leader by email.”

The coaches will have until October 2, to submit their suggestions.

 President of the Jamaica Track and Field Coaches Association, David Riley, believes that administrators should be focussing on finding solutions to how sports can exist locally during the Covid-19 pandemic and not discussing possible cancellation at this stage.

 In an article published in the Jamaica Gleaner on Sunday September 6, Keith Wellington, the President of the Inter-secondary School's Sports Association, ISSA, said it was a possibility that all sports for the 2020-2021 academic year could be cancelled.

 The body with oversight for high school sports in Jamaica has already cancelled all sports for the Christmas term, which is set to officially start on October 5.

  Riley who coaches at one of the top Corporate Area high schools, Excelsior, however, does not believe it is the time to be focussing on cancellation of all events.

 He believes that too many administrators only have a part-time stake in sporting matters and therefore are less willing to put in the hard work needed to find solutions to the current crisis.

 "So, those persons will make a different kind of decision than persons whose livelihood, whose entire existence is around sport,” Riley told The Commentators.

 "And, we need to demand that a real solution be found to the problem rather than persons making it seem as though it is the world's biggest problem that cannot be solved,” he added.

 Riley also spoke about the possible way forward, and The Commentators explored ways in which some sports especially at the high school level can be held during the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Bahamian quarter-miler Shaunae Miller-Uibo pulled out of Monday’s Star Athletic Sprint Showcase out of an ‘abundance of caution’ and not a major injury, the athlete’s manager Claude Bryan has revealed.

The 26-year-old Nassau native has had a strong season to date.  She posted a then 100m world-leading 10.98, before returning to post 21.98 the next day, over double the distance, at the USA’s Back to the Track meet, three weeks ago.  The times saw the sprinter join elite company, with just four women who have run sub-11s in the 100m, sub-22s in the 200m, and sub-49s in the 400.

On Monday, however, the athlete did not present in that kind of form and crossed the finish line, in the preliminaries, in fourth place, with a sub-par 13.56 seconds.  Sha’Carri Richardson clocked the fastest qualifying time of 10.95.

Miller-Uibo did not show up for the final, which was won by Richardson in 10.83. Her absence prompted fear the athlete may have sustained an injury.  Miller-Uibo’s manager Claude Bryan, however, revealed it was “just a mild discomfort so she opted for caution.”

He further confirmed that the athlete would not be looking to shut down the season, without finishing up as scheduled.

“We’re looking for other low-key opportunities for her to wrap up the season.”

Usain Bolt earned our undying admiration for his marvellous exploits on the track, but it was always clear, to be honest, that fumbling, bumbling, tumbling escapes on the football pitch, would never amount to anything more than a glorified publicity stunt.

When fabled American sportscaster Charley Steiner quoted the famous line, uttered by Clint Eastwood’s iconic character Dirty Harry, ‘Sometimes a man’s got to know his limitations,’ he referred to another track and field legend, Carl Lewis, butchering the United States national anthem with all the ruthless efficacy of Sweeney Todd. 

The laborious months of Bolt’s campaign to become a professional footballer may not have caused us to splutter uncontrollably with ceaseless bouts of irrepressible laughter, as Lewis’ spectacular failure did, mind you, what we saw were Bolt’s best parts, but the sentiment should be the same, everyone has limits.

Shockingly, however, it seems the lesson has been lost on the decorated runner and his recent comments about not being given a fair chance to play football, tell us as much.

Based on what I saw, and if there is better footage, I am eager to see it, it’s hard to justify the sprinter being given a trial anywhere at all where serious football is played.

On one level, it’s completely understandable that unshakable self-belief is a key part of the mindset of any great athlete. 

When Michael Jordan tossed aside the basketball and stood, bat in hand, in front of the mirror, he saw Jackie Robinson. When Carl Lewis decided to trade the relay baton for a mic, he likely glanced over to see Lionel Richie looking back, before committing an unforgiving and merciless verbal assault.  The shimmering reflection Bolt cast after putting down his spikes and picking up cleats was, Wayne Rooney, a player whom he astonishingly believed was at the same talent level.

What is less understandable, however, is that three years after retirement and at least two after the professional football fiasco, the world record holder believes that his lack of success was down to a lack of opportunity.  It’s time to be honest, Usain, it was down to a glaring and obvious lack of ability.

Football is a very easy sport to watch, easy to love, easy to have strong opinions about.  Some of us even believe it easy to play in our weekly treks to weekend scrimmage games. 

The images we see when we stand proudly in front of the mirror, before heading to our own local battlefields are varied and endless.  Many of us are Lionel Messi’s, Cristiano Ronaldo’s, Jamie Vardy’s, Karim Benzema’s, and even Zinedine Zidane’s. If you really think about it though, playing well, let alone playing well enough to be a professional at the highest level, is another thing entirely.

With the rare exception, the very best exponents of the beautiful game spend the tender years of their lives ceaselessly honing their craft, and even then, on many occasions, find themselves well short of making the professional-grade. 

How likely was it that Bolt, then a 31-year-old athlete, who never even played the highest level of high school or primary school football, would decide to take up the sport professionally after a few scrimmage games and make the grade?  His only qualifier for getting a trial was that he held track and field sprint records. Fantastic records, mind you, but that is a remarkably clear case of comparing apples to oranges. 

Come to think of it, the situation sounds rather ridiculous when you spell it out loud, doesn’t it?

Well lest anyone out there harbour any illusions, it only sounds that way because the whole thing was.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

as he struggled to

 

 

In many respects Bolt and another track and field legend

Bolt trippinCharkg over a football not as funny but breathtaking lack of aweness on limitations certainly in the same ballpark is just as not given chance ridiculous.  Football for year of training Bolt decided to pick it up as a professional at 31 declaring better than Wayne Rooney

Beyond this Bolt now claims not given chance

Reigning 200m Olympic Champion Elaine Thompson-Herah clocked the second-fastest time in the world this season with a brisk 22.19, at the Velocity Fest track meet, at Jamaica’s National Stadium, on Sunday.

Thompson-Herah’s time was second only to that of Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo, who clocked 21.98s at the Back to the Track meet in Florida two weeks ago.  Thompson-Herah, who won section three, turned the table on compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce who recorded a run of 22.57 to win section two.  MVP’s Anthonique Strachan clocked the third-fastest time after stopping the time at 22.67 behind Thompson-Herah.

On Saturday, it was Fraser-Pryce who stole the show after clocking 10.87 to win section two of the event.  Thompson-Herah won section three of the event, clocked an equally quick 10.88 seconds.

In Sunday’s men’s half-lap event Romario Williams clocked the fastest time of the day, with 20.46, to claim section three.  Sprint Tech’s Rasheed Dwyer’s was second in 20.74, with O’Shane Bailey third with 20.84.

Jamaica’s Julian Forte claimed the men’s 100m race in a brisk 10.02, the second-fastest time recorded over the distance this year, at the Velocity Fest meet, on Saturday.

Forte, the MVP representative, was well clear of GC Foster’s Romario Williams (10.33) who was second.  Nesta Carter was third in 10.35. 

In the women’s equivalent, Elaine Thompson-Herah (11.19) was the comfortable winner, finishing ahead of Sprintech’s Sashalee Forbes (11.49) and MVP teammate Srabani Nanda (11.78).  Over double the distance, it was Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce who reigned supreme.  Her 22.74 finish was well clear of Anthonique Strachan (23.05) and Forbes who was third in 23.39.

In the men’s 200m, Yohan Blake took first place with a time of 20.62.  Sprintec’s Rasheed Dwyer was second in 20.66 and GC Foster’s Williams took third spot in 20.89.  Rusheen McDonald claimed the men’s 400m after stopping the clock at 46.39, while the women’s equivalent went to Shericka Jackson (52.00).  In the men’s long jump, Tayjay Gayle finished a long way ahead of the field with a leap of 8.13m.

 

Decorated 100m champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, clocked a world-leading 11 seconds at the Velocity Fest meet in Kingston, on Saturday, as athletes slowly start returning to the track.

Running into a -2.2m/s headwind, Fraser-Pryce, the former MVP athlete, stopped the clock at 11.00 flat, well clear of Sprintec’s Shashalee Forbes who was second in 11.49.   Bahamas’ Anthonique Strachan was third in 11.84.  In the men’s equivalent, MVP’s Nesta Carter clocked 10.38 to only just edge out Tumbleweed’s Tyquendo Tracey and G.C Foster’s Romario Williams, who both clocked 10.39 for second and third respectively.

Over double the distance, MVP’s Shericka Jackson ran 22.89 to finish heat three ahead of teammate Elaine Thompson, who clocked 22.98, with Forbes third in 23.45.  The men’s 200m went to Julian Forte, who clocked 20.71 running into a negative headwind.  He finished ahead of Rasheed Dwyer, 21.06, and Romario Williams, 21.07.

In the women’s hurdles, Janieve Russell (57.29) dominated affairs, claiming the event comfortably ahead of Rhona Whyte (57.97).  In the 100m hurdles, Megan Tapper won the event in 13.25, ahead of Amoi Brown, who was second in 13.46s.

World long jump champion Tajay Gayle topped his pet event with a wind-assisted 8.52m (4.5m/s).  Doha 2019 triple jump silver medallist, Shanieka Ricketts, claimed that event with 14.11m.

 

 

It has been about two months now since we have seen any live sport anywhere. Football, cricket, track and field, basketball, everything has ground to a halt as the world battles this pandemic in pretty much the same way it dealt with the Spanish Flu, just about 100 years ago.

Grenadian Olympic gold medallist Kirani James admits to being uneasy over the uncertainly surrounding the rest of the track and field season but does not believe he will be severely impacted by the cancellation of the Olympic Games this year.

After months of deliberation and some amount of hesitance, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that the Games would be pushed forward by a year, as the world struggles to come to grips with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

For thousands of athletes around the world, the news would come as a hammer blow with months of preparation upended and a year added to a chance to shine at athletics signature events.  For some, already struggling to make a final appearance due to aging, aching limbs it was even a tougher pill to swallow.  The 27-year-old James, who is already a World and Olympic champions, does not fall into that category. 

“I don’t think so (Impacts chance of medaling at next Olympics), at least not right now. It is what it is,” the former University of Alabama sprinter told TideSports.

“It’s not the fault of anything we can control. We just take it as what it is and try our best to prepare. That’s the decision they came to and we have to accept it. We have to prepare as best as we can.”

Like the majority, he believes it was a necessary evil.   

“The way I see it is, for them to postpone it, they’re taking this pandemic very seriously and I’m sure if there was a way where they could keep it for this year, they would have.  Obviously, they exhausted all their options. It is what it is. At the end of the day, safety and health trumps the Olympics every time,” he added.

James won the 400m gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, after claiming gold at the World Championships one year prior.  The sprinter then went on to claim silver behind world-record breaker Wayde van Niekerk at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.  James saw his career severely hampered after being diagnosed with Graves' disease.  He has since recovered and was confident things were progressing well for Tokyo before the delays.

“Training was good. It was very consistent, the workouts and everything.  Really it was just gearing up for the start of the season in April. Everything was on track.”

The world of sport has ground to a halt thanks to the coronavirus pandemic that been holding the world hostage for the past few weeks. Some of my favourites – the English Premier League, tennis, track and field – have all been hamstrung.

My Liverpool faces the real possibility that their record-breaking Premier League season could be wiped from the record books and I will not get to see Shelly-Ann go for a record third Olympic 100m gold until next year, yet, somehow, I am not as perturbed as I expected to be.

Sports have been a part of my life from as far back as I can remember.  Ever since my days in prep school, I looked forward to listening to the sports news on radio and later on catching sports programmes like ‘ABC Wide World of Sports’ on television -“the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” rang truer for me than most.

I represented my high school at track and field, cricket, football, table tennis and badminton and I faced the agony of defeat more than I did the thrill of victory. Through it all, my love for sport has grown rather than diminished.

I cried when Donald Quarrie lost the 100m finals in Montreal in ’76 and cheered when he won the 200m. That was my first year in high school when I played book cricket and lined Quarrie up against Houston McTear, Steve Williams, Silvio Leonard, and Hasely Crawford in the 100m in book track.

Meanwhile, Kevin Keegan, Steve Heighway, Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush were my football heroes, alongside Pele, of course.

West Indies cricket also became a big part of my life during those early high-school years and I became addicted. When the West Indies were not playing, no matter what else was going on, it was never enough to sate my desire to hear Tony Cozier and Henry Blofeld describe the majesty of Richards, Haynes, Greenidge and company and the carnage wrought by the likes of Holding, Roberts, Croft, Garner and Marshall.

Sports consumed my life more than anything else and looking back, I wonder why I even attended CAST to study Chemical Technology when sports was all I cared about.

Long story short, sports was my life and sometimes that can be a bad thing.

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

For the past decade or so, sports consumed my life more than usual. Research, watching events, analysing performances, television appearances, radio interviews across the region took their toll.

The thing about these things is that you don’t even realise what is happening until something like this pandemic comes along. Suddenly when all the sports stop, you realise the relief.

That is why I don’t miss sports.

I have been using the opportunity to play catch up with other parts of my life like bonding with my boys, reading books that I started but have been unable to finish and taking a break from live sports until they finally start again.

In time, I will miss sports but for now, I’m good.

They may be small in stature, but few could argue that Jamaica track stars Veronica Campbell-Brown and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce haven't been worth their weight in gold. For the tiny island nation, their names have become synonymous with volcanic eruptions of joy and unbridled celebration, with victory over stubborn opponents, typically dispatched and gold delivered somewhere under 23 seconds.

Campbell-Brown blazed the trail early, winning for Jamaica at every level. In fact, the sprinter is one of only nine athletes to win world championships at the youth, junior, and senior level.

The irrepressible Fraser-Pryce has ruled the roost since going on to stack up a list of accomplishments that has continued to amaze the sport of track and field. The pocket rocket recently became the only sprinter to be crowned world champion over the 100m four times (2009, 2013, 2015 and 2019). 

Listed below are a few of their accomplishments and how they stack up. SFP or VCB, who is the sprint queen that rules your heart?

 

 

Career Highlights

VCB

- One of only nine athletes to win world championships at the youth, junior, and senior level.

- First Jamaican and Caribbean woman to win a sprint Olympic title (2004).

 

SFP

¬- IAAF World Athlete of the Year (2013)

-     First Caribbean woman to win 100m gold at the Olympics (2008)

-     Only sprinter to be crowned world champion over 100m four times (2009, 2013, 2015 and 2019)

-    National record holder