Sprint culture a turn-off for distance, field events
When you speak about Jamaica's athletics, the sprints and its legion of world-class sprinters easily come to mind. But while the sprints are very attractive and generate enormous interest and motivation for its young athletes, some experts say this has led to lack of interest and desire for the non-traditional, less glamorous, long and middle distance, and field events.
Former Holmwood Technical and highly rated local coach, Maurice Wilson, and Jamaica Athletic Administrative Association (JAAA) second vice president, Ian Forbes, agree Jamaica has a rich sprinting history and many role models, but few, or none distance and field events stars, which tends to lead athletes towards the shorter races.
They also believe that though there has been significant improvements in the throws, there is still much to be done to encourage and convince athletes to try those events.
"We don't have a culture for these events, but some of these athletes have prerequisite skills like power and speed - used in throwing events - so they can diversify into other areas," Forbes noted.
His sentiments were echoed by Wilson.
"We have a rich history in sprints, 400m and hurdles. We particularly like sprints and have abundance of talent. But, in Jamaica, if you are running in the 10.4, 10.3 region (over 100m) you really aren't going very far unless you improve. But those athletes could be converted, they already have speed and endurance, it's just to put in the work," he insisted.
In throwing events, Jamaicans have reaped reasonable success lately and this has been attributed to the hard work of a few committed men like Calabar's Julian Robinson, Michael Vassell and Marlon Gayle of G.C.Foster and Edwin Allen.
"There's tremendous focus on throws and you have Centres of Excellence (for development) as far as throws are concerned," Wilson pointed out.
"These guys specialise in these areas and we have seen improvements over the last few years," Forbes noted.
Target 400m, 800m
However, both believe the 400m and 800m should be targeted for improvement.
"We see more (athletes) in the 400m, and stepping up to the 800m is another issue we need to look at," Forbes said. "We are just getting in this new cycle. The 400m will get going and then it's only time before the throws and jumps are at a level consistent with world class," he added.
"Success breeds success and once it starts it will mushroom. But this is based on preparation, and it's hard work," Wilson declared.
"The sprints are hard work, too, but not as rigorous as technical events and long distance. Some athletes are afraid of hard work. But we have the ability and personnel here, and once we are prepared to put in the work there is no reason we cannot be successful," he stated.
Forbes suggested putting the best of these athletes in training camps and provide them with the best expertise and opportunities to help them develop.
"We can host specialised camps, especially after Boys' and Girls' Champs, with top practitioners, and provide incentives and opportunities to get experience," he said.