Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Carifta Games a waste of time for Jamaica, says Oral Tracey

Published:Tuesday | April 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Jamaica's Akeem Bloomfield wins the boys' Under-20 400 metres final ahead of Antigua and Barbuda's Rai Benjamin (left) at the 44th Carifta Games at the Silver Jubilee Stadium in St Kitts/Nevis on Saturday.
Jamaica's Shiann Salmon clears the bar on her way to winning the girl's Under-18 high jump at the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) Games, ath the Silver Jubilee Stadium in St Kitts and Nevis yesterday.
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Another bout of criticism has come my way since I publicly expressed the view that the Carifta Games are a grand waste of time for Jamaica's outstanding young athletes.

Fury was even further invoked when I went on to suggest that participating in this uncompetitive and unspectacular event is in no way helping in the development of our young stars, but instead, could retard their progress.

My views on the dwindling relevance of the Carifta Games from a Jamaican perspective are predicated on the thinking that athletes need good, honest competition for the enhancement of their physical and psychological development. None of these stimuli exist at this atrociously organised and presented event.

While Jamaica's presence at the Carifta Games will no doubt benefit the lesser territories such as St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Barbados, and The Bahamas in terms of their young athletes gaining immense inspirational and motivational value from rubbing shoulders with their superior Jamaican counterparts, I maintain that as far as Jamaicans are concerned, it serves no significant purpose except possibly as a glorified vacation for our Boys and Girls' Champs top performers.

The best and most credible rebuttal I have got to date is that the Games provide an avenue for the exposure, in many cases for the first time, for young and inexperienced Jamaicans to the rigours and intricacies of travelling and competing away from home.

That aside, I see no need to be jumping and shouting that we have dominated the medal tables for the 30th consecutive year and we are the top track and field nation in the Caribbean once again, winning 50-60 per cent of all the available medals.

When you look at the massive potential of individual athletes such as Calabar High School's Michael O'Hara and Jaheel Hyde of Wolmer's Boys' School and the bright future they have in track and field, I shall continue to be the lone voice shouting from the top of the mountain that these athletes should be handled with "kid gloves" and that this calibre of athletes have absolutely nothing to learn or to gain from competing at the Carifta Games.

I wonder what the response of the average Jamaican would be, if God forbid, an athlete of the ilk of an O'Hara or a Hyde went to the Carifta Games and sustained an injury serious enough to keep him out of action for six months or a year.

Would that gamble and those unfortunate consequences have been worth taking for such a low-value, low-prestige event?

odd individual

For sure, there has been the odd individual from the smaller territories whose brilliance has shone through, but when you look at the general trend of marauding Jamaican dominance, the country's presence at this event continues to be a farce.

Outside of family members and close friends, not many Jamaicans are intrigued by the predictability of Jamaica's young athletes beating their counterparts, and this is how it has been for the past 30 years.

Going from the high of Champs to the low of the Carifta Games in a mere one week must be a difficult adjustment to make for these young stars.

I am quite sure that if you caught up with some of these top Carifta performers from Jamaica and asked them which medal was more precious to them - the gold medal they won at Champs or the gold medal won at Carifta - I think the honest answer would perhaps be surprising to many, but it would certainly not be surprising to me.