National Champs and those late decisions
The Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) National Championships had its gloss removed on the last weekend in June, when arguably the two most anticipated events were shorn of a top-ranker expected to compete.
The world's fastest, Usain Bolt, duly registered, despite free entry to the Beijing World Championships, withdrew, a move to be repeated later by his scratching Diamond League dates in Paris and Lausanne. A pelvic area injury was cited, but only then.
As fans were settling into a Boltless four days, spirits were further dampened by a heatedly debated announcement. It revealed that the new speedball, Elaine Thompson - with a 10.84 100m season's best - would go to the blocks only in the 200m. As it turned out, it is difficult to accept that these last-minute decisions had no bearing on the less-than-anticipated patron support.
Foster's Fairplay will await the final of the women's 200m event in Beijing, as any negative assessment as to the mindset of Thompson's coach, the supremely gifted technocrat, Stephen Francis, could just explode. Call it 20/20 vision coming from this columnist, but the MVP Track Club boss has a rich history. He has already demonstrated that he can produce performances from athletes under his care that defy the thinking of ordinary mortals.
The meet, which dualled as the Beijing World Championships Trials, had its spectator thrills, but was diluted somewhat by this columnist being denied access by the organisers. This episode will have its treatment on a separate forum.
Various national teams, at both senior and junior levels, have been selected and have just completed or soon to embark on competition. The pursuit of the almost-mandated medals would have been on. Foster's Fairplay wishes them all well.
Having said all that, the JAAA is always under this columnist's searchlight, their efforts in promoting the sport and the welfare of its participants is always of high priority in this corner. This columnist has in the past been a 'watchdog', trying to keep the local governing body honest in its very important role. Although that oversight self-assignment has been disputed by previous administrations, as to its relevance, it is one that will not be arrested. Track and field, and its fortunes, are far too important to our people to allow a committed journalist that luxury. The fans yearn for it, utilise it to formulate their own thinking, and make their informed comments, either on popular social media or elsewhere. Without all this, it appears to be a widely held view that our athletes would not receive the attention and focus from administrators that their performances merit.
This leads this columnist to the choice of team leader for the Pan American Junior Track & Field Championships, Edmonton, Canada, July 31 to August 2. The effort, energy and enthusiasm of long-time administrator Julette Parkes, the official chosen, has come under the scrutiny of Foster's Fairplay since 1998. It was during her similar posting at the World Junior Championships in Annecy, France, that year, that the quoted assessment of the senior insurance executive was made. It came in the midst of a dire need for someone who could take our young athletes through the challenges of change of environment and different food choices, to compete against the best of the world. These were live issues to be addressed.
"Happily, they found Julette Parkes, who has worked like a Trojan to keep these athletes properly nourished ... she has worked assiduously with this team from the inception .... always with a smile, which belied the mammoth proportions of the duties which she undertook ... the super efficient Parkes carried the burden of taking care of just about everything for her charges ... the athletes were her babies, she mothered them, she fathered them, she saw to their every concern ... the job was well done and one is left to ponder how could it have been achieved, if Julette Parkes was not called and so stoutly responded ... take care of business."
Seventeen years later, from what is still being noticed on the local circuit, that assessment still holds.
Go and do likewise, Miss.
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