Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Foster's Fairplay | JAAA’s three-year wait great

Published:Tuesday | May 31, 2016 | 5:00 AM
Williams

The body with the unchallenged responsibility of managing Jamaica's most successful sport, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), has come under the cosh of Foster's Fairplay on multiple occasions.

It is seen from this perch as an unrelenting duty to question and where necessary, reject any action which it is felt is not in the best interest of track and field and the several tiers of those who participate.

There are standards of discipline and decency that need to be set and maintained when an organisation is mandated by an elective machinery to make crucial decisions. This is especially important when the final call can have a telling effect on the hopes and aspirations of others.

Promising potential can evaporate and careers and lives possibly destroyed by a single silly move by a sports administration which has lost its compass.

Recent reports reveal the attempt of back-to-back global 400m silver medallist Shericka Williams to give up her birthright to represent Jamaica. Oil-rich Bahrain would become the beneficiary of her disappearing gifts.

The national record of Bahrain in her event is 50.8, set by Kemi Adekoya in 2015 at the IAAF Lucerne Meeting.

Coming from a personal best of 49.32 at the 2009 Berlin World Champs, this athlete, who would have earned the label 'formerly of Jamaica' as she sought supposedly a better future, now struggles to break 52 seconds - her 2015 season best, unimpressive at her level, 53.26.

At age 19, after acquisition by the prestigious MVP Track Club, she was national champion in 2005 with 50.37 and peaked to superb performance under their expert guidance at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, to be followed by a repeat silver medal at the Berlin World Champs the following year.

Rumours abound as to the training camp fallout that saw her deteriorate in succeeding years to the point where making teams for elite events became much of a chore. Duties as a medal-winning 4x400m relay runner was the best afforded.

Simply put, it was not happening, individually, for the former St Elizabeth Technical High School graduate. So the move for a new identity in the sport was born.

There are no available reports as to what caused the return to square one. Suffice to say, the Middle East thrust did not connect. Williams has now rejoined the struggle to make her future in the Jamaica strip.

In response to the entire scenario, the JAAA has ruled that any athlete requiring to change national colours is now forced to endure a three-year gestation period. A rebirth cannot happen until that time has elapsed.

Talk has been raging as to the fairness of this ruling. There are shouts of restraint of trade, as well as athletes have a short shelf life and they must be allowed unhindered to sell their talent to the highest bidder. Some even point to 'bad mind' and 'overreaction' by the JAAA.

Having said all that, this column has its own tenets that will not be compromised. There must be balance in expressing opinions on matters placed in the public space. In the exercise of that mantra, the JAAA deserves its own commendation when such is earned. With all this at the forefront of this columnist's thoughts, this move by the local governing body is fully supported.

From time immemorial, support has been afforded our young people to assist them to reach heights unaffordable on their own steam. In the case of the nation's athletic talent, there have been sacrifices made to get them to make the cut.

Fortunes have been made as a result of the Herculean - magical, even - efforts of those who chose to care. The list ranges from parents and guardians, who neglect the less gifted, to past students of the schools the athletes attended, plus the ordinary do-gooder who just cared and dug deep.

The thought process that goes into these 'let me try elsewhere' decisions might be secret. What is not is the effect it can have on those waiting in the wings to carve their names with pride in the annals of Jamaican sport.

Foster's Fairplay sees such moves as bad examples for the country's future stars. But, thankfully, the JAAA has stepped in with a rescue Jamaica clause.

Serve three years to think about the decision and if it remains your wish, then go.

Thank you, JAAA.

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