Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Foster's Fairplay | JAAA good look

Published:Tuesday | July 19, 2016 | 7:00 AM

The Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) has taken a few licks overtime. They have come on the back of what some perceive as inadequate custodianship of the sport.

Coming out of the recent Jamaica senior athletics championships, there have been more. The four-day event is supposed to be the primary forum for selection of teams to travel to regional and global competition. Given Jamaica's elevated international profile in the sport, anything touching on track and field will not fail to attract a wide audience. This is both at the venue and on the much wider landscape by television and the Internet.

So the starter foul-up with the men's 100m final, other questionable calls in that area, as well as the team-selection controversy were transmitted to all corners. The entire scenario would have been like an uninvited guest visiting the inner sanctum of the JAAA and causing a shame-faced response.

In an atmosphere where the extension of goodwill has its place, it is encouraging to identify a ray of sunshine for a group that is in dire need of extraction from the doom and gloom that sometimes lingers. Happily, there is one effort for which the JAAA can be lauded.

As this column is being written, the cream of the country's junior athletic talent is already assembled in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Today, the newly named IAAF World Under-20 Championships in Athletics gets under way in that city - the first to have a re-staging of the event formerly known as the World Junior Championships (WJC).

It was held there in 2008. The original site, the Russian city of Kazan, had the privilege withdrawn as part of sanctions for what has been widely reported as state-supported doping violations.

 

LACK OF FORESIGHT

 

Jamaica boasts a rich tradition of excellence at the WJC level. Two of the country's leading sprinters, Usain Bolt (Kingston, 2002) and Veronica Campbell-Brown (Santiago, 2000) were gold medallists in that competition.

Yohan Blake, another to have impressed indelibly in the senior ranks, was a short-sprint medallist in 2006. Combination hurdler Jaheel Hyde took the one-lap version at the last staging in Eugene, Oregon, and looks set to defend successfully next week. Intermediate hurdler Janieve Russell stands at number three in the current world ranking and she, too, was the champion in the event at the 2012 edition in Barcelona.

All this glory did not come about by accident. The JAAA decision, despite the unceasing dilemma of the scarcity of funds, has in recent times reinstituted a preparation camp. It is accepted that many high-school programmes go into hibernation after the Penn Relays Carnival. Many lose their cash- and-kind support - as that focus emanates mostly from old students - tends to recognise very little but the Champs effort. Without a designated camp going into the WJC - such as that held in 2014 and again this year - what was registered in early season performances is certain to deteriorate.

Another aspect of all this, to be remembered, is this: 2016 is an Olympic year. Traditionally, few other things matter. The fact that with all the hype leading into Rio a training camp could have been executed for our junior athletes is just cause for even louder and more vociferous applause for the governing body.

The group is constantly bashed for a dual sins: lack of foresight and short changing concern and care for athletes. Many times, the pointing of fingers is justly earned.

Foster's Fairplay has carried the torch for these accusations in a fulsome way, but, as it is often said in this column, there is a need to be fair. If in the midst of a desert of adverse comments there is an oasis, it needs to be recognised and rewarded with commensurate commendation.

One hopes that the efforts of our young men and women in Bydgoszcz will reflect the extra energy emitting from the opportunity afforded them by a JAAA, who was on the ball again this time around.

It promises to be to the nation's everlasting credit as it seeks to create the next generation of outstanding track and field campaigners for Jamaica.

Take a bow, JAAA.