Jamaica Invitational promises showcase of stars
Organisers of the Jamaica International Invitational Meet are hoping to showcase the right blend of international and local stars, after yesterday confirming 11 of a possible 30 world-class athletes set to compete at this year's 14th staging of the event set for the National Stadium.
The meet, which originally took place on the first Saturday in May, has been shifted to May 20, this year, with the organisers noting that they did not wish to go head-to-head with the IAAF Diamond League meet in Doha, which locks up the first Saturday in the month.
Meet director and athlete liaison, Donald Quarrie, was quick to confirm the event is important not just to Jamaica, but as an IAAF World Challenge meet at yesterday's press launch, held at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston.
"It's an IAAF World Challenge meet which takes priority over any other meet that's being held here in Jamaica. We are confident that we will always have elite athletes competing here," Quarrie told The Gleaner.
As far as confirmations are concerned, he noted there are about 20 more athletes who are being sought for the event.
"I have mentioned before, until the agreements and everything are complete, I do not mention an athlete's name," Quarrie maintained.
Jamaican sprinting star Asafa Powell, Americans; Mike Rodgers and Lashawn Merrit, who will line up in the 200m against Canadian 200m Olympic silver medallist Andre De Grasse and Olympic mile relay silver medallist, Javon Francis and Nathan Allen are among the male athletes that have already been confirmed.
On the female side; double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, Rio Olympics 400m bronze medallist Shericka Jackson, Stephenie-Ann McPherson 400m - an Olympic relay silver medallist and Christania Williams as well as American 100m hurdles world record holder Kendra Harrison are all booked to compete.
Quarrie also noted that the organisers are hoping to have more high school athletes competing this year.
Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), Dr Warren Blake, who is also chairman of the organising committee, says this year's staging could cost an estimated US$2 million ($256 million) to host this year's event.
"Our meet has hosted a galaxy of Olympic and World Championship stars, who have gone on to win World Championships and Olympic medals, and we have hosted quite a galaxy of stars in our 14 years on the circuit, and this year would be no different," he reasoned.
The meet's main sponsors are Petrojam, the Social Development Commission (SDC), Wisynco, Airports Authority of Jamaica and the RJRGleaner Communications Group.
Gary Allen, chief executive officer of the RJRGleaner Communications Group, said the organisation was happy to be again be involved with the meet.