Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Foster's Fairplay | The magic of Champs

Published:Tuesday | April 4, 2017 | 4:00 AM
Edwin Allen’s Kevona Davis (centre) on her way to taking the girls’ Class three 200m final in a record time of 23.07 seconds at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships at the National Stadium on Saturday.

ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships 2017 is now history. Those who had the good fortune to follow it through the various media were fed a diet of bright prospects whose brilliance, brought about by some breath-taking performances, will continue to boggle the mind for some time to come. Foster's Fairplay will focus on that which brought most pleasure to this columnist.

In order to place the matter of the Champs phenomenon in true perspective, it is essential that it be accurately defined. In that regard, a few questions must be asked. What exactly is this thing called Champs, that, every year, causes in excess of 30,000 spectators to swarm a stadium hopelessly unable to accommodate them come that special Saturday?

What is this thing called Champs that inspires men, well advanced in years, to forget their regular attire and don their school colours just to identify with an institution of learning where their teenage days were spent? What is this thing called Champs, that motivates schoolgirls to ignore their own schools and throw their stentorian support behind a Kingston College, a Calabar, or a Jamaica College? What is this thing called Champs that can have so many of its perennial committed supporters, still floundering for entry tickets days after the event had started?

Foster's Fairplay dares to hazard a guess as to what brings about this frenzy just to be in the arena of excitement and quality. The magic of Champs which endears it to the Jamaican people, is no longer a mystery. It has taken the image of the spectacle to a different level.

A clear understanding of and appreciation for what goes on out there on the track only add to the appeal of the final product. Two examples of the contributory factors to the Champs' ability to attract are given.

At the turn of the century, the Holmwood Technical child prodigy Anneisha McLaughlin was part of a set of supremely talented female athletes who set the stage for a nine-year ascendancy at Girls' Champs for the Christiana-based school. She registered a time of 23.11 seconds in winning the 200m event in Class Three. As a testimony to its quality, the record stood unmolested for 16 years. However, here comes a 14-year old miss, Kevona Davis, out of Edwin Allen High, who takes it to 23.07. This time qualifies her to be entered in the event at the World Championships in London this year.

If anticipation of such an outstanding performance by young Davis is not enough, take a look at the boys Class Two 1500m final. It was the first appearance of the much-talked about Ugandan, Ari Rodgers, representing Kingston College in a round from which points were to be scored. The route taken by Rodgers to access the five-day event was enough to allow him the favourite label. Hot rivals, Calabar, prepared by the coaching guru at schoolboy level, Michael Clarke, had two athletes, Kevroy Venson and Kimar Farquharson, in the race. The manner in which Clarke had obviously planned his execution strategy to out-general his Kingston College counterpart was worth more than the cost of the entry ticket. The two Calabar athletes stalked Rodgers throughout the race, enough to neutralise his expected last-lap sprint, with Venson eventually taking the win. It provided stark evidence as to what Champs is all about: brilliance in the moment.

Despite the accustomed inability by some supporters to get tickets, Champs 2017 was a spectacular affair. There was no less quality on account of the format changes aimed at restricting athletes' workload. A word must be said to the Kingston College management.

After his victory in the 5000m Open, Rodgers produced a Ugandan flag. The size and length of time that it was paraded suggested two things. First, there must have been prior knowledge of Rodgers' intentions and also, there should have been a visible attempt to abort the ill-timed action. It has been cited elsewhere as an act similar to Michael O'Hara's ambush marketing deed two Champs prior. Foster's Fairplay will not take it to that level. However, it did not fit the true spirit of the occasion.

Otherwise, another good job, ISSA.

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