Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Hubert Lawrence | Pat Anderson: A steady pair of hands

Published:Thursday | April 19, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Deon Hemmings-McCatty (left) receiving an award from the late Pat Anderson at the Central Hurdles and Relays meet at G.C. Foster College in 2009.

When Pat Anderson became Jamaica Athle-tics Administrative Association (JAAA) president, Jamaica's track and field needed a steady hand at the wheel. Sitting president Adrian Wallace had stepped down after the 2000 Olympics and Anderson answered the call. Using the experience gathered as a long-serving sports administrator, his JAAA helped to put Jamaica on the road to glory.

Always engaging and down to earth, Anderson had already made his mark as the spearhead of the sports outreach programme by Alcan Jamaica. Sponsorship from Alcan energised many sports, ranging from table tennis to cricket to football. In athletics, on Anderson's advice, funds fuelled the growth of the Kirkvine Development Meet and club athletics.

Through this portal, the likes of Olympic champion-to-be Deon Hemmings and 1997 World Championships 4x100m silver medallist Bev Grant came to the fore.

His support to schools in the parish of Manchester helped 2008 Olympic 100m runner-up Sherone Simpson, Anniesha McLaughlin-Whilby, a 2016 Olympic 4x400m silver medal winner, and her former schoolmate Anastasia Le-Roy, who took second place in the 400m last week at the Commonwealth Games, among many others.

As JAAA president, he led Jamaica through a period that was highlighted by the hosting of the 2002 World Junior Championships in Kingston, where Jamaica won a record total of 10 medals. Using the experience garnered as president of the Jamaica Football Federation, he pushed two important reforms.

The first was the regularisation of training camps for the juniors. Those had started in the late 1990s but Anderson moved the 2002 World Junior camp to the GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sport and made them residential. That brought coaches together in a cooperative learning environ-ment. The result was a record medal haul, with gold for Usain Bolt in the 200m and the 4x100 team of Simpson, Kerron Stewart, McLaughlin-Whilby and Simone Facey.

 

Greater flexibility

 

He led a move to greater flexibility in selecting national teams by moving slightly away from the first-three-past-the-post dictum established by past president Neville McCook. Under his leadership, the policy evolved to make the third place on the team the choice of the selector, with form and fitness needed as confirmation. Some of those provisions remain on the books even now.

History will view his stewardship kindly. Kingston's World Juniors was wildly successful, and near the end of his tenure, Jamaica won two gold medals at the 2004 Olympics. One was from Veronica Campbell-Brown in the 200m and the other came from Tayna Lawrence, Simpson, Aleen Bailey and Campbell-Brown in the 4x100m. Lawrence was the beneficiary of the more relaxed approach to selection and was able to prove fitness in time even though she missed the National Championships due to injury.

Simpson, of course, was one of those who went to camp at GC Foster College.

Those gold medals in Athens served as a full stop to the Anderson presidency, but the one-time Boys' Town goalkeeper and wicketkeeper continued to serve. He was the consummate host as patrons at the 35 year-old Kirkvine meet would attest. Anderson would entertain at that meet as much as he organised through his loyal band of officials.

In recent years, the man known to many as 'Pops' began a new quest. This was the development of the Kirkvine complex to include an all-weather synthetic track. Someone should bring that last Pat Anderson dream to fruition.

His death last week at 84 broke many hearts as Pops was well-loved and much respected. His willingness to serve was monumental. He leaves a gap, but taught so many that his mission will live on.

- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.