Tue | Apr 23, 2019

Fix it now! - Riley calls for more attention for junior track and field programme

Published:Tuesday | July 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's 400m hurdler Shiann Salmon (left) wins her semi-final heat in 56.29 seconds, ahead of Switzerland's Yasmin Giger, at the IAAF World Under 20 Championships in Tampere, Finland last Thursday. Salmon went on to finish second in the final the following day.

The Jamaican team is coming home from the World Under-20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, with a fistful of four gold medals, but some observers believe better performances are possible. Among them is David Riley, president of the Jamaica Track and Field Coaches Association. He believes Jamaica needs to focus more on getting its junior athletes ready to meet and beat the world.

"We need to fix our track and field so that our representatives are in the best shape when the world is calling us to come and challenge then and that's usually at World Juniors," he said.

Alluding to the climatic March-April period that usually contains the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Championships, the Carifta Games and the Penn Relays, Riley commented, "We tend to have great performances earlier, and then fizzle out. That's not going to help us in being competitive at World Juniors."

Riley recommends better planning as one route to more success.

"We certainly need to be a little more deliberate in our planning, and planning around the things that we consider to be important," he tabled. "I think we're utilising whatever tools that are available to help, but the planning, I think that's the area we need to work on.

"Once you identify what the important meets are, then you plan backwards," he said, "you plan from World Juniors - if that's an important meet for this athlete. Youth Olympics, you plan from that date back into time, back into the present."




Injuries reduced the Jamaica medal haul this time around. Sprinters Kevona Davis, Michae Harriot and Sashieka Steele were all hurt before the National Junior Championships, and double national junior champion Michael Bentley suffered a reported hamstring strain after running his first-round heat in the 100m in Finland.

Nevertheless, Jamaica won four gold, six silver and two bronze medals at the championships, which ended on Sunday. Two of the gold medals were won by sprinter Briana Williams, with 110m hurdler Damion Thomas and discus thrower Kai Chang also taking to the top step of the podium in Tampere.