Wed | Dec 19, 2018

Tanya Lee | Brilliant Briana, Ato and regional rivalry

Published:Friday | July 20, 2018 | 12:00 AM
World Under-20 100m gold medallist Briana Williams and coach Ato Boldon (left) in Tampere, Finland.

So Jamaica has a spanking new teen sensation who's blazing the track at both youth and senior track meets everywhere. "Brilliant Briana" (as I will reference her from now on) has caused quite a stir on the track, racing into our collective hearts last week with a sprint double at the IAAF World Under 20 Championships.

This is astounding stuff because a female sprint double is still a rarity. We would have to go back 18 years to find the last junior athlete from Jamaica who did so. It was Veronica Campbell-Brown in Chile at the turn of the millennium. At the senior level, the female sprint double is an even  rarer feat globally!

Elaine Thompson did the golden double at the 2016 Olympics. Prior to that, we would have to go back all of 28 years to when American Florence Griffith Joyner did so in 1988!

All things considered, with a 16-year-old sprint double for young Briana, and a then 24-year-old sprint double for Elaine Thompson, Jamaica's female sprinting is in very good hands.

These are incredibly young and talented athletes who should cause quite a stir in Tokyo 2020!

Speaking of quite a stir, it seems that Briana's coach had caused one on social media. Apparently, persons took to the social media pages of her coach, former Trinidad and Tobago Olympian Ato Boldon, to denounce him for coaching the young Jamaican athlete. The sentiments expressed have been that he is coaching "against Trinidad" and helping to build Jamaica's track programme.

There is so much wrong with the sentiments expressed that I'm not even quite sure where to begin.

The concept of Boldon coaching 'against Trinidad and Tobago' is strange in and of itself. He is coaching athletes in Florida, one of whom happens to be an impressive Jamaican junior athlete. Incidentally, both Ato Boldon and Briana Williams are born outside of Jamaica but to Jamaican mothers. Boldon possibly got his fast-twitch muscles from our own Jamaican soil!




The concept of Boldon needing to build Trinidad and Tobago's track and field is also strange. Last I checked, he is not employed by the Trinidad track association and he is essentially running his coaching business on his own. It is entirely up to him which athletes he coaches.

Coaches are employed by different athletes, federations and associations globally. The examples are many!

When Boldon was winning global medals for Trinidad & Tobago, he was being coached in America by an American. Veronica Campbell-Brown, Omar McLeod, Ramone McKenzie, Nickel Ashmeade, just to name a few, are all Jamaican athletes coached by Americans. Ironically, so was Richard Thompson when he won the silver medal behind Usain Bolt in Beijing 2008!

There are also many examples of Jamaican coaches who coach other nationals. Jamaica's Glen Mills coaches Great Britain's Zharnel Hughes, who is Anguillan by birth. Mills also coached Kim Collins to a 2003 100m world title for St Kitts. Delano Williams from Turks and Caicos, who also represents Great Britain, and Antigua's Daniel Bailey were home at Racers Track club in Jamaica for many years. MVP Track Club was home to the late Germaine Mason, an Olympic silver medallist, for Great Britain, in the high jump. Jamaica, to date, does not have a high jump silver medal.

In short, coaching across national lines is much more prevalent than it is not.

I do believe, though, that this debate has opened conversations about Trinidad and Tobago's track and field. Having worked on their high school championships, I believe there is work to be done in building Trinidad and Tobago's programme. Jamaica has over 30 track-and-field meets each year, which partly accounts for the numerous high-calibre athletes who we have on the track globally. I think Jamaica can be seen as a blueprint, rather than a rival, as we are all Caribbean nations - small dots on a map, if you will, with big hearts and even bigger aspirations for success. But I digress because neither Briana or Boldon came through Jamaica's programme, and they have both achieved success. It can happen anywhere, given hard work and immense talent.

Let's all celebrate these achievements. One Love.