Laurie Foster | Bring them back home!
The Tampere, Finland, staging of the IAAF World Under-20 Championships in Athletics has now faded into the pages of history. It was another showcase of what the sport should legitimately expect from its younger stars when it is their time to strut the big stage.
For those who followed the spectacle, that which lingers is another outstanding performance by Jamaica. There was a total of 12 medals - four gold, five silver and three bronze - for the black green and gold, slotting them in second spot on the placing table. Ranked at the top was Kenya with a total of 11, but they took the advantage by virtue of medal quality with six gold.
Looking at the individual performances, Foster's Fairplay was captivated by a stunning 4x400m third leg by the Hydel senior, Shiann Salmon, who all but made up a close to 25m deficit on the highly vaunted USA to hand over in second position. It was sensational, inspiring and remarkable, all bundled in one package. This has indeed another highpoint of the meet for this journalist, along with the two-gold hit by sprinter supremo, Briana Williams, of whom so much has already been catalogued. Two days prior to the relay, Salmon had put down another soul-stirring run in the 400mh where she gained silver behind the South African winner and compelling favourite, Van der Walt. Along with sprint hurdler Amoi Brown, Salmon is off on scholarship in the upcoming semester to the Texas Longhorns in Austin, Texas. Once she keeps free of injury and maintains a strong focus, she should be a powerful factor at the senior level in years to come.
There is another aspect of the championships which stood out. For this, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) deserves plaudits for its outreach. This is in reference to the increasing number of foreign-based athletes who not only turned up for the Trials, but, having been selected, went on to win medals. Leading the pack again was the brilliant Briana Williams, who has been courted by the JAAA president himself and other officials in close quarters with the young lady's Jamaican mother.
There have been a few in the past, but somehow, there surfaced stories that perceived discrimination of one sort or another has been a demotivating factor.
Quickly coming to mind is the case of Inger Miller, the daughter of two-time Olympic sprint medallist Lennox. As a 15-year-old, she competed at the Junior Trials for the World Junior Championships in 1988. Unlike in the USA where a fifth-place finish would nave ensured selection for the 4x100m relay, that was not the case in the country which she was prepared to call a second home. Despite explanations as to how things were viewed at the Jamaica equivalent, the damage appeared irrevocable and she did not return.
For 2018, both Damion Thomas (110mh) and Chantz Sawyers (400m), who hone their craft outside of Jamaica, showed up, made the team and medalled at gold and bronze, respectively. It was second time lucky for Thomas, who was selected two years before but suffered a mishap, falling in the event.
It matters not the method utilised by the local governing body to have these athletes who some consider to be "foreigners" come to their Trials. It is bearing fruit. It needs to be continued. There is no material difference between this sport and the Reggae Boyz situation. Jamaica deserves to have its sons and daughters, who can prove eligibility, clad in the country's colours and competing at the various levels. They come with a degree of professionalism which the local-based athletes would do well to emulate.
So carry on, Dr Blake. Bring them back home. You are encouraging a trend which should only bring further honour and glory to our country. It is a real pleasure for this journalist to identify an area in which to congratulate the JAAA. Hopefully, there will be a lot more and Foster's Fairplay waits eagerly in anticipation.`