Laurie Foster | Another call to action for JAAA
The precocious talent and supreme confidence of United States-born sprinter, Briana Williams were exposed at last summer's 17th IAAF World Under-20 Championships in Athletics in Tampere, Finland. Happily for the country of birth of her ever-present Jamaica-born mom, they were displayed while wearing the black, gold and green strip. All those supporters of the sport, always seeking to welcome new talent, should have been very satisfied. Briana was received and lauded accordingly. Why not? She had brushed away double threats in the 100 and 200 metres events in the respective persons of USA's best available, Twanisha Terry and Lauren Rain Williams.
The fact that her post-event interaction with the media- spoke of a continued association into the senior ranks - making it to Tokyo for the next Olympics, walking behind the Jamaican flag - was added incentive to celebrate her success. The country, has, in the past, bid farewell to awesome talent, most of whom possessed more credentials for qualification for Jamaica than Briana has.
Then came the offer from the University of the West Indies, opening their classrooms to accommodate any intention the young athlete was cultivating of accessing tertiary studies. The Vice-chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, was as ebullient as ever in making the announcement, as clearly this was a part of his personal mindset.
However, as is frequently the case, there have been detractors, some who believe that Briana has not declared allegiance to Jamaica. Merely saying, as it has been reported, that it is the country of her mother was, to their mind, not good enough. The additional arguments put forward for their dissent, include two main platforms of disagreement. First, it is being suggested that given the class of the Americans, she could not make their team. Foster's Fairplay declines to comment on that, save to say that only participation in the USA Trials should be used to make that determination.
Of more importance to this columnist is the effect Briana's acclamation in victory, will have on locally grown talent. Kevona Davis has represented her school, Edwin Allen High and Jamaica at the Youth level with commendable distinction. She, like Briana, is 16 years old. They have times of 11.16 and 11.12, respectively, as their personal best in the 100m. Kevona's best in the 200m stands at 22.72 in a season which was interrupted by injury, ruling her out of the World Under-20, where Briana took victory at 22.50. They are of the same outstanding class and will still be of age to compete at the Junior level at the 2020 edition of the same event.
Foster's Fairplay believes that Kevona's situation requires expert handling. Kevona should not be made to feel that she is of a lesser breed than the much-heralded Briana. This could be disastrous, as what is expected from Briana is no more than what the Edwin Allen athlete has promised. Any impression given to the contrary will not be in her best interests.
Injury has played a considerable role in Kevona not being able to show off her wares on the big stage - the same place where Briana took her opportunity and confirmed her now-undoubted class.
One cannot be confident that the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) is playing the role that is their duty. For understandable reasons, they have always been reluctant to comment on the assistance given to a particular athlete who might be in distress.
Protect the athleTes
It is a way of protecting the athlete from finger-pointing as someone who is receiving handouts. However, the group is not being asked to divulge details but rather, to show that they do care. Kevona Davis is no less an athlete than Briana Williams, but no one looking on can be faulted if that is the conclusion drawn from what is being heard and more important, seen. Briana is being singled out for praise, albeit well-earned, and Kevona, due to no fault of her own, is under the threat of being sidelined.
It is not too late for the governing body to step in and do what is in their scope, to give this outstanding talent, an equal chance of success as her USA-based counterpart, is having. Come on JAAA, this is yet another call to action. You should not ignore it.
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