Sun | Apr 21, 2019

Podium finish could be the catalyst - Praught-Leer: Long and middle distances could match sprints in near future

Published:Sunday | February 17, 2019 | 12:33 AMAkino Ming/ Staff Reporter

Aisha Praught-Leer believes that in the near future, Jamaica will start to enjoy the same amount of success in the long- and middle-distance races as it is currently having in the sprints and field events.

And the Commonwealth Games champion in the women’s 3000 metres steeplechase told The Sunday Gleaner that a podium finish for one of the country’s champions for distance running over the next two seasons could be the catalyst.

“I know that if I were to win a medal at the IAAF World Championships or the Olympic Games it would provide validation for everyone that this is an outlet that is possible and that we can win medals in these events,” she explained. “If we can strike that possibility in people’s minds, then it can happen. We are seeing it in the field events with our throwers, and I think we can do it in the distance events too.”

Praught- Leer, Natoya Goule and Kemoy Campbell have been breaking down doors for Jamaica’s long- and middle-distance running in recent years.

The 29-year-old Praught-Leer and Goule created history when they won medals in their respective events at the Commonwealth Games last year.

They both went on to lower their national records in the 3000m steeplechase and 800m to 9:1409 and 1:56.15, respectively, last summer.

“Something that I would like to see before the end of my lifetime is Jamaica fielding a full team at a championship. And that means filling out the 800m to the 5000m with three men and women, and I know it is a stretch, but I believe that it can happen,” she said.

She is also making steps to inspire the next generation of Jamaican runners to take up the longer races, as she is now lending her support to Hydel High School middle-distance programme.

“I was with Hydel this past week and the girls train really hard. They have what it takes and hopefully, if myself, Natoya and Kemoy can perform well, then they will have someone to look up to,” she explained. “It is really powerful when you can see yourself on the stage. If you can look up and see this person who looks like me doing this, I think it tells one that I can do it, too.”

Praught-Leer also believes that she is inching closer to a top-three finish at a global championships.

“I do believe I am getting closer to the top five. I am not an overnight success kind of a person. I believe in making incremental jumps over time. Based on my training last year, I think that I am really moving forward. I felt like I never express to the fullest what I was capable of doing last year.

“And this year, I think I am making progress again. I was really surprised by how easily training came back for me this year,” she said.