Coe praises Carifta Games
The history of the Carifta Games is liberally sprinkled with the names of young stars who later became champions at the highest level. That appeal has kept Sebastian Coe, the president of the International Associations of Athletics Federation, coming back to watch the meet year after year. Coe, the 1980 and 1984 Olympic 1500 metre champion, praised the meet at its 48th staging in Grand Cayman last weekend and said that it has emboldened him to do his job as head of the world governing body of athletics.
Speaking on Monday, the final day of the Games, Coe reflected: “You know, the best bellwether of any sport is what’s happening in the development programmes, and quintessentially, Carifta is about the development of great, great athletes, and pretty much every athlete who has made it on to the global stage out of the Caribbean has graduated from the Carifta Games.”
The list of Carifta standouts includes Jamaicans Usain Bolt, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Omar McLeod, and Melaine Walker; Bahamians Tonique Williams-Darling, Avard Moncur, and Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie; the Grenadian Kirani James and Jehue Gordon; and Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago.
“They’ve all come through this,” Coe emphasised.
He hopes that his visits will help him to spot the next flight of Caribbean stars.
“I just love watching raw talent at the beginning of the journey, and the best audit of the health and vibrancy of any sport is what’s going behind the scenes and who are the young athletes who are going to fill those mighty footprints, and I leave the Carifta [Games] enlivened, emboldened to do my job,” said Coe.
He had a word of encouragement for those worried about the future of the sport.
“I think I have a privilege because I think I see it years before anyone else does, and I say to people when they say who’s going to follow Usain, who’s going to follow Asafa, and I say, ‘Get your butt to the Carifta Games and answer that question yourself’,” the former world record holder pronounced.
Asked about concerns for a star who could pull fans into the sport as Bolt did, he sounded a confident note.
“I’m never worried about that because if you were talking to me 20 years ago, 25 years ago, you’d probably be asking me the question, ‘What’s going to happen when Michael Johnson goes? What’s going to happen when Carl Lewis goes? What happens when Daley Thompson goes?’”
After laying down that reference to that trio of repeat Olympic champions, he said simply, “We always find great, great athletes.”