Track stars set to unleash at PanAm Games
When track and field competition begins at the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru, today, Jamaica will enter the fray with one of its strongest teams ever.
Sprint queens Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson, along with defending champions Fedrick Dacres and O’Dayne Richards and marquée names Shericka Jackson, Tajay Gayle, Natoya Goule, Ronald Levy, Kimberly Williams, and Shanieka Ricketts, lead the line for a group that seems certain to give a fine showing.
Fraser-Pryce will debut at these Games in the 100 metres, along with 2018 World Under-20 sprint champion Briana Williams, when the semi-finals start at 3 p.m. Dacres and Traves Smikle, the gold and silver medallists last year in the discus at the Commonwealth Games, will be the first Jamaicans to contest a final, as their event goes at 3:30 p.m.
The other Tuesday finals that should include Jamaicans are the women’s long jump and discus with new national champions Tissana Hickling and Shadae Lawrence in the mix.
Medal Haul Predictions
Jamaica has twice left these Games with a high of four gold medals from track and field, but if one prediction is to be trusted, the 2019 team could double the medal haul by the 1971 and 2003 aggregations.
According to www.allprotrackandfield.com, the Jamaicans could win nine events. This US online magazine picks Fraser-Pryce to win the 100m, with Thompson, Goule, Aisha Praught-Leer, Ricketts, Commonwealth champion Danielle Thomas-Dodd and Dacres topping the 200m, the 800m, the 1500m, the triple jump, the shot and the discus events, respectively. Also tapped for glory are the women’s 4x100m and 4x400m teams.
Asked why so many of Jamaica’s best have answered the call to compete in Lima, Goule’s coach Mark Elliot guessed that athletes and coaches are using the meet as a dry run for the upcoming World Championships.
“Being that the World Championships are so late in the year, the bottom line is that you could use Europe to run different meets and to try to simulate, but it’s a great opportunity to simulate that, but that’s just my opinion as a coach,” he surmised of a Games track and field schedule that features semi-finals and finals.
Prior to 1983, the Games often saw the very best North American, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America had to offer. However, with the launch of the IAAF World Championships in 1983, the Pan Am Games has often been scheduled away from the IAAF showcase or so close that stars have stayed away.
At the 2015 Games, Jamaica won three gold, three silver and two bronze medals in track and field.