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Laurie Foster | And now, we look to Tokyo

Published:Wednesday | October 9, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Jamaica’s Nathon Allen collects the baton from teammate Akeem Bloomfield during the men’s 4x400m relay final at the Khalifa International Stadium during the final day of the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar on Sunday. the team, completed by Terry Thomas and Demish Gaye on anchor, went on to claim a silver medal.

The Doha World Championships is now history. Jamaica’s medal tally of 12 (three gold, five silver, four bronze) is highly commendable. One of the most satisfying aspects is that the area in which the country previously had its least impressive showing, if any at all, was the field events. Over the 10-day span, there was significant improvement, in that there were silver medals going to Shanieka Ricketts in the triple jump and Danniel Thomas-Dodd in the shot put, as well as to Fedrick Dacres, who spoke elegantly to his early promise with another in the men’s discus. Add to that, a stunning gold for Tajay Gayle in the men’s long jump, and it is clear that talks of a bright future away from the sprints are not unfounded.

As the nation looks ahead to the Tokyo Olympics next year, it becomes apparent that the dream of an 18 to 20 medal haul at a global event is closing in on reality. However, this is going to require fixity of purpose in areas often disregarded. It should be remembered that with Doha so late on the 2019 calendar, there is leaves less time for preparation for next season than is normal. In fact, there are only eight months to go for the mandatory trials, usually held in late June.

One can be sure that the coaches of the country’s elite athletes will be severely tested as to their ability to bring their charges to peak performance in the limited time available. However, from past experience, it should not be beyond them. As seen over the past years, many of our male sprinters seem to have fallen by the wayside. Some have done their duty, and advancing age rules them out. Others are yet to display their youthful talents at the senior level, and the focus should now be on them to get better value, given what they have promised.

Contracts to young athletes

There is a lot of talk surrounding the lucrative contracts that are offered to young athletes before they come to appreciate the hard work that is necessary to move to the upper competitive levels.

Maybe a thought should be given for matters of this nature to be handled through the governing body, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), which should play a restrictive role in receipt of funds on offer. It is difficult to decide that this control mechanism is the way to go, but at the same time, talent is not seeing its full potential because the young men are benefiting to a great extent before they fully blossom into stars.

Another matter that should be addressed is the compensation given to coaches of the younger athletes. It is all well and good to say that the young ones are not yet ready for senior representation, but they are the future and their preparation does not receive adequate attention outside of the school term when their coaches are not on the schools’ wage bill. It seems clear that if these athletes are expected to step up to replace those at the end of their tenure, they need proper guidance outside of the school term.

To demonstrate this, one only has to listen to the names of the top-performing athletes at the high-school level who were not called during announcements of teams for international assignments at the junior level.

Jamaica’s medal tally at the level under review, is usually enhanced by relay medals. This was also the case in Doha, where the team mined four out of a possible five. But to increase the quality of these medals, camps should be held. This is required as it is well known that relay prospects at major meets tend to concentrate on their individual events, as guided by their personal coaches. This leaves little time for team practice. The United States calls on its athletes to attend compulsory relay camps during the year leading up to global events, and this is the way Jamaica needs to go.

It is little wonder that the United States enjoys continued success in this area.

Tokyo is not far away and to make it an even happier occasion than Doha, the expectations need to be met.

One has to hope that they are tackled with the requisite professionalism by the administration of the sport to ensure that they happen.

Foster’s Fairplay wishes it well.

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