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Praught-Leer hoping to make a difference

Published:Wednesday | October 16, 2019 | 1:37 AMAndre Lowe/ Sports Editor

Jamaican distance standout Aisha Praught-Leer is looking to make a real impact in her new role as a member of the IAAF’s Athletes’ Commission, and is hoping to raise awareness and effect change where athlete welfare and earning opportunities are concerned.

“We talk a lot at meals around the world about how there is no ‘middle class’ in track and field, you either have it or you don’t, and I think that has to change to grow the next stars and keep the sport alive,” Praught-Leer told The Gleaner recently.

Praught-Leer, who represented Jamaica in the women’s 1500m event at the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, where she failed to make the final, was elected by her peers, as one of six new members of the commission, along with Renaud Lavillenie, Valerie Adams, Bernard Lagat, Kevin Borlee and Katerina Stefanidi. The other six members of the Athletes’ Commission are Inaki Gomez, Kim Collins, Adam Kszczot, Thomas Rohler, Ivana Spanovic and Benita Willis. The 29-year-old, who won Commonwealth Games gold and made the final at the 2017 World Championships and 2016 Rio Olympic Games in the 3000m steeplechase, before making the switch to the 1500m this season, says she was inspired by her husband to serve on the commission, and shared that she was always interested in addressing the issues affecting her peers.

“My husband, Will Leer, has served on a similar committee (ACC) within USATF for 10 years. I’ve learned by watching him advocate for athletes and have always been inspired by how hard he works behind the scenes. At the Monaco Diamond League I went to an athlete’s forum with (IAAF President) Seb Coe and (IAAF CEO) Jon Ridgeon to discuss the future of the Diamond League. We were given the chance to ask anything, so I raised my hand a few times, because, why not? We’re all curious about what is happening. (IAAF communications team member) Michelle Sammet later messaged me, telling me about the position, so I quickly applied,” Praught-Leer shared.

Surprised to be selected

With votes being cast by athletes competing at the World Championships in Doha, the Jamaican said she was surprised to be selected, but is now determined to play her part in bringing greater opportunities to athletes across the globe.

“Our athletes face a couple issues. I think there is an immense gap in earnings and opportunity between the very top athletes and the rest.

“We’re losing meets outside of the Diamond League where we can develop the next big athletes, often because there isn’t money to pay for these meetings. It’s impossible to earn a living and devote your life to training if you don’t have opportunity,” said Praught-Leer.

“I’m honestly surprised to be elected alongside such strong athletes. If I could have chosen the other five myself, that’s who I would have picked. It would have been nice to see an athlete from Africa apply, particularly to advocate for the distance events, which seem to be on the chopping block from the Diamond League,” she added.

The Athletes’ Commission was established to provide a link between the athletes and the sport’s governing body – IAAF, and serves to represent athletes at all levels of track and field in ensuring that they have a role in the decision-making process of the IAAF.

Former Jamaican sprinter Michael Frater also served on the IAAF Athletes’ Commission.