Calls increase for more local heptathlons, decathlons
Coaches and athletes of multidiscipline events (decathlon and heptathlon) say their discipline is being left behind because of a perceived lack of effort from the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) to help them have more competitions on the local track calendar. But recently appointed JAAA President Garth Gayle says he has plans to change that.
The multidiscipline events have not seen any notable performances since former national athlete Maurice Smith, who broke the Pan American Games record in 2007 and won silver at the World Athletics Championships in Osaka, Japan, that same year.
However, Smith, now a decathlon coach, says if not for his scholarship at Auburn University in Alabama, which gave him a chance to compete in NCAA meets and overseas competitions, he would not have gained the experience needed, as there was a lack of competitions staged for multidisciple events athletes locally.
“Not including the multidiscipline events at the National Championships was an issue for me as well, especially once I had transitioned to the senior level,” Smith said. “My manager at the time, Olympian Juliet Campbell, had to seek other multidiscipline-event competitions overseas for me to achieve the ‘A’ standard that would qualify me for the Olympic Games or World Championships.”
Today, the decathlon and heptathlon are still not contested at the National Trials and are only included in two local meets – the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships and the Wesley Powell/HIC Track Meet.
DIFFICULT TO COMPETE
Former Carifta heptathlon champion and Pan-American Junior bronze medallist Ayesha Champagnie said this makes it more difficult to compete at the senior level in the discipline, as it sometimes forces athletes such as herself to compete in other events locally, despite heptathlon or decathlon being their speciality.
“The javelin is not my best event, but I compete in it just to see which team I can make,” she said.
Although Champagnie is the national javelin champion, she said it would be great if the JAAA included multidiscipline events in the national trials to help her qualify for international meets.
Gayle said he is aware of these concerns, but the main reason for these issues is the lack of participants and coaches interested in the events.
He said the JAAA is looking at ways, such as meeting with their Competitions Commission, to help develop programmes for athletes and coaches who remain interested in the events so that Jamaicans can perform well at these events at a global level.
“Many of the times, they perform fairly well at both the high-school championships and at Carifta, but when they go off to universities and colleges, they do not normally continue as we would like,” Gayle said. “So as a federation, we have gotten to put on seminars and workshops for our coaches for them to understand the rudiment of how to prepare, and continue to encourage, athletes of the multidiscipline events.”
These efforts by the JAAA have not sparked any noticeable improvements in the disciplines; however, Smith and Champagnie have a few suggestions of their own.
“I think if the JAAA can develop a training camp specifically geared to the multidiscipline events, that would attract more interest and young talents,” Smith said.
Champagnie says the JAAA should have more local meets which include multidiscipline-event competitions at both the junior and senior levels. This, she says, will help to improve the quality and quantity of athletes in the discipline.