THE EDITOR, Sir:
IN THE 2007 edition of Jamaican Athletics: A Model for the World, I maintained that there was "absolutely no reason why, with adequate coaching, Jamaica should not excel" in the non-traditional (for Jamaica) throwing events, and that what was needed was a programme of special incentives to attract athletes and coaches at the junior and senior levels to these events. After all, Jamaica has men and women of the required size and athleticism to excel in these events.
It was gratifying to see Dorian Scott placing 12th in the London Olympics shot put final. Moreover, both Jason Morgan and Traves Smikle (the national record holder) have personal records that indicate that they belong to the highest echelon of discus throwers at the international level: both have thrown between 65m and 67m, and the winning throw at the London Olympics was 68.27m.
Although in Jamaica throwing events have not received as much publicity or support as the sprints, significant progress has been made by Jamaicans in those events; in fact, it may be said that we have made greater improvement in the throwing events than the sprints.
Consider this: in 1958, the Boys' Champs discus (Olympic size) record was 114ft 31/2 inches, or about 34m. While I have no figures for the national record, given the general lack of interest in and focus on the throwing events at that time, it is safe to assume that it was not much better than the Boys' Champs record. Today, Traves Smikle's national record is 67.12m, or about twice the 1958 distance. That is an improvement greater than anything achieved in the sprints over the same period, even if one concedes that in the 1950s the standard in the throwing events was low.
Much of the improvement in the discus and shot put is due to the work of Mr Julian Robinson, who coaches at Calabar High School and has the distinction of coaching practically all of the discus and shot put throwers who have represented Jamaica so well over the past decade. He deserves the highest commendation, as does Dr Gwyn Jones of Munro College, who coached Emmanuel Onyia to victory at Boys' Champs this year.
In light of the foregoing, I reiterate the call made in 2007 for a programme of incentives to be established by the private and public sectors to attract more qualified coaches and athletes in the throwing events, and to provide assistance to those who are currently representing Jamaica. Any doubt about the capacity of Jamaica and the Caribbean to produce outstanding athletes in the throwing events must have been dispelled by the phenomenal performance of Trinidad and Tobago's Keshorn Walcott, who at the tender age of 19 won the gold medal in the javelin at the London Olympics.