Mon | Dec 5, 2016

Growing 'non-traditional' events

Published:Thursday | January 29, 2015 | 12:00 AM

In the 11 years in which the Big Shot Invitational has been staged, throwing has flourished. The Big Shot and its companion meets, the King of the Ring and the Final Fling, organised by Michael Vassell, put throwers on centre stage. The throwers seem to love it.

Understandably, with Jamaica's proud history in sprinting, throwers are often lost to the public at big meets. The Big Shot and its companion meets and similar events in Mandeville and Montego Bay have redressed that balance. Results have shown their value.

Last Saturday, at the 11th Big Shot, Fedrick Dacres unleashed a world-leading discus throw of 66.30 metres. That's not far off his best effort of 2014, 66.75 metres. The former Calabar ace shared centre stage with Athlete of the Year Odayne Richards, who was among those being honoured by the organisers this year. Both have grown up in this era of the specialist throws meet.

Stagnant Event

During this period, Jamaicans have dominated the Carifta throws, with Dacres taking gold at the World Youth and World Junior Championships. It's a case study in how to stimulate events we label as 'non-traditional'.

The men's 800 metres needs similar treatment. The last of our three Olympic medals in that event was won in 1960 by the late George Kerr, after two silvers won by Arthur Wint in 1948 and 1952. No Jamaican man has reached an Olympic or World Championship final since. In fact, Clive Terrelonge's 1995 World Indoor victory is the only bright moment since the '60s.

The event is stagnant time-wise too. The national junior record has stood since 1964 and the senior mark - one minute, 45.21 seconds - by Seymour Newman, was set in 1977.

We're not great in the women's 800 either. Kenia Sinclair is the only Jamaican lady to reach World or Olympic finals in our track and field history. That's sad.

Perhaps retired Holmwood coach Edward Hector could be put to work to spearhead a Jamaican middle distance revival. Hector has often produced quality in the 800 at Holmwood, with Jermaine Myers a two-time Class One winner in 2002 and 2003. A programme of training camps in the hills, technical support to coaches and financial support to good prospects might thrive in Hector's hands.

On top of that, we may need a series of meets - similar in concept to the Big Shot, but focused on the 800. These meets would put the event, the athletes who run it and their coaches on centre stage. Like throwing at the Big Shot, these meets would place the two-lapper and the 4x800 under the spotlight.

Sprinting is our bread and butter and will remain so. However, the rise of the thrower in the 11 years of the Big Shot Invitational makes me wonder if something similar could spark progress in the 800. It's worth a try.

Hubert Lawrence is the co-founder of the National Hurdles and Field Events Championships.