Thu | Jul 7, 2022

Letter of the Day | Girls interfering in big people business

Published:Wednesday | May 25, 2022 | 12:10 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

An event, whose global significance in track and field athletics may have escaped the attention of many, occurred in April of this year. It points to the deep reservoir of athletic talent in this country.

At the Carifta Games in Kingston, the Jamaica under-20 team of Serena Cole, Tina Clayton, Brianna Lyston and Tia Clayton placed first in the 4x100m relay in a time of 42.58 seconds. These young ladies, aged between 17 and 18 years old, misbehaved themselves and interfered in big people business. Their winning time would have placed them sixth at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics for the same event.

What must not be overlooked is that this time was achieved without the participation of Kerrica Hill who, as a Class 2 athlete, ran the fastest 100m at Champs with a time of 11.14 seconds.

One may be inclined to think that Tina Clayton, Brianna Lyston and Kerrica Hill are ‘sure picks’ for the team to represent Jamaica in August at the World under-20 Championships. But Serena Cole and Tia Clayton may not agree with that assessment, and it will be left to the trials in June to determine those who will represent us. It is very likely that a Jamaican team at full strength will better the time of 42.58 seconds.

These girls will soon face difficult decisions when they complete their secondary education. Should they attend a tertiary institution in Jamaica, where there are world-renowned coaches like Stephen Francis and Glen Mills, who have trained world-renowned athletes like Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell, Shell-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson Herah? Should they venture overseas – in practice, this means the USA – where there are talented coaches who have trained world-renowned athletes like Herb McKenley, George Rhoden, Les Laing, Merlene Ottey, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Danielle Williams, and Omar McLeod?

Indeed, should they pursue a career in athletics, or simply concentrate on their tertiary education? In all of this they must be protected from those who would exploit them.

PROPER GUIDANCE

It is not guaranteed that an athlete who excels as a junior will transition and do well at the senior level. We have seen many athletes who excelled at Champs not live up to our expectations at the senior level.

Indeed, the converse not infrequently happens: athletes who never excelled at Champs excel at the senior level. It is well known that super coach, Stephen Francis, prefers to coach athletes who never excelled at Champs, like Asafa Powell and Elaine Thompson Herah, and to transform them into world beaters.

The Champs phenomenon is not straightforward; it is complex and requires careful study and tweaking to ensure that we derive the best from it.

We owe it to these young athletes to ensure that they receive the best advice as they end their secondary schooling. Is there a system of support and guidance in place or do we just leave it to the girls themselves, their schools, their parents and their coaches?

Long may our girls continue to interfere in big people business … so long as this is confined to track and field athletics.

PATRICK ROBINSON