Local athletics facing catastrophic setback – Riley
COVID-19 safety measures, including weekend lockdowns over the past three weeks, have led to inactivity in the recently returned local track and field season, and with the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships scheduled for April 27-May 1, president of the Jamaica Track and Field Coaches Association, David Riley, is expressing deep concern with the present state of affairs.
“With the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships along with the World Relays in Poland just a few weeks away, we are deeply concerned about the current inactivity, with the last competitions being held on March 20, some 18 days ago,” said Riley in a release yesterday.
He outlined his disappointment with the setback and warned that a second straight cancellation for Champs would be a major blow.
“We are made to understand the authorities are concerned about the spike of COVID-19 cases and the stress on the public health system, but with over 1,500 junior athletes and some 300 seniors competing at the various meets, there were no reports of any positive cases,” Riley argued.
“The current delay is destructive. The psychological and mental damage to our athletes and coaches is almost irreparable as this is the platform for students to gain scholarships to overseas universities,” he added.
Riley’s sentiments were shared by president of ISSA, Keith Wellington.
“I do share the concerns of Mr Riley. We have been waiting over two weeks for a response from the Government. We have less than three weeks left before Champs and, therefore, some decision need to be taken whether we should go ahead and execute,” said Wellington.
“The risk of spending on the execution and then being told we do not have approval is too great for us, as within a day or two we need to make a final decision if we can go ahead with our plans,” added Wellington.
President of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), Garth Gayle, noted that the organisation has been meeting with athletics interests with the view of continuing competition across the island, and urged the Government to urgently address the situation.
“The JAAA met with key stakeholders and have agreed on a strategy for the continuation of track and field in the island. Continued competitions for both our seniors and juniors are paramount at this time, hence the meeting with key stakeholders. It is important that a clear position is made from the Government for continued competitions under the strict COVID-19 protocols established by both the Government and the JAAA,” said Gayle.
“We have seen improved performances by both juniors and seniors over the 20 events held to date, and the JAAA stands ready to ensure that our athletes and officials are safe during competitions and do not contribute to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Time is critical for regional championships, Boys and Girls’ Championships and development competitions for our senior athletes, and the Government needs to act now as our athletes need these competition,” he added.