Asafa Powell, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and former standout junior athlete, Dr Neil Gardener, weighed in on the value of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Associa-tion (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships, hailing it as the key factor behind the country's international success.
Olympic champion Fraser-Pryce, a former Class Two 100m champion for Wolmer's Girls, was clearly excited to be experiencing another Champs, with the GraceKennedy ambassador lapping up the excitement of the world-renowned meet.
"I am excited to be here first of all, and it's really wonderful to be here again," said Fraser-Pryce, with her Wolmer's school tie hanging from her waist. "I left high school in 2006 and Champs is still the wonderful place that I have always loved to be at, the energy, the competition and everything is really high and exciting, it remains a great experience."
Powell, a former world record holder over 100m and two-time World Championships bronze medallist, underlined the role the championship plays in preparing athletes for the bigger stage - something he never quite experienced the way he would have preferred.
prepare the athletes
"For me, Champs is like the Olympics or the World Champion-ships, it's really a good way to prepare the athletes before they go to these major meets," Powell told The Sunday Gleaner. "Unlike me, I was just thrown in the pen with the big guys, but these guys here get a chance to compete, to be under pressure and to know what it's like to compete at a championships like this."
"Without Champs, you wouldn't have seen a Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake or all these athletes because Champs is the breeding ground that allowed so many of our athletes, to become great," said Gardner, a former NCAA (400m hurdles and 55m hurdles) and Carifta champion (110m hurdles).
Gardner, who was named Champion Athlete at Champs for three consecutive years, 1991-1993, recently returned to Jamaica and now operates his own chiropractic practice.
- André Lowe