Paralympians to compete at UTech Classics
Kwesi Mugisa, Staff Reporter
Jamaica's Paralympians will make a bit of local history when they compete for the first time at this weekend's UTech Classics, having gained permission from the International Paralympic Committee to use the meet as a qualifier for the London Paralympic Games.
For the first time at any kind of local meet, some of Jamaica's Paralympians, who will also compete for honours this summer, will be able to gain qualification to the event on local soil.
Christopher Samuda, president of the Jamaica Paralympic Association (JPA), was pleased with the recent development and believes the move was a significant one and a step in the right direction.
"This is the first time that we will be using a meet like this in Jamaica in this manner. It will be a good opportunity for those athletes that have not yet attained the qualifying mark for London to do so this weekend," Samuda told The Gleaner.
"Other than that, we would have had to send our athletes overseas to qualify for the Games, and that would be a major expense."
With athletes like Tanto Campbell, Alphanso Cunningham, Sylvia Grant and Shane Hudson the only ones to achieve the 'A' standard for the Games, and Kevon Reid having achieved the 'B' mark, seven or eight more athletes will be looking to book their tickets to the event on the weekend.
"For the athletes, it will be another milestone. It will be their first time at a local meet. Should they fail to qualify this weekend, there will be other meets later in the year."
In addition to Campbell, Cunningham and Grant, expe-rienced campaigners and major Games medallists, Samuda expects plenty of competition and solid performances from the athletes on show.
"Look forward to good performances. Some of the bigger athletes may not compete, but a lot of them are seasoned campaigners and, hopefully, a few of them will succeed in getting their marks for London," he said.
There will be also be another first at the meet - ambulant athletes will be competing for the first time. An ambulant is an athlete with a physical disability that may have a partial or full limb amputation.
Jamaica's Paralympic team of track and field athletes to this summer's Games will be housed in the metropolitan city of Bedfordshire at its university, in a training camp, prior to settling in London for competition, which begins on August 29.
The team will be there for 12 days and will complete final preparations for its hunt for gold under the watchful eyes of its technical team.
Samuda is guardedly optimistic and believes that London "will not only continue the fine tradition, but will be historical in many respects".
For the first time, Jamaica will have a men's 4x100m team, which should be in contention for a medal.