Jamaica's bleak 800m future

December 17, 2016
Nathan Brown (left) of Excelsior High, about to pass Leon Clarke right from St.Jago to win the class one boys 800 metres final at Champs 2016.
Jorel Bellanfonte of Calabar one of the school's last 800m champions.
Kenia Sinclair(centre) competes in her heat of the women's 800m at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last week Wednesday. Sinclair finished seventh in 2:03.76 seconds and failed to advance.


In the last three years, Calabar High School, Kingston College and St Jago High School have all run promising times in the 4x800 metre relay. In the same period, Calabar, St Elizabeth Technical High School and St Jago have won the eight-lap event at the Penn Relays with the 2014 win by Calabar ending a five-year Jamaican drought. However, Calabar head coach Michael Clarke doesn't believe those results will automatically lead to Jamaicans advancing in the individual 800 metres.

Asked on December 14 about Jamaica's 800 metre prospects, Clarke said he didn't think success would come easily even though Calabar, KC and St Jago have run 7:33.39 seconds, 7:33.87 and 7:33.71 for the 4x800m relay in 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively.

"Coming from our legacies and our culture. We are sprint fed, sprint nurtured on sprinting cuisine that it's going to be difficult to be surpassed by any other event, well certainly not in our generation. I don't know what the future holds but not in our generation," he said.


National record


Some of the statistics confirm this viewpoint. Kenia Sinclair, in 2008, became the only Jamaican to reach an Olympic 800 final since George Kerr crossed the line in fourth at the 1964 Games in Tokyo. While Sinclair's national record of 1 minute 57.88 seconds was set as recently as 2006, the men's mark was established in 1977 by Seymour Newman at 1:45.21 seconds.

At the junior level, things are a little better as St Jago's Leon Clarke reached the World Youth Championships final last year and lowered his personal best to 1 minute 50.49 seconds. Before that, the last Jamaican boy to reach a World Youth or World Junior final was Aldwyn Sappleton in 2000.

Carlene Robinson won a bronze medal for Jamaica in the girls' World Youth event in 2001.

Clarke's observation comes not long after Warren Blake, the president of the Jamaica Athletic Administrative Association, announced that hopes of a coaching exchange with distance power Kenya was once again on the discussion.

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