Jamaica International Invitational - a meet of record proportions
In all of its 13 stagings, the Jamaica International Invitational meet has provided fans with a ringside seat to watch some of the world's best athletes.
It all began in 2004 with a press conference for embattled US star Marion Jones. By then, she was embroiled IN a verbal battle with officialdom over possible use of illegal performance enhancers. Despite that, she charmed local reporters out of their socks.
She starred at the Invitational with a win in the 100 metres. She took the long jump as well on a night when the list of winners included American hurdler Gail Devers; Maria Mutola, Mozambique's 800 metre star; and Jamaican hero Davian Clarke.
As would be the case with Justin Gatlin in 2014, Jones received a warm welcome from the crowd.
Asafa Powell stole the show in 2005. His usual brilliant start gave him control of the men's 100 after just a few steps. Picture-perfect sprinting took him to the finish in 9.85 seconds. It was clear that the world record 9.78 wouldn't survive until the end of the season.
It didn't. In June, he exorcised the memory of his Olympic fifth-place finish the previous year with a world record of 9.77 in Athens.
Powell's 9.85 was the Invitational meet record until 2008 when Usain Bolt ran a brilliant time of 9.76 seconds.
By 2010, after world record sprint doubles at the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 World Championships, Bolt had become the sport's biggest star. Almost 30,000 people packed the Stadium to capacity, and Bolt didn't disappoint. He produced a spellbinding run over 200 metres. His winning time 19.56 seconds established an Invitational record.
As befits a meet held in the land of the sprinter, the records in the 100, 200, and 400 are worthy.
Yousef Al-Masral, a rare speed merchant from Saudi Arabia, broke LaShawn Merritt's Invitational record of 44.66 seconds with a committed run of 44.59 in 2015.
The women's sprint records are noteworthy, too. In her second visit to Kingston, Carmelita Jeter zipped the 100 in 10.86 in 2011. By contrast, the 200 and 400 records have stood since 2006 to Sherone Simpson at 22.14 and Sanya Richards-Ross at 49.89. Beyond the records, Richards-Ross has had famous battles at the Invitational with Novlene Williams-Mills.
Tall Bahamian Shaunae Miller showed her speed by equalling Sherone's 200 record in 2015. A year later, she was Olympic 400 metres champion.
There are three other events with significant meet records. Devers established the 100 metres hurdles mark in the first staging of the Invitational at 12.50 seconds. However, as proof that records were made to be broken, baby-faced American Jasmin Stowers sped past the Devers mark in 2015 with a neat performance of 12.39 seconds.
The other record that makes you trace your finger back across the page is the 400 metres hurdles mark set by Kerron Clement of the United States in 2008. The Trinidad and Tobago-born triple world champion damaged the field in 47.79 seconds. In 2016, Clement upgraded his 2008 Olympic bronze medal to gold in Rio.