Adrian Frater: Invest new energy in track and field
Like Dr Warren Blake, the president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), I see no reason to be overly concerned about Jamaica's below, par performance at the just concluded IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, England, where we garnered a mere two silver medals.
While I understand the flu situation and the disappointing disqualifications, that aside, it is no secret that we did not have our best athletes on show, and of course, with superstar Usain Bolt now retired, we probably miss the extra adrenaline he usually generates to motivate and inspire the other athletes.
As Blake quite rightly said, while this is the first time that we have not won a gold medal at a major championship since 2008, based on the cadre of exciting junior athletes waiting in the wings to make their mark, this Birmingham experience should be a one-off situation and not the norm going forward.
Additionally, with established stars such as Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, emerging stars such as Ristananna Tracey and the resurgent Sherone Simpson, we definitely have star power among the females. On the men's side, Yohan Blake, Omar McLeod and Javon Francis are all capable of mining gold medals at the top global championships.
However, with nations like South Africa (on the men's side) and the Ivory Coast (women) coming to the fore forcefully in the sprints, the JAAA probably needs to do more than just to wait on the top clubs Racers and MVP to churn out the stars, but begin to press for additional infrastructure to promote the development of the sports across the board.
While there is absolutely no question that our biggest track stars over the years have emerged from rural Jamaica, it is almost insulting that we have not been investing sufficiently in the development of track and field in rural Jamaica, possibly robbing us of an opportunity to identify and develop potential diamonds in the rough, who could become world-beaters.
The JAAA needs to start pushing the Government to put in more all-weather synthetic running tracks across the island because, at present, the only such track in rural Jamaica is at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, and should the truth be told, it has seen better days and badly needs an upgrade.
It must be a monumental act of extreme stupidity for a parish like Trelawny, which has produced the likes of Bolt and Veronica Campbell-Brown, easily two of the best sprinters the world has ever produced, not to have a proper running track. This unfortunate situation could be likened to a prospector finding gold at a location and not returning to see if there is more gold there.
As much as I am confident that we have the raw talent here in Jamaica to remain one of the top nations in global athletics, I am also cognisant of the fact that, with other nations putting in the work in a bid to catch up and surpass us, it would be a big mistake to become complacent instead of constantly fine-tuning what we have, to get better.
My fear is that we might allow ourselves to fall into a false sense of security, a pit that West Indies cricket has fallen into, when we took it for granted that all we need to be successful is just to keep on producing good players. While we were only depending on raw talent, the other nations were busily putting in the infrastructure to sustain their talent, and having laid their foundation, we are now the ones trying to play catch-up.
I believe that Blake and the JAAA need to get serious about pushing the Government to create more top-flight facilities across the island, while at the same time encouraging the creation of more clubs like Racers and MVP, especially in rural Jamaica. We also need to have more events like Montego Bay's Milo Western Relays, which has proven to be a great avenue for exposing rural athletes.