Weh yuh know bout ‘Pressure’? - Mixed feelings about Gatlin’s relay team to take on Jamaican youngsters

January 17, 2022

American Olympic 100m gold medallist Justin Gatlin's initiative to assemble four of the United States' most promising child sprinters to travel the globe competing against their peers, has drawn mixed views from local track and field experts. Gatlin released a viral video in which he introduced the members of his assembly, Team Pressure, a group of 10 and 11-year-olds which he said would be making its first stop in Kingston, but did not give a date for their visit.

National track and field coach Maurice Wilson, who also heads the Sprintec Track Club, says Gatlin's idea will draw attention to the sport. He says Gatlin always showed what he considers a deep love for athletics and that he deserves credit.

"Gatlin has shown he is one with a heart," Wilson told STAR Sports. "He always supports meets in Jamaica and he has come up with this initiative, which I believe is very helpful for the sport.

"Gatlin has shown he supports the sport and we need new innovations to keep it going, so I applaud and support the effort."

Wilson says the event has the capacity to grow, and give youngsters exposure to different countries, cultures, and ways of training. He also thinks it could lead to the unearthing of the next superstar.

"We never know, we just might see another supreme talent like Usain Bolt emerging, because a lot of times you spot very unusual talent from early," he said. "So it's good giving the youngsters this type of opportunity."

However, Olympian and Institute of Sports officer Bertland Cameron said children ages 10 and 11 should not be preparing for a career in track and field in a professional environment.

Cameron says that such a move puts undue pressure on children, whom he said should be allowed to enjoy their youth and go through a process of development before being introduced to a professional set-up.

Cameron said when he first saw Gatlin's YouTube video, he thought it was a commercial.

"I didn't know it was real," he said. "It is too early to have kids travelling the world, competing like that.

"At that age, to be thinking more about being professional, rather than anything else, is not good."

Cameron says there are many events for juniors, and there is no need for them to be travelling the world to compete.

"When you put kids together like that, all they think of is more success," he said. "So when they get beaten, they don't want to do it again.

"At that age, kids must be at school doing their thing and running. You allow them to grow and not have them in a professional set-up running against other kids all over the world. That is like abuse for me."

Cameron says it will not lead to increased interest in the sport.

"I do not believe it will lift the profile of the sport," he said. "The children are good enough to be developed, not showcased around the world. I have no interest in that."

But both coaches say Jamaica has the talent to match Gatlin's team.

"I have no doubt we have athletes here who can match up," Wilson said. "But we have been a bit inactive and we don't know how involved they have been over the last two years.

"But I think our Jamaicans would do very well because we are just naturally talented."

Cameron said "We always have quality and if we put our boys with them, no matter how fast they are, we will do well.

"We have better coaches who can develop youngsters, but we do not develop them as professionals."

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