Selection headache for JAAA in men’s 400m

July 26, 2023
Rusheen McDonald
Rusheen McDonald

WHEN THE NAMES of athletes to represent Jamaica at next month's World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, are released by the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), it will be interesting to see if 400 metres runner Rusheen McDonald is included as one of the three to compete in the individual event at the championships.

The 30-year-old McDonald competed at the National Championships and won his preliminary round in 45.56 seconds to be the second-fastest qualifier for the semi-finals behind Sean Bailey, who did 45.15 in his heat.

McDonald, the national record holder in the event with his 43.93, failed to show for the semi-finals. In most cases when athletes fail to show for their events, a medical exemption is requested by the athlete's handlers as he or she could have sustained an injury before the semi-finals.

According to the JAAA's selection policy, the top three finishers in an individual event are automatic selections once they attain the Qualifying A standard, but in the men's 400m, only the first two - Bailey, who won in 44.48 and Antonio Watson, 44.54 - attained that mark as third-place finisher Jevaughn Powell, with 45.19, failed to attain the 45.00 automatic mark. Powell has a season's best 45.02 set at the NCAA Division One Championships in early June in Texas.

Despite not finishing in the top three at the National Championships, GC Foster College's Zandrian Barnes, who was sixth in 46.10, was one of four Jamaicans at the time that had attained the standard, but overseas-based Raheem Hayles, with 44.81, failed to make it out of the semi-finals.

Since the National Championships, McDonald has been in terrific form going sub-45 seconds on three occasions in one week. On July 14, in Italy, he clocked 44.83 then four days later produced a sensational 44.03, his fastest time in eight years, at the Gyulai Istvan Memorial meet in Hungary. He placed second to Steven Gardiner of The Bahamas, who won in a world-leading 43.74. Two days later, at the Luzern meet, he stopped the clock at 44.80 to maintain his immaculate form.

McDonald is the fastest Jamaican in the event this season and is third on the World Athletics top list behind Gardiner and Muzaka Samukango of Zambia with 43.91.

With the cut-off date being July 30 to hit the qualifying mark by athletes hoping to compete in individual events in Budapest, it will be interesting to see if Powell can do so before the deadline as if he does, he will make the job much easier for the selection committee of the JAAA. At present, his 45.02 season's best will not give him a lane by the Entry Standard as that time, based on world ranking, puts him at 52nd, and only 48 athletes will compete in the individual event.

Four athletes - McDonald, Bailey, Watson, and Barnes - have attained the Qualifying A standard, so it will be interesting to see, come August 1, which three are selected for the individual event. McDonald has strong recent form, but Barnes has a legitimate case to be one of the three.

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