Preview

Much Expected Of Jamaica Again – CARIFTA Games, PREVIEW

CARIFTA Games 2007 (c)CARIFTA Games 2007 (c) © Copyright

Will it be all Jamaica again when the final curtain falls on the XXXVI CARIFTA Games? The Caribbean’s junior and youth track and field championships will be held 7-9 April at the Turks & Caicos National Stadium on Providenciales in the northern Caribbean.

While many of the athletes who will be on show over the three days are too old** to be considered for selection for this year’s 5th IAAF World Youth Championships, Ostrava, Czech Republic (11 – 15 July), there will be some potential medallists competing in the boys’ and girls’ U-17 categories.

Some 26 nations are expected to send a total of about 500 athletes to Turks & Caicos. But the past 23 years of the CARIFTA Games have belonged to Jamaica, which topped the medal table last year at Les Abymes in Guadeloupe. Their 68 medals included 39 gold, 21 silver and 8 bronze. It figures to be much of the same this year.

The most keenly anticipated events, unsurprisingly, will be the sprints, especially in the under-20 division. And it is here that Jamaica will be hardest to beat. Yohan Blake won bronze in the men’s 100m at last year’s IAAF World Junior Championships. He also had the second-fastest youth time in the world for 2006, and with a recent run of 10.24 seconds, he’ll be keen to take the 100 title in addition to defending his 200m crown from last year.

Jamaica has named one of the largest contingents to this year’s meet, 69 athletes. Schillonie Calvert followed up her 2005 World Youth and Pan American 100m bronze medals with CARIFTA gold in 2006. She will be joined in the under-20 ranks by Carrie Russell, 2006 CARIFTA under-17 silver medalist and World Junior bronze medalist.

Meanwhile, Keiron Stewart will be taking aim at the CARIFTA record for the 110m Hurdles. At the very least, he should ensure this year’s final in that event is the quickest ever, having recently run 13.71 seconds into a headwind of -3.2 metres pre second to establish a new Jamaica national record. In 2006, Stewart ran 13.80secs in World Junior heats.

Defending under-20 Triple Jump champion Robert Peddlar leapt a winning 15.29m at the trials, an improvement on his 15.09m from last year. Raymond Brown produced 18.20m to win the Under-20 Shot Put, which is better than the CARIFTA record of 18.11m established in 2005.

Bahamas and Trinidad face selection issues

The Bahamas, one of the nearer territories to Turks & Caicos, will send their second-biggest CARIFTA contingent ever, numbering 70 athletes. The team is without defending 200m champion Sheniqua Ferguson, last year’s 200m bronze medallist Cache Armbrister and T'Shonda Webb, all members of the silver medal 4x100m team from Les Abymes.

Along with Tina Rolle, the members of that trio are considered the natural successors to the World Championship-winning “Golden Girls” – Savatheda Fynes, Chandra Sturrup, Pauline Davis-Thompson, Debbie Ferguson and Eldece Clarke. Sheniqua Ferguson, Armbrister and Webb all skipped the CARIFTA trials under their new training regime.

A quartet of outstanding 17-year-olds will now be counted upon to provide some of the highlights for the Bahamas. Last year’s under-17 200m champion, Nivea Smith, will be bidding to obviate any fall-off from the absence of her more experienced teammates as she moves up to the under-20 level. Under-17 men’s champion Karlton Rolle will also make that leap.

In one of the meet’s most competitive races, the women’s under-20 100m Hurdles could include four fine contenders for the World Youth finals later this year. Krystal Bodie competes over the sticks at both distances, but in the sprint race she will face Kierre Beckles of Barbados, and the Jamaican duo, Shermaine Williams and Rosemary Carty.

Tess Mullings, Bodie’s best friend and fellow hurdler, should excel for Bahamas after a disappointing 2006 campaign. Moving up to under-20 men will be Nathan Arnett, in the 400m Hurdles. Returning to the under-20 men’s ranks will be High Jump champion Jamal Wilson, who’ll be joined by under-17 Triple Jump champion Gerard Brown.

Also facing issues with their selection, Trinidad & Tobago were slated to send 59 athletes to Providenciales. The Hummingbird Republic would, however, have anticipated three medals from former under-17 middle distance triple champion Gavin Nero, who we are informed has now been banned from the meet for unspecified team infractions during the team’s camp in Tobago. Nero had broken records in the 1500m and 3000m races in Guadeloupe.

The twin island nation will now have to look elsewhere for success. In the under-20 men’s 100, Jamaica’s Blake will be hard-pressed by a field that includes 2005 World Youth Championships bronze medallist, Keston Bledman. Bledman, a silver medallist in Les Abymes, clocked a wind-assisted 10.25 seconds in victory at CARIFTA trials.

Barbados to build on past success

Hurdler Ryan Brathwaite and powerful javelin thrower Deandre Dottin lead a 31-member team from Barbados. Brathwaite holds the meet record in the 110m Hurdles at 13.85m, but between himself and Jamaica’s Stewart, it would be a fair bet that that mark will go even lower. Brathwaite ran a national record 13.69 to win at CAC Juniors in Port of Spain.

In the Under-20 girls' 100 metres Hurdles, the aforementioned Kierre Beckles took silver in both under-17 hurdle events in Les Abymes, and as she will be making the move to under-20 with a very strong field that could also include the French contingent of Jessica Alcan, Christelle Joseph (Martinique), Melia Cuirassier and Geogia Bordy (Guadeloupe).

Whereas 11 hurdlers will compete for Barbados, five throwers and five jumpers from Little England are in the team as well. Dottin remains in the junior ranks this year; she will seek to improve on her gold medal performance of 37.19m from 2006. With a throw of 46.82m already to her credit this year, she ought to accomplish that goal, and a golden repeat.

Moving up to the under-20 section, though, will be Ramon Burgess. A success in the lower division last year, having thrown 57.97m for gold last year, Ramon’s sights will be set on a similar feat this year, though he will surely need a better distance against fairly stiff competition. He is also likely to be contesting the Discus Throw.

Hosts and former hosts look to improve

For the 32-member home team, one of their best medal hopes will be Simpson Penn, in his first year as an under-20 athlete. Simpson set a new national record of 2.02m in High Jump at the TCI Secondary Schools Track & Field Championships. Having also competed in Long Jump at last year’s World Junior Championships, Simpson will be attempting the High Jump and open Heptathlon on home soil.

Bermuda, hosts in 2004, should have good representation in women’s Long Jump. World Youth Champion 2005 and CAC Junior Champion 2006, 19-year-old Arantxa King will attempt to better the silver she copped in Guadeloupe last year. She will also be entered in Triple Jump. In the under-17 division, on debut, Jasmine Brunson will try to add twin CARIFTA titles to her CAC 2006 under-17 gold medal.

Also expectant will be Matthew Spring, who will aim for the middle distance treble of the 800m, 1500m and 3000m. He took a CARIFTA bronze in the longest of those in 2006. Absent Trinidad &Tobago’s Nero, Spring should be one of several athletes who will be hoping for strong results in terms of medals.

Kirani James, a 14-year-old student at Grenada Boys Secondary School, is widely tipped to represent the Spice Isle well in the under-17 sprints. James broke three records and equaled one at this year’s Grenada Inter-Collegiate championships, running 10.5, 21.4 and 49.2 seconds in the 100m, 200m and 400m races.

A total of 10 athletes will hail from Grenada, who played host to the Caribbean’s finest in 2000. Among the women, Janelle Redhead was a finalist in the 100m and 200m last year. A bit stronger in the 200, she will be doing both events again this year.

Kurt Felix and Kenton Olive will compete in the men’s under-20 division, vying for Javelin Throw supremacy. Olive took bronze in the under-20 division last year with 54.19m, but Felix will be a handful. The 2005 under-17 champion, he is throwing over 60m this year.

Kemar Hyman of the Cayman Islands (hosts in 1995) will be among the strong field in the under-20 men’s 100m. This year he could be targeting a medal after making the final in 2006. Kemar’s brother, Maxwell, could challenge for Heptathlon gold. In the under-17 division, CAC Junior champion Alexandra Terry will be making a push for glory in the Discus Throw, whilst Monique and Avril Myers will be in contention for Shot Put honours.

Several others to look out for...

The Commonwealth of Dominica will send seven athletes to Turks & Caicos. Falixius Leslie, who is based in Trinidad & Tobago, will fancy his chances of copping a medal in u-20 men’s Javelin Throw, as he has been throwing consistently close to the 60m mark. After placing in the top five in the under-17 division last year, Davis Hypolite will try Javelin Throw at the under-20 level, and Heptathlon. Tasha Guiste will be entered in the open women’s Pentathlon.

Chantel Malone is still in the under-17 category, where she picked up three individual medals for the British Virgin Islands last year. Closing in on 12m in Triple Jump, for which she recently set a new national mark, Chantel also competes in Long Jump and 400m. She is joined by relay teammates Shanice Hazel, Ashley Kelly, Britney Wattley and Bianca Dougan.

Omar Jones, who threw 58.22m and took bronze at last year’s CAC Juniors, will be representing the British Virgin Islands in under-20 men’s Javelin Throw.

St Lucia will be sending a five-member contingent, led by 2006 women’s under-17 400m silver medalist Merica Moncherry. Merica will be stepping up to the under-20 division after dominating domestic athletics in the Helen of the West Indies. Under-17 returnee Lenyn Leonce will be competing in the men’s Long Jump and 200m dash.

Martinique-based Sandisha Antoine could make an impact in the horizontal jumps, Triple jump in particular. Also making their debuts at CARIFTA will be Makeba Alcide in the women’s open Pentathlon and Albert Lawrence in the men’s Javelin Throw.

Guyana is hoping that CARIFTA debutante Alika Morgan will be able to make an impression in Providenciales. A middle distance runner, Alika will try to parlay her national two-lap title into CARIFTA gold, also competing in the metric mile. Just 15-years-old, she missed last year’s meet because she could not be accompanied by a female coach – this year, she was seeking sponsorship up to two weeks before the meet.

Terry Finisterre for the IAAF

**NOTE

5th IAAF World Youth Championships - Age Categories: Only athletes aged 15, 16 or 17 on 31 December in the year of the competition (e.g. for the 2007 Championships, born in 1990, 1991 or 1992) may compete.

Full qualification standards can be found on the following page –
http://www.iaaf.org/statistics/standards/xml=ostrava_2007/index.html