The last time the CARIFTA Games were held in Bermuda, Usain Bolt set a World Junior record, running 19.93 seconds to win the Under-20 men’s 200m. Eight years later, with the LIME CARIFTA Games back at the Bermuda National Sports Complex in Devonshire this Easter weekend (7, 8, 9 April) and in the presence of IAAF President Lamine Diack, weather conditions were initially far from ideal for record-setting, unless you were expecting new marks for wind speed! The gauge read up to 5.5 metres per second, and temperatures hovered in themed teens for the first two days.
Jamaica have topped the medals table every year since 1985. They got off to a fast start in Bermuda, winning Under-20 men’s Discus Throw gold through IAAF World Youth champion, Fedrick Dacres. The 18-year-old Calabar product sent his implement spinning out to 58.57m, beating Dean-Nick Allen of French Guiana (53.50m) and fellow Jamaican, Ashinia Miller (50.37m) in a rain-interrupted contest.
Seven records set
Tynell Gumbs of British Virgin Islands and Chelsea James of Trinidad & Tobago set automatic Games records, using the 500g Javelin and 3kg Shot for the first time at CARIFTA in the under-17 girls category. They won with distances of 41.46m and 14.02m respectively. Jamaica’s Paul Ann Gayle was the first to reset a previously established record with her 43.99m in under-17 Discus Throw. She was followed on Monday morning by Anderson Peters, the Grenadian turning in a performance of 60.50m to win under-17 boys Javelin Throw.
But all of those served as mere prelude to the main course, served up by two-time defending men’s Javelin Throw champion, Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad & Tobago in Monday’s final session. Last year he threw 72.04m, breaking the then 24-year-old mark in that event by over 6 metres. This year, with a good complementary wind, he surpassed that distance on his opening throw, landing the spear at 74.81m. On his final throw, he flung the spear a massive 77.59m, breaking the 77.53m Central American and Caribbean record he set two weeks ago.
Just minutes after Keshorn’s big throw, Anthonique Strachan of The Bahamas stepped into the blocks with a chance to pick up her second gold medal of the Games and fourth individual title in two years. She stopped the clock in 22.85 seconds to not only win the under-20 women’s 200m dash, but to reset the Games record of which she copped a share in 2011. The record or 22.93 seconds was originally set by Jamaican legend Veronica Campbell in 2001. Strachan, who earlier in the weekend ran a wind-aided (4.4 m/s) 11.22 to win the 100m, was – for the second year – awarded the Austin Sealy trophy as the meet’s most outstanding athlete.
The last meet record came in the last field event, the under-20 men’s Triple Jump, where the Collie-Minns twins were representing The Bahamas. IAAF World Youth Championships bronze medallist, Lathone, had gone as far as 16.32m this year. However, Latario, the reigning World Youth champion, had gone 16.55m in 2011 and 16.47m this year. In Bermuda, he just needed to hit 16.35m to break the 2003 mark of 16.20m set by Antigua-Barbuda’s Ayata Joseph.
Two of the events that were expected to provide highlights were the under-20 women’s High Jump and Long Jump. But with World Youth Champion Chanice Porter absent from the Jamaica team, neither event really caught. Akela Jones won the Long Jump with a decent enough clearance of 6.18m, but her pedigree suggests that she might have needed her competitive fires stoked by her Jamaican rival. Kimberly Williamson won the High Jump in 1.82m; both Jones and Porter have gone higher.
When it’s nice, do it twice
Aside from Strachan and Walcott, there were several repeat champions in the under-20 division.
All three medallists in the men’s Shot Put have qualified for this year’s IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain (10 – 15 July), but Ashinia Miller of Jamaica set a CARIFTA record of 19.47m in 2011, and he had gone as far as 20.15m this year. In Bermuda, 18.96m was enough to capture gold, with teammate Emmanuel Onyia (18.89m) second and Trinidad & Tobago’s Hezekiel Romeo (17.95) third.
The men’s 100m provided plenty of talking points. One athlete was disqualified for a false start, and after the race, a protest was filed that led to a second disqualification. But Jazeel Murphy took back-to-back gold medals for Jamaica, running 10.31 seconds.
Delano Williams studies and trains in Jamaica, but competes for the Turks & Caicos Islands – at least at CARIFTA. Later this year he will be contesting Olympic Trials for Great Britain. On Easter weekend, though, the 19-year-old Munro College student ran 20.83 seconds to defend his 2011 under-20 men’s 200m CARIFTA title.
O’Jay Ferguson was timed in 46.49 seconds in winning the men’s 400m in Montego Bay in 2011. This year he has run 46.14 at Western Texas College, but in the cool conditions at Devonshire, anything approaching that would have been unrealistic. Ferguson won again, but in 47.32; Trinidad & Tobago’s young Machel Cedenio clocked 47.93 for silver.
Omar McLeod came across the line in 52.42 seconds last year for gold. This year, his victory came in 52.35, with Tramaine Maloney of Barbados taking broanze both years.
Jamaica’s Simoya Campbell led almost all the way in the women’s 800m. She ended up with her second title in as many years at this level and her 2:08.29 was a hair faster than her 2011 time, even though she was virtually unchallenged. Campbell had previously in the weekend won the 1500m run in 4:49.56.
The multi-talented Janieve Russell repeated as women’s 400m Hurdles champion for Jamaica. She won in 58.80 seconds, with Trinidad & Tobago’s Kernesha Spann, a bronze medallist last season, stepping up to take the silver.
2011 champion Xavier Boland of Jamaica and 2009 champion Shem Edward of Saint Lucia have both gone 4.60m in the men’s Pole Vault, matching the CARIFTA record. But in one of the cooler sessions, Edward got a cramp in his calf clearing 4.05m and Boland complained that it was “just too cold.” Boland will be travelling to The Bahamas from Bermuda, to represent Jamaica at the CARIFTA Swimming Championships.
Strachan, meanwhile, joined Ashinia Miller and Simoya Campbell as double champions this year. A 5000m bronze medallist in Montego Bay, Jamaica’s Orane Wint appeared to be in total control of the men’s 1500m run, and in spite of a spirited challenge from Saint Lucia’s Marbeq Edgar, Wint held on to win in 4:06.05. He then doubled up as 5000m champion in a race that was straightforward from the first 100 metres.
Almost an even split in relays
Saquine Cameron, Yanique Thompson, Samara Spencer and 100m champion Shauna Helps led Jamaica to the under-17 girls’ 4x100m title. Xandre Blake, Okeen Williams, Karey Kelly and Michael O'Hara did the same in the boys division. And Shane Jones anchored The Bahamas with Teray Smith, Blake Bartlett and Jonathan Farquharson to a relatively simple win.
The under-20 women, though, featured a slightly different story. After a sloppy handover from Carmiesha Cox to 400m champion Rashan Brown, all appeared lost to The Bahamas, especially with Shericka Jackson anchoring for Jamaica. But Stachan came from some five metres behind to catch Jackson about 20m shy of the line, leading The Bahamas to a 45.02-second victory.
After Jamaica swept the under-17 mile relays, the team of Genekee Leith, Simoya Vampbell, Janieve Russell and Olivia James was never threatened in winning the under-20 women’s division. 400m champion Ferguson, though, led his team to the top of the podium after a spirited contest between The Bahamas, eventual bronze medallists Jamaica and silver medallists Trinidad & Tobago, with the lead changing on each of the first two legs.
Junkanoo next season
Jamaica’s medal total of 77 included 34 gold, 24 silver and 19 bronze. It was two more titles than they took in 2011, with one more second place and eight more third places. Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago slipped down the medals table, but making a substantial climb was The Bahamas. Their total of 40 medals was 10 more than last year, and the most since 1984, including 14 gold medals, 14 silver and 12 bronze.
The atmosphere at CARIFTA is always heightened by the drums, cowbells and whistles that epitomize Junkanoo in The Bahamas. Bermuda has a similar tradition of drumming and costumes, and the hometown crowd joined the Bahamians in playing music on boxes, pot covers and garbage cans before the CARIFTA flag was handed over to Bahamas Athletics Association president, Mike Sands, after it was confirmed at the CARIFTA Congress that the 2013 Games will go to the Bahamian capital of Nassau.
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Terry Finisterre for the IAAF