As has been the case for the past 42 editions, this year’s CARIFTA Games in Fort-de-France, Martinique, was highlighted by outstanding performances in the sprints; not just on the flat, but over the barriers too.
The competition doubled up as the official trials for this year's Youth Olympic Games, and Jamaica’s world youth champion Jaheel Hyde was one of the stars of the three-day event, which ended on Monday (21).
Competing in the newly-formed under-18 category, which replaced the under-17 section, Hyde won the hurdles double, replicating his achievement from the recent Boys and Girls Championships.
Despite having only competed in a small handful of 400m hurdles races, he won the one-lap event in 51.21. But it was in his specialist shorter event where he really impressed.
His winning time of 13.10 would have been a world youth best, had it not been for the marginally over-the-limit wind assistance of 2.2m/s. Nevertheless, he was pleased with his campaign and will now turn his attention towards qualifying for the IAAF World Junior Championships later this year in Eugene.
Hyde’s titles formed just two of the 42 gold medals won by Jamaica as they comfortably topped the medals table, winning seven times as many titles as the second-placed nation, Trinidad and Tobago.
Wilhem Belocian, the athlete whose record Hyde almost broke, also impressed in the older under-20 age group. The French athlete qualifies to compete at the CARIFTA Games through the flag of his birth nation, Guadeloupe.
Competing in his first race since breaking the world junior indoor 60m hurdles record, Belocian broke another record in Fort-de-France in winning the 110m hurdles with a championship record. But he was pushed all the way by Jamaica’s Tyler Mason, 13.23 to 13.25 (1.6m/s) as both athletes dipped under the previous championship best performance set in 2010 by world 400m hurdles champion Jehue Gordon.
Jamaica dominates flat sprints
World youth champion Michael O’Hara led home a Jamaican one-two in the under-20 200m, setting a PB of 20.50 to finish 0.06 ahead of Jevaughn Minzie. In third, Levi Cadogan of Barbados set a lifetime best of 20.64.
With O’Hara not contesting the 100m, Minzie took gold in 10.18 (1.7m/s) with Cadogan once again finishing one place behind, clocking 10.25.
The gold medals in the under-18 boys’ 100m and 200m also went to Jamaica. Raheem Chambers won the 100m in 10.27 (1.9m/s) with team-mate Waseem Williams taking silver in 10.33, while Chad Walker clocked 20.99 to take the 200m title.
Jamaican girls also took both 100m and 200m titles in the under-18 group with Kimone Shaw winning the shorter sprint in a windy 11.42 and Natalliah Whyte taking the half-lap event in a PB of 23.36.
Another Jamaican, Jonielle Smith, was also aided by the wind in the under-20 100m, winning in 11.17 with a strong 5.1m/s breeze behind her back. But Jamaica fell just one short of winning all the available 100m and 200m titles as the under-20 200m title went to Kayelle Clarke of Trinidad and Tobago.
Clarke was locked in a battle with Kadecia Baird, winner of the 400m in 53.84. But Baird stumbled near the finish as Clarke gained victory in 23.10 (2.3m/s), just 0.03 ahead of Baird.
Jones takes two golds in close contests
Akela Jones of Barbados was given the Austin Sealey award, an honour presented to the athlete who is adjudged to be the most outstanding. The 18-year-old came away from Fort-de-France with two gold medals, both won by the narrowest of margins.
First up was the long jump, in which the 18-year-old sailed out to a leap of 6.32m to win by just one centimetre from Jamaica’s Claudette Allen.
Two days later, Jones lined up for the 100m hurdles and the competition in that event was even closer, beating a field that included world youth champion Yanique Thompson. Jones came off the final hurdle best and was awarded victory in a photo finish as both she and Jamaica’s Peta-Gay Williams were timed in 13.55.
Jones is now the latest name on an illustrious list of Austin Sealey award winners, joining the likes of Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Jehue Gordon and Kirani James.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Machel Cedenio was another double gold-medal winner. He won the under-20 400m title in 45.95 and ended the championships by anchoring his team to victory in the 4x400m, clocking 3:06.02, less than half a second away from the national junior record.
Both under-20 4x100m titles were won comfortably by Jamaica. Individual champions O’Hara and Minzie teamed up to win the men’s title with 39.38, while 100m champion Smith anchored the victorious women’s team to gold in 44.16.
One of the best performances on the in-field came from Suriname’s Miguel Van Assen in the under-18 triple jump. Aided by a perfect 2.0m/s tailwind, the 16-year-old flew out to 16.33m to break the national senior record set 23 years ago.
As the under-18 category was a new addition to the CARIFTA Games, all winning marks in that age group were championship records by default. But Van Assen’s winning mark was just two centimetres shy of the championship record in the older under-20 category.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF