Jehue Gordon at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 7 April 2010 – George Town, Cayman Islands

Gordon and James steal the show at CARIFTA Games

George Town, Cayman IslandsIn July, the world will descend on Moncton, Canada, for the 13th World Junior Championships in Athletics. If last weekend was anything to go by, the Caribbean will be well represented at that meet.

The XXXIX CARIFTA Games ended Monday (5) at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex in George Town, Cayman Islands, with 13 new meet records, including some of the top performances in the world for 2010. And although Jamaica inevitably led the medals table, there were much-improved performances from Bahamas and Trinidad & Tobago, the latter having their best CARIFTA performance ever.

The highlights were expected – and came – from the sprinters as Jehue Gordon and Kirani James continued to stamp their class on the Games.

Impressive double for Gordon..

In the under-20 400m Hurdles, defending champion, record-holder and World Championships fourth-place finisher Jehue Gordon went under 50 seconds for the third time this year. His winning time of 49.76 took a quarter of a second off the mark he established last year, and the Trinidad & Tobago native is sure to be favoured for World Juniors gold.

The tall youngster from the Land of the Hummingbird would have anticipated a tougher defense of his other hurdles title, with Stefan Fennell and Kamal Fuller representing Jamaica, and 2009 bronze medallist Greggmar Swift having improved for Barbados. With an inconsistent wind at the stadium, Gordon did not fancy himself to break the 13.42 mark established by reigning World champion Ryan Brathwaite in 2007. In the event, though, a competitive race ended at 13.41, and Gordon’s two records earned him the Austin Sealy Trophy for most outstanding athlete.

... and James

There had been some speculation as to whether Kirani James, Grenadian sensation and double World Youth Champion, would compete in Cayman. He not only ran, but did the double. The 17-year-old had declined to try for two individual titles last year, focusing on the 400m record and contributing to Grenada’s mile relay team. With no relay team this year, the University of Alabama freshman was entirely unchallenged in the half-lap final on opening night. Trinidad & Tobago’s Deon Lendore ran 46.59 for second place, but James ran 45.02 seconds, eclipsing the 45.45 he set last year.

Usain Bolt’s CARIFTA record and World Junior Record of 19.93 seconds would take some beating. If anyone might be able to do it, though, it would have to be Kirani James. But with no real competition and coming after his big effort in the 400m, the affable big man from the Spice Isle just ran hard enough to win. Heavy legs notwithstanding, James’ time of 20.76 was enough to hold off Rachmil Van Lamoen of Netherlands Antilles and former 100m champion Shakeim Greaves of Barbados. He is considering doing the double in Canada, and that could well mean two more World titles.

In the under-20 women’s 100m hurdles, 2009 silver medallist Ivanique Kemp of Bahamas would have been relishing the possibility of ascending the podium. Unfortunately, her technique was not as crisp as it was last year, and she ended in third (14.21), behind the Jamaican duo of Tonique Sobah (13.55) and Samantha Elliott, who set a record of 13.42 seconds, just one hundredths of a second faster than Kierre Beckles in 2008.

Nikita Tracey won the under-20 women’s 400m hurdles for Jamaica 12 months ago and successfully defended her title in a relatively slow race clocking 58.58.

Elsewhere in the sprints…

Last year’s under-17 girls’ 400m champion, Shericka Jackson of Jamaica also held the event record coming into this meet. A slow qualifying heat did not give any real indication as to what the final would hold, but in the evening, it was all Shaynae Miller. The Bahamian ran 53.36 to cross the line ahead of Jackson. Bahamas also collected the women’s crown through Katarina Smith, who crossed the line at 53.71 to beat Trinidad & Tobago’s Sparkle McKnight. The only quarter-mile title for Jamaica went to Lennox Williams, who ran 48.01 to beat Darvin Sandy in the under-17 boys’ division.

Jamaica’s Odane Skeen won the under-17 boys’ 100, then blazed to a record time of 20.84 seconds. World Youth Championship medallist Allison Peter had earlier lost the 100m title by a hundredth of a second to Trinidad & Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ayre. The exciting young talent from the US Virgin Islands channeled her disappointment in a 23.29-second 200m run. Shericka Jackson also overcame an earlier loss to win the under-17 200m dash.

On the infield Jones leaps 1.85m, Wright reaches 63.11m in the Discus

Akela Jones already had a share of the CARIFTA record for the under-17 girls High Jump from 2009 when she was second on count-back. But the young lady from Barbados was keen to show her improvement in the intervening year, even though at 15 she is ineligible for the World Juniors. Standing 1.89m, Jones went over first time at 1.71m, then at 1.77m. Next was a new CARIFTA record of 1.81m easily disposed of, and 1.85m before finally bowing out at 1.88m.

In the under-20 boys Discus Throw, Trinidad & Tobago’s Quincy Wilson made his birthday a memorable one with a second round heave of 62.95m, to add more than seven metres to his previous record with one of the best throws in the world this year for a junior. But his celebration was short-lived as Jamaican Cha Wright spun to a 63.11m effort in the final round to steal the victory.

Jamaica dominates the relays

Jamaica dominated the little-subscribed relays, but did not have things entirely their way. Julian Forte and Kemar Bailey-Cole led Jamaica to a narrow 40.10-second over Trinidad & Tobago (40.41 seconds) and Bahamas (40.99) in the under-20 men's race. The amazing Odane Skeene led his under-17 Jamaica team to gold in 41.62 over Bahamas and Trinidad & Tobago. And Shericka Jackson did the relay double for Jamaica, breasting the tape at 45.98 seconds to beat Barbados and Bahamas.

The most fortuitous moment of the Games came in the under-20 women's 400m relay. Jamaica appeared to be in the lead after two exchanges, when the outgoing received the baton, took two strides and lost the stick when it hit her thigh. But in a bit of serendipity, the baton bounced off the Mondo track and allowed Danielle Williams to catch it almost in stride. Unfortunately for the Jamaican, Trinidad & Tobago's Gabriela Cumberbatch had already moved on to lead her team to gold, as had Rashan Brown, whose Bahamas team held on for silver. But Jamaica was still able to hold off Martinique to salvage bronze.

Campbell and Goule end on a high note

In the middle distances, Jamaican duo of Kemoy Campbell and Natoya Goule ended their illustrious CARIFTA careers with more title success. Kemoy ran 3:48.99 to win the 1500m and took the 5000m as well, while Goule finishes with 10 individual CARIFTA titles. Unbeaten at these Games, the tiny speedster led a Jamaican 1-2 in the 1500m, then won the 800m in 2:06.03.

Jamaica ended with 72 medals, five more than they copped last year, but with two fewer golds. Trinidad & Tobago got three more titles than they did in 2009, along with eight additional minor medals for a total of 40. With 29 medals, Bahamas only increased their overall total by one, but they added three more titles than in St Lucia. The medal table comprised 17 territories, three fewer than was the case last year.

With just nine months in which to plan the Games, the Cayman Islands Athletics Association was roundly commended for doing a fine job. IAAF President Lamine Diack took part in the opening ceremony, along with North and Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association (NACAC) President, Neville Teddy McCook. Other illustrious visitors included Central American and Caribbean (CAC) President, Victor Lopez, and former CARIFTA athletes in the persons of IAAF Council Member, Pauline Davis-Thompson, and Kareem Streete-Thompson, the most illustrious athlete produced by the Cayman Islands. They were among some 5000 urging the athletes on during the three days of competition.

Terry Finisterre for the IAAF

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