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Jamaica's Travis Smikle, the U-20 CARIFTA Games champion in the Discus Throw (Carlos Clemente) © Copyright
General News Montego Bay, Jamaica

Jamaica ahead after opening day in Montego Bay - CARIFTA Games, Day 1

Strong performances in the throws and in the sprints highlighted the first day of the CARIFTA Games in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on Saturday (23).

There was a long wait for the 40th CARIFTA Games. St Kitts-Nevis had first been identified as the venue for the 2011 iteration of the Caribbean's track and field championships, widely acknowledged - most recently by IAAF president Lamine Diack in his letter to North and Central American and Caribbean Athletics Confederation chief, Neville "Teddy” McCook - as one of the best youth championships in the world. Once St. Kitts withdrew, less than four years after having hosted the Games for the first time, the search was on, one that finally ended just weeks before Easter, the period during which CARIFTA has been contested for four decades.

The search ended in Montego Bay, at the relatively new Catherine Hall Sports Complex, which now became the 14th venue for these Games. It was the first time the Games had been held in Jamaica in some 15 years.

Javelin Throw highlights field events

Four field event finals got the 2011 meet off to a relatively strong start. Laurianne Laurendot of Guadeloupe was the first medallist of the day, a modest effort of 13.80m sufficient to bring gold in under-20 women's Shot Put back home to Guadeloupe. Kellion Knibb of Jamaica was just one centimetre off the pace.

The day after her 16th birthday, Akela Jones of Barbados repeated as under-17 girls High Jump champion, but the tall lass from Barbados will have been disappointed to clear just 1.75m, good enough to qualify for the IAAF World Youth Championships in Lille, France, but well short of the 1.85m record she established in 2010.

Adrian Williams of St Kitts-Nevis repeated as under-17 Javelin Throw champion. A World Youth qualifier from earlier in the season, Williams threw 60.15m for first place and a new CARIFTA Games record, eclipsing the 18-year-old mark of 59.38m established by Kerry Edwards of Trinidad & Tobago in 1993. Denzil St Marthe of St Lucia hit 58.91m to finish second, with J'Anthon Sillidy of St Kitts-Nevis 55.01m for third. Sadly, few saw what would be the only record performance of the day, as the event was concluded at the tail end of the morning session.

Coming close to a record was Traves Smikle, the 19-year-old Jamaican flinging the discus 62.84m, just less than a foot off the 63.11m set by fellow countryman Chad Wright in 2010. The home nation also enjoyed success in the Shot Put under-17 girls, through Gleneve Grange, with a best mark of 12.38m, and 17-year-old Shanice Porter, whose 6.12m led a Jamaica 1-2 with Nickeva Wilson in under-20 women's Long Jump. Barbados' Shammar Rock cleared 13.63m to win under-17 boys Triple Jump, whilst Domanique Missick of Turks & Caicos Islands cleared 2.15m in taking the gold medal for under-20 men's High Jump.

Jamaica faces Bahamian challenge on track

At one point, the Bahamas threatened to sweep the 100m series. Devynne Charlton got the usual excellent band of travelling supporters into Junkanoo mode with a run of 11.91 seconds to beat Shauna Helps of Jamaica (11.95) in the under-17 girls event. Delano Davis continued where his fellow countrywoman left off, running 10.75 to hold off Jamaica’s Jevaughn Minzie. Anthonique Strachan then surprised Michell-Lee Ahye of Trinidad & Tobago to take the under-20 women’s title. But the Jamaican duo of 16-year-old Jazeel Murphy and Kemar Bailey Cole ended Bahamian sweep dreams, running 10.27 and 10.28 in the men’s race.

Yanique McNeil took top spot in the 400m under-17 girls, the 15-year-old running 54.27 to hold off Jamaica teammate Kissi Ann Brown. Trinidad & Tobago’s Machel Cedenio held his nerve in an under-17 boys race that was hotly contested until the latter stages, his 47.38 just outside Usain Bolt’s 47.33 record from 2002. The most anticipated race of the day was spoilt as a spectacle when World Junior Champion Shaunae Miller of Bahamas was disqualified from the under-20 women’s 400 for a false start, her fellow 17-year-olds Olivia James (52.64) and Chris-Ann Gordon (52.74) taking first and second for Jamaica. O’Jay Ferguson ran 46.49 for the men’s title.

Lisa Buchanan ran 4:43.88 to win the under-17 girls 1500m run for Jamaica. The boys race nearly produced a Games record, Nicholas Landeau sprinting home in 4:04.84 to win for Trinidad & Tobago. Shantal Duncan of Jamaica overcame Guadeloupe’s Magalie Penelope 4:41.61 to 4:42.65 for the women’s title. Former medallist Matthew Wright ascended the podium after stamping his authority on the men’s field, the overseas-based athlete running 3:58.89 to take Barbados’ third gold medal of the day.

Da Veiga returns in Pentathlon

Audilia Da Veiga appears ready to reclaim the CARIFTA combined events crown she relinquished in 2010, the 2009 champion from Martinique lying in first after three events of the Pentathlon. Audilia won the 100m Hurdles handily, going 13.97 seconds to 14.10 for Devinn Cartwright of Bahamas, who is second overall. The young Frenchwoman won the Shot Put with a mark of 12.32m, ahead of Jamaica's Grange with 11.29. She ended the first day with a second-place finish in the High Jump, ahead of third-placed Sharnique Leonce of St Lucia, with Long Jump and 800m run to go on Sunday.

After four events, Kemar Jones of Barbados led the men's Heptathlon by just under 100 points, with 2905 compared to 2813 for teammate Daley Carter, himself just 55 points ahead of Grenada's Andell Joseph in third. Jones had won the Long Jump and finished in the top two of the sprint hurdles and 200m, but a lacklustre performance in the Javelin Throw, which Joseph won with a throw of 59.66m, kept the Barbadian in check. On Sunday, however, his ability to overcome an ankle injury and perform in his pet event, High Jump, could well be the difference between victory and defeat for Jones.

The 40th Games also saw presenting sponsors LIME substantially increasing the availability of television coverage and online streaming to the rest of the Caribbean and the diaspora, as well as lending to the festival atmosphere with the creation of a Fan Zone, with games and live entertainment. LIME joined traditional sponsors the National Gas Company of Trinidad & Tobago and Guardian Holdings by investing in CARIFTA first in 2009.

Terry Finisterre for the IAAF

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