The JAAA must aim for unity and healing

Friday, November 16, 2012

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THE upcoming annual general meeting of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) is playing out to be one of the most fractious and contentious in the history of the local athletics governing body.

For the first time, three candidates are running for the post of president — incumbent and noted orthopaedic surgeon Dr Warren Blake; Olympic 200m silver medallist and current first vice-president Ms Grace Jackson; and attorney-at-law and former vice-president Mr Lincoln Eatmon.

Dr Blake has been in the post for less than a year after he was appointed upon the sudden death in November 2011 of former president Mr Howard Aris. Ms Jackson, who also vied for the position last November, received less than five of the votes of her peers during that extraordinary meeting.

Each candidate brings his and her own strengths and weaknesses to the drawing board.

Mr Eatmon would be an authoritative legal voice so often needed in this litigious age; Dr Blake is a well-respected surgeon who could provide medical advice and has served on a number of medical councils; Ms Jackson has served on the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Athletes' Commission, and her experience as an outstanding sprinter and Olympian means she should be able to identify with the challenges facing our athletes.

In fact, former national 110m hurdles champion, Mr Maurice Wignall, underlined that last point when he told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview that the athletes were supportive of Ms Jackson's bid.

Mr Wignall has been using his clout to rally support for Ms Jackson via a social media campaign.

Unfortunately, the election, which ideally should be an advertisement for the value of democracy in sport administration, has so far proven highly divisive.

Charges and countercharges involving the highly successful coach Mr Glen Mills and 1976 Olympic 200m gold medallist Mr Donald Quarrie have grown extremely sour.

Dr Winston Dawes, a long-time member of the JAAA, has suggested that the current strife has motivated his decision to step away from the association following the election.

It is safe to say that if Mr Aris were still alive to officially hand over the reins, then this current and deepening crisis in the association may have been averted. Mr Aris was a strong and firm leader and would surely have helped to effect a smooth transition.

While it is said that he had been grooming Dr Blake to take over, it is apparent that there are many who are not pleased with the latter's leadership style.

Jamaica has had enormous success in the last five years in both the Olympic and IAAF World Championships in Athletics. More is expected as the country looks forward to the 2013 World Championships in Moscow and 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Whatever happens, those in charge of administering Jamaica's athletics programme must ensure that there is unity and healing once the election is over.

Three hundred and seventy-seven individuals, clubs, and institutions are registered as having a vote for this upcoming election.

Let us hope that when those 377 ballots are cast on November 29, Jamaican track and field will emerge the winner.




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