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A peek at the immediate future for Jamaican athletes

Monday, April 23, 2018

In a real sense, 2018 is a 'down year' for the globe's elite track and field athletes.

The tempo will rise next year for the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, and peak for the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, come 2020.

For Jamaica's top athletes, the biggest event involving national representation this year would have been the just-ended Commonwealth Games on the exotic Gold Coast of eastern Australia.

In truth, the timing of the Commonwealth Games in early April was never going to be ideal for Jamaica's top athletes. It's too early in the season for professionals, who are understandably targeting peak physical condition for the cash-rich Diamond League tour during the Northern Hemisphere summer months. Given all the circumstances therefore, Jamaica's medal count in terms of quantity and quality at the Commonwealth Games was commendable.

Justifiably, particular significance has been attached to the performance of national representatives in the field events in Australia and the watershed achievement of Ms Aisha Praught.

The US-born Ms Praught stunned onlookers by winning the Commonwealth Games steeplechase gold medal, beating favoured Kenyan opponents in the process.

“I just put in the work every day and believed that I can race anyone,” Ms Praught said of a performance which should be an inspiration for all.

Progress shown in recent years by Jamaican field event athletes continued with Ms Danniel Thomas-Dodd winning the women's shot put gold medal and Mr Fedrick Dacres the men's discus throw.

Then there was the admirably combative Ms Natoya Goule, who took her first ever major international medal — a bronze — in the 800 metres.

There were also special performances in the team events at the Commonwealth Games. The nation's netballers won a bronze medal and there was breakthrough participation in rugby, basketball and even lawn bowls — a sport most Jamaicans never even knew existed.

In the context of track and field, younger Jamaican athletes in particular have always looked to the Central American and Caribbean Games to make a name, and we expect that this year's event, scheduled for Colombia in June, will be no different.

Then there are the Summer Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Jamaica's top high school athletes — many of whom excelled at the recent Carifta Games — will be expecting to set new standards. We expect that a few who missed the Carifta Games for one reason or another will be especially keen as Buenos Aires beckons.

For senior professionals, however, the Grand Prix circuit, including the third staging of the JN/Racers Grand Prix scheduled for June 9, and the Diamond League events set for Europe and elsewhere, will be front and centre this year.

Jamaicans, with thoughts of the World Championships next year and the Olympics in 2020, will be watching with keen interest.