Good Champs, but old headaches persist


Good Champs, but old headaches persist

Monday, April 01, 2019

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Congrats to Edwin Allen High School and Kingston College for topping the girls' and boys' tables at the 109th Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships which ended Saturday.

Edwin Allen High from Frankfield in the hills of northern Clarendon, captured their sixth-straight Girls' Championships title and seventh in eight years, after holding off Hydel High to win by seven points.

Kingston College, from North Street in downtown Kingston, amassed an unprecedented 395.5 points, 82.5 points clear of Calabar High — the boys' champions of the past seven years in a row. This was KC's first Champs title in 10 years, their 32nd overall — which includes a yet unmatched 14 consecutive victories — ahead of Calabar with 28 titles and Jamaica College with 21.

KC and Edwin Allen deserve praise not just for their scores of talented athletes — carefully nurtured and honed into winners — but for their high level of organisation.

Once again at Champs there was an awesome array of athletic talent from schools across the country — from popular, well known institutions, to the very remote and rarely heard of.

Based on the display, there can be no doubting the role of Champs in ensuring Jamaica's status as a global athletics power.

Yet again, Jamaicans saw at first-hand the growing expertise of coaches in a variety of events. Plaudits should go to athletes for their great sacrifices; and to parents, school leaders, and sponsors for their support.

And, as this newspaper has said many times, ISSA continues to serve Jamaica well by its organisation of sporting events such as Champs — a service which goes back well over 100 years.

However, there were downsides to Champs 2019. A long shadow was cast by the much publicised unsavoury incident involving athletes and a teacher at Calabar — a matter which may well be headed for the courts.

Regardless, ISSA and all school leaders will have to take a long, hard look at what went wrong and how to deal with such issues going forward.

Also, long-running concerns about 'winning at all costs' were still with us at Champs 2019.

ISSA has done much over recent years to implement regulations aimed at easing the workload of student athletes. It seems more may need to be done to ensure that those who are known to be carrying injuries, or are otherwise unfit, are barred from competition.

In that respect, we note the move by Herbert Morrison Technical's Head Coach Mr Claude Grant who, we are told, withdrew one of his potential medal-winners from competition after the 13-year-old “felt” an injury while running a relay leg.

“… [W]e have to take a reality check and do what is right, which is to protect the athlete,” said Mr Grant.

Surely, that's the obvious and sensible thing to do.

But it seems that some coaches were asking their athletes to compete — even though injured or unfit — in order to gain points.

As we have noted in this space previously, sports medicine expert Dr Paul Wright has recommended mandatory protection for those whom he describes as “national treasures” in order to avoid win-at-all-cost abuse.

It seems clear that action along those lines needs to be taken.

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