When the JAAA votes today...

When the JAAA votes today...

Saturday, November 28, 2020

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Dominated by the incomparable Mr Usain Bolt, most of the last 20 years will be remembered as a vein of gold for Jamaica's track and field.

Mr Bolt, who sprinted to multiple gold medals, not to mention world records, at Olympic, World Championship and other major games, was not alone.

Many others, not least female athletes including Mrs Veronica Campbell-Brown, Ms Melaine Walker, Mrs Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah achieved glory alongside Mr Bolt since the turn of the millennium.

In the context of that limited time frame, many younger Jamaicans may well believe their country's track and field greatness started only recently.

So that, older Jamaicans should never grow weary of telling the young about the athletic heroes of the 1948 Olympics in London and 1952 in Helsinki, back when this country was still a British colony.

They should never grow weary of retelling the glorious exploits of Messrs Arthur Wint, George Rhoden, Herb McKenley, Les Laing, and others who forced the world to recognise Jamaica as a major force in athletics.

With the passage of time, there will be highs and lows. Jamaica's athletics has had its fair share of both.

But the outstanding trend set by the early Olympians stayed true down the next 30 years, led by such outstanding men as Messrs George Kerr, Keith Gardner, Lennox Miller, and Donald Quarrie. Many are unaware that while they won no medals, female athletes Mses Carmen Phipps, Cynthia Thompson, Kathleen Russell, Mavis Evelyn, and Vinton Beckett competed admirably in 1948.

A Jamaican woman finally made the Olympic medal podium when the youthful Ms Merlene Ottey — arguably this nation's greatest-ever female athlete — won bronze over 200 metres at the Moscow Games of 1980.

Ms Ottey metaphorically opened the door through which numerous Jamaican female medal winners at Olympic, World Championship and other major games have gone through over the last three to four decades.

Surely, none who watched, listened, or read, will ever forget the achievement of Ms Deon Hemmings in Atlanta in 1996 — the first Caribbean woman to win an Olympic gold medal.

It's against that exalted backdrop that today's election of a new executive for the governing body of Jamaican athletics, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), takes place.

Today's annual general meeting was preceded by Dr Warren Blake's decision to walk away from the presidency.

Long-serving general secretary of the JAAA Mr Garth Gayle and the legendary Olympian Mr Quarrie are the contenders for presidency in this diffic ult, complicated era of COVID-19. Other executive positions are also on the line.

We note concerns about the conduct of the poll. Beyond that, though, it seems to this newspaper that those eligible to vote must ensure they select those they genuinely believe are best able to build on Jamaica's magnificent legacy in track and field.

Like other sporting associations in transition from amateurism to a professional approach, the JAAA has been accused of being unwilling or unable to adjust to rapidly changing times, of lacking accountability and transparency, and of being inclined to exclude rather than include.

Real or imagined, those are perceptions that need to change, starting today.


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