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ONLINE READERS COMMENT: JAAA needs to fix track & field problems now

Thursday, August 17, 2017

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Dear Editor:

Now that the 16th IAAF World Championships has ended and Jamaica performed way below expectations, finishing 16th in the medal table, it's the perfect time for the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) to make some harsh decisions.

Bear in mind that track & field experts predicted that the team would win as many as 12 medals, which would have placed them no worse than third on the medal table.

Instead, this was Jamaica's worst display in this event since its inception in 1983 when we won just four medals.

With that said, my point is not focused on medals but on leadership. Each time Jamaican athletes attend one of these championship events, including the Olympics, a plethora of stories emerge about the behaviour of some athletes and coaches.

Their “prima donna” attitude has made it difficult for the team to maximise its potential thus causing chaos, and in some cases anarchy, in the camp. Rewind to Sydney 2000 when certain fractions led a revolt against one of Jamaica's national treasures, Merlene Ottey, in the Olympic Athletes' Village. This remains one of the biggest stains on Jamaican athletics to date.

These vain and overly sensitive persons are very temperamental and difficult to work with but always seem to get their way and escape without facing any penalties. There is no way an association should allow coaches and athletes to run the asylum. This only leads to further problems down the road if not curtailed immediately. As a famous Jamaican saying goes, 'the horse done gone through the gates already,” so there's not much that can be done afterwards.

The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the JAAA. They are the governing body of athletics in the country. Each time one of these incidents occur, there are always two constants — a certain coach and track club. One wonders why this coach and club always evade disciplinary actions after creating so much disruption. Is it because his athletes are always winning? Is it because he's a bully and others are terrified of him? Whatever it is, this must stop NOW! And, there's no perfect time than the present. The argument that this club and its athletes are carrying Jamaica is now moot.

At the conclusion of this past championship, there's no ground for the coach and club in question to stand on. The associated athletes produced a total of zero medals. So, who will stand up to him finally? Does the JAAA need a total makeover and new leaders with guts to fill the vacant posts? Does the minister of sport need to step in and make some tough decisions? Whatever the solution, it must be found NOW, or else the worse is yet to come, and this will be unfair to those athletes that trust and respect the system.

James Testa
Hollywood, FL

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