VIDEO: Gonzales, VCB voted JAAA’s Athletes of the Year

Gonzales, VCB tops

BY DANIA BOGLE Observer staff reporter

Friday, January 14, 2011

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THERE was little surprise as Jermaine Gonzales and Veronica Campbell Brown were named 2010 Male and Female Athletes of the Year at the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association (JAAA) Golden Cleats Awards at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel yesterday.

An obviously astonished former World 400-metre champion Bert Cameron was crowned Coach of the Year for guiding Gonzales in what has proved to be the most successful year of the athlete's professional career so far.

Gonzales, who won a World Junior Championships bronze medal in 2002, became Jamaica's fastest quarter-miler in 2010 after breaking Roxbert Martin's 13-year-old mark (44.89secs), lowering it to 44.40 at the IAAF Monaco Diamond League meet on July 22.

This came after a remarkable year which started with a 46.71-seconds clocking in his season opener at the Camperdown Classic in February, to 45.22 at the Jamaica International Invitational in May, to 44.72 in Lausanne on July 8, and 44.63 in Paris-St Denis on July 16.

The slender runner ended the season as the second fastest man over the distance behind 2009 World Championships silver medallist Jeremy Wariner of the United States.

"Nobody has been doing well over the past couple of years and I know that Jamaica appreciates the great work that I've been doing. I just want to say thanks. It's good when you work hard and people appreciate it, so I'm feeling really good," Gonzales told the Observer.

He topped sprinters Nesta Carter, Yohan Blake and double world record-holder Usain Bolt for the award.

Campbell Brown's prize capped an outstanding 2010 in which she added the World Indoor 60m title in Doha, Qatar to her cadre of IAAF World Championships and Olympic accolades.

In addition, she set world-leading times of 10.78 in the 100 and 21.98 seconds in the 200 and remained unbeaten all season in the longer event.

She topped Commonwealth Games triple jump champion Trecia-Kaye Smith, high jump silver medallist and national record-holder Sheree Francis and Diamond League 400m hurdles winner Kaliese Spencer.

Campbell Brown expressed gratitude for the season: "I'm grateful for all that I've accomplished and I really appreciate my talent and try to take every season as if I have things to improve and in 2010 the vision was just to keep getting better, and I've accomplished that."

Cameron said he had not been expecting the award when coaches such as MVP's Stephen Francis and Glen Mills, the head coach at Racers Track Club -- to which he is affiliated -- were also in contention.

"For me to be named with these two great people, it's an honour. I did not expect to get this award," he said.

"For me it's just a privilege and a pleasure and I'm just going to cherish this one," he added.

Bernie Panton chaired the selection committee which included journalists Earl Bailey, Anthony Foster and Hubert Lawrence, and former athletes Juliet Cuthbert, Deon Hemmings and Donald Quarrie.

Panton explained the process behind the selection of Cameron ahead of Mills and Francis:

"For a young Jamaican to be our fastest quarter-miler in our history and make such a quantum leap, we though that gave him (Cameron) the edge and as a result, the coach that produced that kind of performance should win out."

Meanwhile, Scotiabank Group's executive vice-president Anya Schnoor announced her company's continued support and sponsorship of the JAAA by donating the US$7,000 needed to purchase new high jump standards and starting blocks.

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