'I wish them luck,' says Dr Blake

BY HOWARD WALKER Observer senior reporter walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

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PRESIDENT of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) Dr Warren Blake has made it clear that, despite mixed views within the organisation, his governing body did not stand in the way of three Jamaica athletes who applied to switch allegiance to oil-rich Bahrain.

Jamaica's 2008 Olympic 400m silver medallist Shericka 'Wire' Williams, along with emerging sprinters Andrew Fisher and Kemarley Brown have applied to represent Bahrain.

Dr Blake explained that the JAAA did not object to the request, thus preventing a mandatory three-year waiting period for the athletes to be eligible to represent Bahrain.

"I wish them luck. People are saying we should come down hard and force them to do the three years," Dr Blake informed the Jamaica Observer.

"It was a little surprising but traditionally the JAAA have really not stood in the way of athletes wanting to go. There are people who weren't happy with the decision," he noted.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rule regarding the transfer of allegiance to another country is that the athletes have to wait three years if the former country objects. But if not, that transfer waiting period is reduced to just 12 months.

"We have doctors who leave Jamaica and go to work and other professionals go elsewhere to ply their trade. So I will not stand in their way and I don't think the federation should," Dr Blake reiterated.

Williams, 29, who will be 30 in September, also copped silver for Jamaica in the 400m at the 2009 Berlin World Championships in a personal best of 49.32 seconds, but has struggled to regain that form in recent years. Her season's best is 52.36 seconds.

Meanwhile, Fisher and Brown were part of an awesome relay squad at the University of Technology in recent times, including a victory over the Usain Bolt-led Racers Track Club at Gibson Relays in February.

Two weeks ago Fisher, 23, became the latest and 10th Jamaican to dip below the 10-second barrier with a personal best of 9.94 seconds. Brown, who turned 23 on July 20, has a personal best of 9.93 seconds.

With these personal best times under their belts, Dr Blake was a little surprised that they decided to switch allegiance at this time.

"They said it's getting difficult to represent Jamaica and they want the opportunity to represent because they are thinking of migrating to Bahrain and becoming citizens of that country.

"It is something that comes up from time to time because, if you are running 10.1 and 10.2, you not going to make the national team and we have a whole heap of people at that level. You will always find people who think their best aim lies elsewhere," Dr Blake added.

"The importance of wearing their national colours usually overrides people wanting to switch and do things like that," he concluded.

But Williams, Fisher and Brown are not the first and probably won't be the last to make such a request. The legendary Merlene Ottey, who started representing Jamaica in 1979 as a teenager, switched to Slovenia in 2002 at 42 years old.

Jamaica's schoolboy high jump sensation, Germaine Mason, now 32, switched to Great Britain in 2006 and won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics after capturing numerous gold medals for Jamaica at the junior level.

Also in 2006, former Munro College and Ardenne High School quarter-miler Brandon Simpson, made the switch to Bahrain and was second in the 400m at the Asian Games in Qatar.

Then as of this Friday, Jacques Harvey, 26, who changed his name to Jak Ali Harvey, will be eligible to represent Turkey, having applied for the transfer last July. He has a personal best 10.04 in the 100m and 20.44 in the 200m. Harvey, who won the 2011 World University Games 100m gold, represented Wolmer's Boys' and Rusea's High at Champs.

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