Jamaica aim for record medal haul as 43rd Carifta Games begin
THE Jamaican team will start what they expect to be the largest medal haul in the history of the Carifta games today when the 43rd staging begins at Stade Municipal Pierre Aliker in Martinique with 27 nations taking part.
The event officially got under way yesterday with the opening ceremony with competition on today's first of three days set to commence at 9:00 am local time (8:00 am Jamaican time).
The 100m in all four categories, Under-18 and Under-20 for men and women is expected to be the highlight on the first day were 15 finals are expected to be decided, as well as the start of the multi events, the Octathlon for boys and Pentathlon for girls.
The younger age group was changed last year, increasing it by a year to Under-18 and becomes effective this year.
On Thursday before departure for the French territory, Neil Harrison, the head coach of the 84-member Jamaican team, the largest delegation taking part, told the Jamaica Observer that expectations were high for yet another outstanding Carifta Games, as Jamaica chased a 30th straight table-topping performance and 37th overall since the first staging in 1972.
"Based on the performances we saw from the (ISSA Boys' and Girls') Champs and from what we have been seeing all year, and with an additional 14 athletes from the previous stagings, we are expecting a record haul," he said. "We could surpass the biggest previous haul as this team has tremendous quality."
Since the number of events was increased to 66 in 2002, the most medals ever won by Jamaica came in 2004 in Hamilton, Bermuda, when they won 84 medals, 40 gold, 25 silver and 19 bronze highlighted by a world junior record 19.93 seconds in the 200m by Usain Bolt.
At last year's staging in the Bahamas, a resolution to increase the maximum size of each team was passed and each team was allowed 84 in total from the 70 that was allowed in previous Carifta Games.
Up to Thursday, Harrison said he had not had time to scout any of the other top athletes from other countries, but he told the Observer he was "quite pleased" with what he saw in two days at a training camp held in Kingston. "We have not heard of any major injuries with any of our athletes," he added.
The Jamaicans won't have to look far to see what could be one of the highlights of the first day, the clash between defending boys' Under-20 champion Zharnel Hughes of Anguilla and Jamaica's Jevaughn Minzie.
Hughes, who represented Kingston College this year, won the event at the ISSA Boys' Champs in a national junior record of 10.12 seconds, just beating Minzie's 10.16 seconds, and the stage is set for another showdown.
Jamaica won one 100m gold last year, in the Under-17 girls, while Jahzeel Murphy was second behind Hughes in the Under-20 boys, Jelani Walker in the Under-17 boys and Monique Spencer in the Under-20 girls were both third.
Also on the track today will be the 400m which is expected to showcase world junior leading Nathon Allen, against Trinidad's defending champion Machel Cedeno in the Under-20 boys' section.
The 1,500m events will also be decided, while in the field events there will be competition in the discus Under-20 boys, high jump Under-18 girls, javelin Under-18 boys, shot put Under-18 girls, triple jump Under-18 boys, shot put Under-20 girls, high jump Under-20 boys, long jump Under-20 girls, and the discus Under-18 girls.
Christoff Bryan, who will defend the Under-20 boys' high jump title will be aiming for the meet record of 2.21m after clearing 2.23m to win at the recent ISSA Boys' Championships.
World junior leading long jumper Claudette Allen, who was third in the Under-20 section last year, will start favourite, as will Britney Kerr, who will defend her Under-18 high jump title where she is expected to get good competition from teammate Lamara Distin.
Janell Fullerton was second in the Under-18 discus last year and will be gunning for the gold medal this time around.