Sports

Jamaica's Lennox Graham to coach 400m hurdles prodigy

BY HOWARD WALKER
Senior staff reporter
walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

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Promising 400-metre hurdler Kyron McMaster of the British Virgin Islands will now be guided by top Jamaican Coach Lennox Graham.

McMaster's former coach Xavier Samuels died after falling from his roof in Antigua on September 9 in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

The 20-year-old McMaster, who was the fastest man last season with 47.80 seconds, was disqualified for false starting in the heats at the London World Championships. He joins Jamaica's World champion Danielle Williams and her sister Shermaine in the Graham camp.

“Basically, they reached out to me. I didn't know he was looking for a coach. I was reading like everybody else about the tragedy and they asked me if I was interested, and I think they knew I knew the coach also,” Graham told the Jamaica Observer.

“I accepted it knowing that the young man will need some coaching, of course, but off the track he will need some support too because the coach was like a father to him,” Graham noted.

Graham, who coached at his alma mater Kingston College (KC) for just over 14 years, was head coach for the last five of the six years they won between 2001-06. He left in 2007. Graham himself won both the 110m and 400m hurdles titles while representing KC.

He coached Johnson C Smith University (Golden Bulls) to a pair of NCAA Division II women's runner-up finishes in 2015. He was named the Atlantic Region Women's Track and Field Coach of the Year in the United States. He earned the award by way of a vote by his peers, the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

This background that saw him being named as a part of Jamaica's coaching staff for the Olympic Games and World Championships might have been a factor in him getting the attention of such a precocious talent.

Graham believes it's the work of the Almighty.

“I look at it as God [ordained] for him to reach out to me. I just say this is a blessing from the Lord because he could have reached out to anybody, and for them to even think of coach Lennox Graham that was a blessing,” Graham told the Observer.

“There is work that I have done over the years which would have helped them to consider me, but I am sure there were considerations for other coaches also, and for them to decide that this is where they want to be, is just God,” he reiterated.

McMaster, who was third behind Jamaica's Jaheel Hyde at the IAAF Under-20 World Championships in 2016, has improved leaps and bounds.

In Poland in 2016, Hyde struck gold in 49.03 seconds, with McMaster third in 49.56.

But within a year, he brought down his times. McMaster clocked a stunning 47.80 in May at the 2017 Jamaica International Invitational and 48.12 in July. He had three of the four fastest times in the world.

The relatively unknown McMaster got the better of Hyde and stunned the crowd inside the National Stadium with that world-leading 47.80 effort. His run even pulled Hyde to achieve his personal best of 48.52. American World champion Bershawn Jackson was third in 48.63.

“It is very interesting that he ran the best time in the world last year and he is only 20 years old,” said Graham of his new charge.

“I kind of looked at a small piece of his career where he went to junior college and got injured and went back home, and within that year he started running faster than he ran before. He is a special young man and I think he will have a chip on his shoulder. And even though he has now got to the top time in the world, my impression of the young man is that he feels he has just started, so there is more to come, and I think that there is more to come also.

“My job is to just try to work with him off the track, on the track, psychologically, physically, and to try to get him to reproduce the time that he did last year and even better times if that is possible. We don't know how a young man's body will respond to a slightly different workout, but we will see that and we will learn that as we go along,” Graham explained.

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