Whoever wins JAAA contest must deal with high expectations
ON THE SPORTING EDGE
A week from the most anticipated Annual General Meeting (AGM) in the history of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), set for next Thursday, anticipation is gradually building up as thankfully the rhetoric has cooled somewhat.
Despite the acrimony and mud-slinging that rivals any we have seen in party election campaigning in Jamaica, at the end of the proceedings next Thursday night, track and field in Jamaica will be the winner.
Three hundred and seventy-seven voters will decide whether Dr Warren Blake, first vice-president and first female presidential candidate ever Grace Jackson or long-time JAAA members Lincoln Eatmon will guide the association through the next four years.
Undoubtedly, all three slates have good candidates who no doubt have the best intentions for Jamaica's track and field product and improving its place on the global scene.
The question for the voters however, is who they think is best suited to guide the ship and who is best equipped to lead what could be a mixture from each of the slates.
We have heard from all three candidates but usually at election time manifestos are not worth the paper on which they are written, nor are promises to be believed.
If we are to take them at face value however, all three have put forward excellent ideas that should help to improve track and field in Jamaica.
Eatmon's idea to pay more attention to the welfare of junior athletes after the Penn Relays in late April, will earn him votes from high school coaches, especially those outside of the big programmes who have to sacrifice so their athletes can prepare for national teams.
The high school season ends after the Penn Relays and most coaches with potential national representatives have to either beg or borrow to make sure their charges are kept in training as most schools can't afford to continue to spend on track and field.
Two-time Olympic relay gold medallist Michael Frater is on the right track with his plans for a pension plan and medical support for athletes, most of whom don't have the multimillion-dollar shoe contract.
The well-respected Frater who at 30 years old won't be tearing up the back stretch for too much longer, will no doubt attract many votes for the Blake-led team.
There are other well-respected persons on all three slates including Ian Forbes ,who many regard as a legitimate presidential candidate in his own right, Olympian Juliet Cuthbert, Alfred Francis, Dave Myrie, Juliet Parkes, current General Secretary Garth Gayle and his assistant Marie Tavares, and a place must be found for all of them to serve.
All three presidential candidates have said they would work with any team that was elected but it was Jackson, the Olympic Games 200m silver medallist, who came out and said her team would be supporting candidates from other slates who they thought could help move the product forward.
Whoever is elected, however, will be in the shadow of the giant, Howard Aris, under whose watch Jamaica started winning medals in double figures at the IAAF World Championships and the last two Olympic Games.
The new president will be judged by these high standards and will be expected to expand Jamaica's base power from the sprints into other areas, if Jamaica is to become a true world power in track and field athletics.
There is a lot of work to be done, and the quicker we move on from this election and start the work of moving Jamaica's track and field forward, the better off the sport will be in the end.