Bright future ahead for Jamaica's track and field youngsters
The Sporting EdgeThursday, August 26, 2021
With Paul Reid
Jamaica's team to the recent World Athletics Under-20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya, won 11 medals, tied second for the most ever won at the championships, just one behind the 12 medals won three years ago in Tampere, Finland.
There were three gold medals including a World Under-20 record by the women's 4x100m relay team, one by Tina Clayton in the 100m and the other by Ackera Nugent in the 100m hurdles.
The numbers by themselves cannot even start to tell the real story of the resilience by the young Jamaicans in a championships postponed by a year, and held later in the year than normal.
It does not tell the story of the team that was not even at its best with a number of our top junior athletes not being available for more than one reason, including having left for US colleges before the start of the event.
Then, there was the spectre of the novel coronavirus pandemic that saw one athlete who was expected to make a big difference in the relays not being able to get on the plane, and nine athletes on the team that went to Kenya testing positive for the virus, making them not being able to return with the team earlier this week.
Three athletes did not show up for their respective individual finals in the last two days, including one who had established themself as a solid medal prospect.
At the time of writing this column, the names of those testing positive had not been made public and so it would be reckless to try and associate the names of those who failed to show up for their finals with those testing positive.
Had the Under-20 championships gone ahead in July 2020 when it was originally scheduled, Jamaica were expected to field one of its best teams ever and could easily have won more than the 12 medals from 2018.
With the championships set for mid-August this year, the latest time in the year it has ever been held, and the Jamaican Trials held in late June, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) and their technical people had to find ways to keep the athletes involved and sharp enough to compete at the highest level.
All things considered, what we saw last week from the athletes and the coaches was nothing short of phenomenal, one World Under-20 record, one national, NACAC Area Under-20 record and 14 personal bests, three athletes powering their lifetime bests on two occasions in the five days.
The clock is ticking and Cali, Colombia, next year is only 12 months away when the next World Under-20 will be held, and already a number of those who were in Nairobi, will be licking their lips and getting ready for what is expected to be another bonanza of track and field.
Sixteen-year-old Jaydon Hibbert, who won the silver medal in the men's triple jump, could conceivably compete in three Under-20 World Championships as he will be eligible for the championships in 2022 and then 2024, when he will be 19 years old.
If he does, that could be a world record that might never be beaten.
Tina Clayton will be in line to defend her 100m title and a number of others who got their first taste of 'big time' track and field will be ready to assert themselves on their second time on the big stage.
The future indeed is very bright for Jamaica's track and field youngsters.