THE Jamaican team that won 16 medals, including six gold, at the recently concluded World Athletics Under-20 Championships at Pascual Guerrero Olympic Stadium in Cali, Colombia, performed well above expectations according to David Riley, technical leader of the delegation.
The team returned to the island on Sunday with a record number of medals for any Jamaican team — senior or junior — at the World Athletics-organised championships, and Riley says it augurs well for the future of the sport.,
"The performance of the team in Cali was indeed remarkable. It was way above what we had projected in terms of our medal haul, which was already ambitious. We had projected that we would have 15 medals and we ended up with 16," Riley told the Jamaica Observer.
Led by another World Under-20 record from the women's 4x100m relay team; the championships records by sprint hurdler Kerrica Hill and triple jumper Jaydon Hibbert; and a national record in the men's 100m by Bouwahjgie Nkrumie, Jamaica won six gold, seven silver and three bronze medals.
It beat the previous best of 12 medals won in 2018 in Tampere, Finland. Jamaica won 11 medals last year when the championships were held in Nairobi, Kenya.
"We are very happy with the process, the camps leading up to it bringing the athletes together, with the coaches being involved from the very early stages in the process — and overall it was a good team effort. Many a times we consider track and field to be an individual sport but we were able to get the athletes to work together across the disciplines and really to get the best performances," Riley said.
Garth Gayle, president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), was in Cali with the team. He told the Observer the medal haul result "speaks to structure and the developmental plan of our athletics programme".
Gayle added: "The allocation of medals signifies the collaborative effort of the executive along with the support of the minister of sport.
"We have illustrated this with the world record in the girls' 4x100m; championships record in the boys' triple jump; girls' 100m hurdles; and girls' 100m, with [myriad] national records and personal bests. As we recognise and celebrate our 60th year anniversary of Independence, we must say that four members of this team can return in 2024 Lima, Peru, and other members will matriculate in continuing to wave our flag at Paris 2024."
Riley said the performances of the juniors throughout the six-day championships, which had delays due to bad weather, showed their growth.
"In the sense that it is the largest medal haul that we have ever had, whether junior or senior at a global championships, it is significant in the fact that we had the most medals of any team that contested the championships. That speaks volumes and I think the experience has really helped us to understand the importance of continued development at this level."
He said improving on last year's medal count, when a number of nations stayed away from the east African host country, is a positive marker.
"Last year many persons felt that we got 11 medals because the USA, Great Britain, Australia and others were not there, and for us to come back this year and put that conversation to rest — it's indeed a good show."
The technical leader, who is also the head coach at Excelsior High, was happy with the wide range of disciplines in which medals were won.
"It should be noted that the performances in the medals came from a wide cross section of disciplines. We had silver medal in the throws; two gold medals in the jumps — horizontal and vertical; we had medals in hurdles sprint and intermediate; and we continue to show depth in relays with medals in all four. That is also a very important point to note. We are somehow maturing as a track and field nation with representation across more disciplines — and that is a good sign when you look at it," he said.
With the right blend, Riley thinks members of this team can make the transition.
"We believe that these athletes can actually move on to the next level and remain competitive once they continue to work hard, and stay motivated, and the support systems are there to help guide them so they don't make decisions that are short-termed or short-lived. But overall [it was] a great experience for the team and great success," he said.