Experts demand more from World Athletics
Jamaica's silver medallists (from left) Elaine Thompson-Herah, Kemba Nelson, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Shericka Jackson pose during the medal ceremony for the the women's 4x100m relay final during the World Athletics Championships at Hayward Field on July 23, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

While expressing pleasure with Jamaica's showing at the recently concluded World Athletics Championships, Athlete Manager Tanya Lee Perkins and publicist Carole Beckford believe more needs to be done to fuel the sport's growth.

Both, like some track and field enthusiasts, gave their assessment of the championships, which initially generated a great degree of hype, partly because it was being hosted in the United States for the first time in the event's history.

Though the United States have been a superpower in athletics for well over a century, the sport has not quite captured the collective hearts of the nation.

That great discrepancy was expected to be addressed across 10 days of mouthwatering action at the Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, widely regarded as the track and field centre of the US.

However, despite some magnificent performances, chief among them the three world records — American Sydney McLaughlin in the women's 400m hurdles, Nigerian Tobi Amusan in the 100m hurdles, and Armand Duplantis of Sweden in the men's pole vault — the general belief was that the championships was found wanting.

Expensive ticket prices, partially empty stadium, and poor accommodations were cited as some reasons for the negative reviews.

"I think that more can be done to grow the sport, but from a Jamaican standpoint, I think that Oregon really worked well for us because a lot of Jamaicans were able to travel to offer support to the atheltes," Lee Perkins told the Jamaica Observer.

"For me, I would like to see track and field taken to other major cities, whether throughout the US or elsewhere around the world, but I believe the onus is on [World Athletics] President Sebastian Coe and team to look at bigger venues to ensure they continue to grow the sport and fan base," she said.

Still, Lee Perkins celebrated the Jamaican athletes accomplishments as the country placed third on the standings with 10 medals, inclusive of two gold, seven silver, and one bronze.

"I thought that our athletes did tremendously well in representing our country and indeed placed so highly among so many countries that are bigger than us. We continue to outclass the competition in track and field," she said.

The head of Leep Marketing joined the conversation, condemning backlash against the athletes, reminding Jamaicans that men's sprinting, in particular, is still in a transitional phase.

"Our men are in a rebuilding phase and we have to be realistic and remember that before Usain Bolt and Asafa [Powell] we really weren't winning medals consistently on the track, so I believe we need to be a little bit more patient with our male athletes. But I think that we saw some promise and I am particularly very proud of young Oblique Seville and how he handled the rounds and the finals of the 100m," Lee Perkins noted.

Beckford was critical that the World Championships was hosted at a venue with a 12,650 capacity, despite its expandable feature to increase capacity to just roughly 30,000.

"I've been saying it from we knew it was going to be in Oregon. I actually suggested on Twitter that after this [World Championships] track and field is going to get the boost that it deserves because people will actually get annoyed.

"Because, while the results and competitiveness is good, you have to give some kind of compromise to make sure that track and field is in really good marketing shape for the next couple of years," Beckford said.

"Track and field will have to be innovative and now is the time because we don't have a personality on which to run the sport after Usain. After Michael Jordan, the NBA [National Basketball Association] decided that they were going to use salary caps and they made super teams. Track and field doesn't have that luxury, but they can certainly use towns and matchups to bring some excitement to the sport," she told the Observer.

Jamaica's 100m hurdles sprinter Britany Anderson reacts during the 2022 World Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo: Collin Reid courtesy of Courts Ready Cash, Sports Development Foundation, Jamaica Tourist Board)
Sherdon Cowan

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