The more than 370 delegates who voted in Thursday night’s elections to select the new administration of the Jamaica Athletic Administrative Association (JAAA) sent a clear message that they wanted things to remain the same. As such incumbent Dr. Warren Blake was returned as president of the organization that overseas track and field in Jamaica for the next four years. There are some new faces in that administration but by and large Dr. Blake’s slate was almost all returned.
Gone are Donald Quarrie, who in the lead up to the elections had a very public bust-up with Glen Mills and Dr. Winston Dawes, who after 40 years in sports administration in Jamaica, said he has had his fill and besides that, wasn’t happy with the way things were in the running of Jamaica’s leading sport. They have been replaced by Ian Forbes, the only person not from Blake’s slate who was able to win a seat on the executive, a man whose bid for presidency eight years ago fell just four votes short; and Michael Frater, who is still active as an athlete and who has a growing collection of gold medals from major championships that will secure his legacy as one of Jamaica’s greatest representatives.
The full team voted in last night are as follows : Dr. Warren Blake, Dave Myrie, Ian Forbes, Vilma Charlton, Garth Gayle, Marie Tavares, Ewan Scott with the committee members being Dennis Johnson, Trevor TC Campbell, Judith Ewart, Michael Clarke, Dennis May, Maxine Brown, Dr Carl Bruce, and Gregory Hamilton.
There are a lot of challenges ahead for this team, the first of which is to address the tedious voting process that saw voting run from about 7 p.m. Thursday to close to 3 am Friday morning. A constitutional change is urgently needed to get that issue sorted out. That aside, my information is that the first order of business for this ‘new’ administration is to mend fences after what was in part but not overly so, a contentious campaign during which many feelings were hurt. According to a member of the winning team ‘there are a number of good persons out there who are quality people who can serve track and field’ and their help will be sought in helping sustain Jamaica’s success.
It’s a good place to start. I am also assured that there will be some ‘dynamic’ things that will be revealed soon as Dr. Blake begins to roll out his plans for the future. Among them, I hope, is a plan to diversify the opportunities for medals in coming championships. Jamaica’s men’s sprints are saturated. Bolt, Blake, Powell, Carter, Frater, Bailey-Cole, Weir, and others will provide medals to as far as 2020 and even beyond, but what we need now are prospects in other disciplines. James Beckford showed what was possible with the long jump but since his time no one has really stepped forward to fill his shoes. Kimberley Williams, based on her encouraging performance at the London 2012 Games, is a definite medal prospect for the women’s triple jump and there is no reason why more women should not be able to join her from Jamaica in that hunt at future championships and Olympiads. Focus must also be placed on getting Jamaica’s 400-metre athletes back to a place of relevance once more.
In the lead up to his victory Dr. Blake did announce his intentions to broaden Jamaica’s medal prospects so we await to see how his plans are executed in the days, weeks and months ahead.
Frater is an exciting addition to the Blake team as not only is he young and will bring fresh ideas, he is extremely smart and has his finger on the pulse of what the athletes need. In discussions I have had with him during this campaign he expressed his deep passion for protecting the welfare of the athletes, from those still in high school to those who are about ready to retire. He has expressed concern about the state of the female sprints. Beyond this current crop of female sprinters that include two-time Olympic 100m champion Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce, Sherone Simpson, Veronica Campbell Brown, and Kerron Stewart, the future doesn’t look as bright with perhaps Wolmerian Shauna Helps being the most exciting prospect for 2016 and beyond. Frater fears the burnout factor may be among issues affecting some of Jamaica’s emerging female sprinters and that is among the several issues he wants to tackle now that he is third vice president. I wish him the very best of luck.
In this golden era of Jamaica’s track and field that has seen this island nation win 12 Olympic gold medals since 2004, it is easy to take for granted the success achieved by the athletes. We must be careful not to allow this high standard to lapse. Like the West Indies cricket team that was once all powerful but whose administrators failed to plan to sustain the success, the JAAA needs to ensure that this current wave of success is sustained for a long time to come. Against this background more has to be done to raise the bar on our already high coaching standards. As it is right now, only two clubs provide the bulk of Jamaica’s individual medals at major championships – MVP and Racers. Some kind of system needs to be established that genius coaches Stephen Francis and Glen Mills be under-studied by emerging coaches who can spread that knowledge far and wide in this country. Their methodologies must not be allowed to die with them because if two clubs are able to produce so many medals, imagine what six or seven will be able to accomplish.
These are but some of the things that need to become reality in the years to come to ensure that this little nation of ours remains the true sprint factory of the world. With this in mind I want to wish the new administration the best of success during their term in office.