Yet another year and yet another dominating performance from Jamaica at the annual CARIFTA Games. These games are where the other countries in the Caribbbean pit their best athletes against some of Jamaica’s best and invariably are crushed by Jamaica’s iron fist.
This year in Martinique Jamaica is headed for yet another dominating performance. By the time you read this, the land of wood and water would have probably won more than 70 medals and would have come away as champions for 30 straight years. I don’t believe there has been a sport, a competition where one country has been this dominant.
Since the first games were held in Barbados from April 1-4 in 1972, only three countries have won the CARIFTA Games; Bermuda in 1975 and Bahamas in 1980, ’81, ’83 and ’84. Every other occasion has been won by Jamaica. Yes, Jamaica’s population gives it a distinct advantage as it is able to field the largest team and it has a larger pool of athletes to choose from. Of course, Jamaica has Champs, which none of the other countries have.
The case has been made to ban Jamaica from these championships for a few years to give these other teams confidence and to inspire them to build on their athletic programmes, but in reality it will not help. The fact is Jamaica is the standard by which track and field excellence is judged across the region. It is Jamaica who has produced the star junior athletes and it is Jamaica that dominates the sprints at the senior level. Yes, there have been challenges over the years from countries like Trinidad and the Bahamas and sometimes Barbados but invariably these countries are not able to put forward sustained challenges to the Jamaican juggernaut.
It begs the question, what are these other countries doing to develop their student athletes? Surely Jamaica is not the only country blessed with an abundance of athletic talent. Trinidad has produced so many talented athletes, among them Ato Boldon, Hasley Crawford, and more recently Kelli-Ann Baptiste and World champion Jehue Gordon. Barbados has been served well by Obadele Thompson and Ryan Braithwaite, the Bahamas, Pauline Davis, Tonique Williams, Chris Brown, Leevan Sands, Chandra Sturrup, Debbie Ferguson and many others. These afore-mentioned athletes represent evidence that other Caribbean nations possess the talent to challenge Jamaica. Unfortunately, we don’t see it enough at the CARIFTA Games and it is equally unfortunate that it makes the Games somewhat predictable.
There have been a few years when Jamaica’s sprint dominance has been challenged and in those years, the Games were their most interesting, but this year, like so many others, the challenges have been lacking. And that is what makes it disappointing.