After months of uncertainty over whether the 2011 Carifta Games would be a reality, the Games are now less than 24 hours away, beginning tomorrow and running through Monday, the 25th, in Montego Bay, Jamaica’s number two city. Tomorrow will bring a new level of excitement that slowly mounted over the past few weeks, as Caribbean islands put their teams together, some with the formidable goal in mind of seriously challenging perennial champions Jamaica.
Two weeks ago, the Bahamas made it known that they were not backing down from an alleged challenge that powerhouse Jamaica had thrown down: no other country will win any gold medal.
The Bahamas Tribune of April 8 quoted Public Relations Officer Alpheus Finlayson as saying, "We have heard from our friends down south that no gold is going to leave Jamaica. But we are going there to get our golds. We are going to go into the lions den and come out smiling."
Jamaica’s track and field is at a new high, even at the grassroots level. Having recently ended the hot and closely contested high school championships, and now looking forward to the Penn Relays in the US, Jamaica’s teen stars are ready and rearing to go, to take on the region’s best who are coming into their backyard.
Throughout the years, other islands have consistently won gold medals at the Games, and it is hardly unlikely that things will change. For there has to be non-Jamaicans the likes of Grenada’s Kirani James, and Trinidad and Tobago’s (T&T) Gavyn Nero and Jehue Gordon who will dominate certain events.
The fact that the Turks & Caicos’ Delano Williams, who attends Munro College in Jamaica, tore up the 200m and the relays at Champs this year is enough indication that the Jamaicans won’t have everything their way, even on their own turf.
Some may argue that it’s the training in Jamaica that has made Williams so good; however, nobody knows for sure that he wouldn’t be so good if he were somewhere else. After all, James and Nero weren’t trained in Jamaica.
The challenge the Bahamas heard is common among high schools in Jamaica, if at least among the students themselves, and makes for healthy rivalry that will only keep competing countries on their feet—literally, because the underdogs could just be stepping up their game and inching closer.
Shaunae Miller vs. Chris-Ann Gordon
A cursory look at some other teams, normally the front runners, gives an idea of who are the forces to be reckoned with. The Bahamas, for example, have Shaunae Miller, the reigning Carifta, CAC Jr. and World Juniors 400m champion. At the World Juniors last year, her winning performance was 52.52secs, 7/100th of a second off her Bahamian national junior record performance of 52.45secs done in the first round.
While Miller may be expected to demolish other competitors, she’ll have to get by Jamaica’s 16-yr-old Chris-Ann Gordon, who has a score to settle with her. Last year, Miller defeated Gordon at the CAC Junior Championships, but the determined Gordon has been on fire this year, clocking a personal best 51.62 recently in Kingston.
From T&T, too, comes Elton Walcott in the field events, chasing his 4th straight gold in the triple jump, after first winning the boys under-17 event in 2008. He is undefeated in the under-20 age group and recently bettered the Carifta standard of 14.50m with one jump of 14.75m.
Jamaica has just started throwing the javelin at the high school championships. However, Elton’s younger brother, Keshorn, is going for his 3rd Carifta win. Keshorn’s streak began when he took the boys under-17 event in 2009. This year, he topped the T&T trials with 66.97m, just off his national junior record of 67.01 set in 2010.
Then there is the 2011 high school 200m champion, Moriba Morain, with 21.49secs. In 2010, he was a World Juniors finalist; at Carifta, he’ll be focusing on the same event, leaving Jamol James, 2nd at the championships, to do the honors in the 100m. Among the girls, we’ll see Michele-Lee Ahye returning fully ready to defend her 100m title. She will have teammate Kai Selvon in the race.
And Trinidad isn’t expected to come up short in the boys mid-distance and distance events. Nicholas Landeau is a strong contender for double gold in the 1500m and 3000m, for which he won silver last year. Like his compatriot Gavyn Nero before him, Landeau is well equipped for the 800m and is down to contest all three events.
Pegged as Javelin Favorite
St. Kitts and Nevis – the eastern Caribbean twin-island that produced former Worlds 100m champion Kim Collins – has javelin thrower Adrian Williams pegged as a Carifta favorite for the gold. He shattered the national junior record with a huge first throw of 62.54m at the National Junior Championships/Carifta trials on March 14. He also erased the record for the intermediate category at this year’s Inter-School Track and Field Championships with a throw of 60.28m.
Besides Williams, his compatriots Rosalie Pringle and Aaron Bernier are names that are expected to feature in the girls 800m and boys long jump, respectively.
Not to be missed is Akela Jones from Barbados, who goes into Carifta as the defending high jump champion and the long jump silver medalist. She was also the winner of the Under-17 high jump at the 2010 CAC Games in the Dominican Republic, with a record breaking 1.81m. While she hasn’t measured up to her winning heights last year, the tall versatile 14-yr-old recently leaped 6.19m in the long jump, the best ever by an under-17 girl in her country.
In 2010, Jamaica dominated the Games with 37 gold, 22 silver and 13 bronze; Trinidad 12, 16, 12; Bahamas 6, 10, 13; Barbados 3, 7, 8; and Grenada 2, 0, 2. While Jamaica is expected to continue its dominance in medal haul, others will certainly leave with medals of all three colors around their necks, as well as records in their names. The truth is, as daunting a challenge as it may be for some teams, everyone goes to Carifta with the intention of leaving with a medal and no-one wants to leave empty handed.
One big question remains though. Are the other islands improving and chipping away at Jamaica’s dominance? Or is Jamaica’s improvement putting them even further out of reach, therefore making the end of their reign only a fantasy for others…for now?