The fact that Jamaica returned from the recent Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a paltry medal haul of two was unspectacular, but not unexpected.
For to the keen observer, Jamaican junior athletes have long misunderstood the significance of international events except for the much revered annual Penn Relays in Philadelphia.
So it was with much delight that we noted the charge from new Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) boss Christopher Samuda, his CEO Ryan Foster and head coach David Riley to their affiliates to start placing greater emphasis on preparing athletes for international competition.
Condition athletes for international events
Samuda told the media: “Going forward the respective sports are going to have to look at their calendar of events, and the coaches in particular. When we have international events such as the Youth Olympics you have to condition your athletes for the international stage.
“We have done it at the regional level, we have done it at the local level, that is a novelty for us. What we must do is to concentrate on transitioning out athletes to the international stage; there’s nothing like a Youth Olympics 100m title. You go down in the annals of world history.”
Aim for optimal performance
He added: “So we have to get together, yes, the JOA has a responsibility. But the individual sports associations and federations must look seriously at their calendar in the interest of their athletes and see how best they could make the adjustment to ensure that they get the optimal performance on the international stage for their athletes.”
At the recent Youth Olympic Games, Ackera Nugent won a bronze medal in the women’s 100 meters hurdles and Antonio Watson copped silver in the men’s 200 meters.
Foster supported his boss.
“The international stage is where it is and the Jamaican track and field calendar does not stop at CARIFTA Games or the Penn Relays, this is the international level and we should be training our athletes not just for these competitions, but even out of competition for conditions such as these because when they do transition into becoming professionals this is what they will be facing on a daily basis on the Grand Prix stage.
Place more emphasis on coaching
“So while we commend them, because the conditions are really bad, we need to place more emphasis at the coaching level and as administrations in ensuring that our athletes transition on the world stage.”
Riley, who coaches at Excelsior High School, noted that while the frigid conditions affected “Peak performance”, prioritizing was the real issue.
“There’s no question as to the competence of our coaches and their ability to get the athletes sharp and ready, it’s sharp and ready for which meet. And that will vary depending on the philosophy of the coach or the philosophy of the program that the athlete is a part of, whether they want local glory (whether), they want regional glory or international glory; that is where the whole issue is.”
Instigating the necessary changes
Well said gentlemen, but now you have to follow up by instigating the necessary changes because clearly inadequate preparation played a huge role in the below par performance of some of these athletes.
How else could one explain the dismal performances of Calabar High School’s Evaldo Whitehorne, who entered the 400m event with a time of 47.15 seconds, but stopped the clock at 51.55 seconds in his Stage One heat?
Or Vere Technical High School’s Daniella Deer, who entered the 400m event with a personal best of 53.06 seconds, but somehow registered a pedestrian 1:00.12 minutes in her Stage One heat?
We concede that the weather conditions at the end of the South American winter was not ideal for sprinting and came at a time that was really the end of the athletics season for those from the northern hemisphere. But that is not an excuse to underperform if they were properly prepared.
It is full time the handlers of our elite athletes, particularly their coaches, realize that regional and global successes have far greater reach than those achieved at the much hyped Boys’ and Girls’ Champs.
Problematic IOC format
But even as we chide those in charge of our elite athletes for their lack of vision, it would be remiss of us not to express our frustration with the powers that be at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the format adopted.
Apparently for track and field events the winners are arrived at not necessarily for the one who ran the fastest time or measured the longest or highest distance, but on the aggregate times/distances of the two events.
And based on how some of the Jamaican athletes performed in their Stage One heat, they either weren’t aware of or didn’t remember the format as they never gave everything in their Stage One heat.
But why tinker with and employ such a format if the IOC is preparing these athletes for senior competition? Why not employ the traditional means to determine winners?
Then we are told that neither the local governing body, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, nor that of the others, selected the teams, but rather the regional body, North America, Central America and Caribbean. Do they know the athletes better than the local bodies?
One explanation is that at this level the selection process, which is akin to an invitation, and the format employed, were to foster the “Spirit of competition”. But don’t they want the same “Spirit of competition” at the senior Olympics?
It’s time to have one common format throughout the various age groups at IOC events. That would make the transition easier for all athletes. Think on these things IOC