Jamaica hammer thrower upset at non-selection to World Champs team: "This is about building a legacy," says irate thrower

By August 07, 2023
In happier times: Erika Belvit after winning silver at the CAC Games in June. In happier times: Erika Belvit after winning silver at the CAC Games in June.

Jamaican hammer thrower Erika Belvit has expressed her profound disappointment at not being selected to her country’s team to the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, later this month.

In June, Belvit threw 70.04m, her second best throw this season to win a silver medal at the CAC Games in San Salvador, a testament to her dedication and hard work. Though, her season-best throw of 70.09m falls short of the 74m automatic qualifying standard, her performance earned her a spot among the top-ranked hammer throwers in the world, reaching as high as 34th in the World Athletics rankings.

Yet, when the Jamaican team for the World Championships was announced, her name was conspicuously absent.

On hearing of her non-selection, Belvit reached out to a JAAA official, a ‘Mr Smith’, whom she had met during the CAC Games, asking why she was not selected.

In his reply on WhatsApp, Mr. Smith told the distraught thrower that only one quota athlete could be selected for any one event. However, this is not true as under the World Athletics rules up to three athletes can be selected.

Three years ago World Athletics overhauled its qualification system in an attempt to create a fairer system where half of athletes would qualify for major championships through achieving an automatic qualifying standard and the other half through their world rankings.

Belvit subsequently fired off an email to President of the JAAA Garth Gayle stating her case and inquiring about her non-selection. He replied saying, “The selection committee would have made its recommendation and you were not selected for this occasion. Please continue to persevere in your training for future events.”

Sportsmax.TV reached out to Lincoln Eatmon, an executive of the Jamaican Athletic Administrative Association (JAAA), who provided insight into the JAAA selection process. He explained, "We had to make up our minds because you can't afford to take everybody who is ranked and as a quota athlete. So we made a policy decision that we're only going to take a certain amount and we will give the preference to the national champions who are quota qualified. We decided that we would keep the number at five and so the others who were selected have made the finals at the last because the last World Championships like Kimberly Williamson and Kimberly Williams," he said.

“And then Rasheed Dwyer was selected because he provides possible cover for the sprint relay because well, they seem to have a problem finding healthy people.”

Eatmon explained further that the existing policy was in part based on cost containment and that Belvit had subsequently fallen down the rankings.

“It would cost to start, you know, I would think somewhere about that JMD $1,000,000 because you have to think of the camp and all of those expenses. So it's a lot of money to take a one person. So it's a matter of controlling costs as well.”

Regarding Belvit’s ranking, Eatmon, stated, “She medalled at CAC but you have to look at where she's ranked. As of the 30 June, Erika was ranked 44 in the world. It doesn't make sense taking somebody who is ranked over 40 in an event unless there are other compelling reasons or even over 36, you have to bear in mind it’s cost containment.”

It should be noted that 15 athletes in the top 44 have not thrown farther than Belvit this season.

Meanwhile, Caltha Seymour of the Heaven to the Yeah Foundation, a former hammer thrower herself, has recognized Belvit's potential and the need for more opportunities for athletes in field events.

The foundation has expressed willingness to fund Erika's trip to Budapest, emphasizing the importance of experience and competition for an athlete's development. Seymour stated, "Erika has worked very hard to be in the Top 40 in the world in her event, and being left off of the world's team is disheartening, as it displays that the JAAA is not committed to providing opportunities to develop their world-class athletes in the field events.

“Athletes require experience to develop, especially a year from Paris 2024. There is a process to development, and our JA athletes in the underrepresented sports need to compete with the world's best... to be the world's best. They need to be provided the opportunity for experience... competition requires development."

As discussions about Erika's exclusion unfolded, she voiced her heartache: "I am extremely disappointed. I can't even express how extremely disappointed I am, especially because I qualified and I worked so hard to get to this point. It's not just me, it's other people as well who have worked so hard just to get to qualify and then to be told, not even to be told but to find out you're not going to be able to make it and not being told why is very disheartening."

She explained further that her disappointment is not just about not being selected.

"This means so much to me. This is more than just going and being there. This is about building and creating this legacy, specifically for women’s hammer. This is such a big thing for me, it always has been. Just becoming closer with the people I have, a lot of throwers, coaches in Jamaica and seeing how important it is. There is more to Jamaica than just track, there is more to Jamaica than just running. There are some great people, especially on the field side, who have been showing up and showing out and I just want to be a part of that and the fact that I wont even be able to do that is so disheartening. And I am upset. I am very upset,” she said.

 

 

 

Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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