It’s difficult for our voices to be heard and our stories to be told around the world when one resides on an island in the West Indies.

It comes with the territory of being the smallest in the room. Other nations puff out their chest and roar, and because of that noise, our expressions are akin to squeaks. What is lost in all that noise? Truth.

American sport is huge! They’ve made it so. We have bought into the hype that a U.S. city can win a national basketball title, labelled ‘World Champions’. Incredible.

And we’ve also fallen into the trap of using American analogies to bring home a point. For e.g., the headline for this opinion piece.

However, it has become the language we speak when we try to make reference to something monumental. Pardon my use, this one time.

Who are some of the greatest athletes of all time?

Some names come into the discussion right away. Pele, Michael Phelps, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Garfield Sobers and Tom Brady would be some of the names listed. And immediately your brain fires off names which should have been listed.

In 2012, Usain Bolt said he wanted to be remembered as one of the greatest of all time, to be mentioned with the likes of Ali and Jordan. He felt that defending his Olympic sprint double in London would go a far way in making that case. And of course, Bolt went on to do just that and more.

In 2016, he went further into unchartered waters by becoming a sprint double champion at the Olympics for the third consecutive time. Bolt was the most dominant force in the sport of track and field from 2008 to 2016. And many would argue that, that was athletics greatest era, not only because of the Jamaican but because of his competitors.

Another great Jamaican athlete Yohan Blake, despite the ridicule he received by many on his island home, was correct. He, as well as the rest of the world’s best athletes, were overshadowed during that time. Blake is the second fastest over 200 metres at 19.26 seconds. He is also the joint second-fastest over 100 metres at 9.69 seconds. His lone individual world title came in the aftermath of a shocking Bolt false start in 2011.

The phenomenal American sprinter Tyson Gay was born in the wrong era too. He holds the American 100-metre record of 9.69 seconds. The previous American record of 9.71 seconds was set at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009, and by all indication should have been good enough to win gold … except, Bolt ran 9.58 in the same race.

Overshadowed.

When Bolt was young, we all thought he would’ve been remarkable at the 200 metres and the excitement would have been amplified when he became the youngest ever male winner at the World Junior Championships at 15 years and 332 days, back in 2002 in Kingston.

The fact that his foray into the 100 metres began as a light-hearted moment with his coach Glen Mills seems so preposterous now. It’s all part of the folklore. It’s all forged in history.

We speak of Usain Bolt as if he is an old man, but he turns 34 on Friday, August 21. I remember interviewing him on the telephone upon his return from Osaka in 2007 where he finished second in the 200 metres behind Tyson Gay. I was one year his senior, and I was able to relate to his unbridled joy and sense of relief that he finally made an impact on the world stage. That silver medal is almost like a footnote now.

What are the traits an all-time great athlete should have?

They should have been the best in their sport over a sustained period of time (which is the lowest denominator). They should have statistics, records and titles or championships to back their claim. And they should also be transcendent. How did they impact the sport or change the game?

Who else has dominated their sport to the degree which Bolt has done in what was supposed to have been a competitive era? The American swimmer Michael Phelps, the most successful Olympian of all time with 28 medals, including a record 23 gold, is the first athlete who comes to mind. He was the most successful Olympian for four straight Games. He had set 29 individual records in the pool, and he presently holds on to one.

Muhammad Ali also comes to mind. He had a larger-than-life persona in and out of the ring. He was arrogant enough to think he could beat the likes of Sonny Liston and George Foreman… and he did. But he also lifted up his race, which was his biggest fight. He utilised his voice against injustice in ways we hadn’t seen before or since.

It is difficult to gauge the impact of team players. However, Pele stands out for winning three World Cups over the span of 12 years. And Michael Jordan revolutionized basketball and made it global so much so, everyone wanted to be “like Mike”. Thanks, Gatorade.

And of course Tiger Woods. As far as the eye test is concerned, is the best many have ever seen. However, in a sport which is singular in nature, the fact he is still 3 majors behind Jack Nicklaus (18) puts an asterisk beside his name, for now.

Notable Mention

Notable mention must be made of “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky who has been regarded as the greatest ice hockey player of all time. He has 61 NHL records, but he doesn’t have an Olympic medal.

We see you fam… we see you.

It is reasonable to assume, running, is the oldest sport known to man. There is some evidence based on drawings in caves in 3000 BC that wrestling was also right up there as one of the ancient pastimes. However, when stripped to the bare bones, for hundreds and hundreds of years, the best athlete was considered to be the one who could run.

Archery, Swimming, Boxing and even Hockey are all considered ancient sports.

Bolt deserves his place with the elite. And any serious sporting discussion, even the ones in the United States of America, should show the Jamaican the respect he deserves.

Bolt, Phelps, Ali and Pele are on my Mount Rushmore.

Donald Oliver is a football and cricket commentator and a senior producer at SportsMax. Learn more about him at www.thedonaldoliver.com or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

His love for track and field was the driving force behind Michael Frater’s decision to start his own track club.

There has to be something said for being the best your country has ever produced.

For every personal milestone to be considered a ground-breaking moment for your land and for every step up the international ladder to be treated as a moment for major celebration are feats worthy of being honoured.

St Lucian high jumper Levern Spencer has had to deal with the expectations and thankfully admiration that comes with being her country’s best and often only hope when it comes to the sport of track and field.

At 36 years old, she is no doubt wrapping up what has been a noteworthy career and one that nobody else in her country can boast.

In 2018, Spencer won St Lucia’s biggest ever title, Gold at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

She returned to Castries to a hero’s welcome, one reminiscent of those winning World and Olympic titles in other countries, such was the significance of what she had achieved, 56 years after St Lucia first graced the Commonwealth stage in Perth 1962.

“This is all I have sought to do for all my professional career,” she said after being taken amidst fanfare in a motorcade to Castries.

She explained that her life’s dream had been, “to place St Lucia on top of the world, and show, that despite our size, we can soar to great heights.”

St Lucia wasn’t exactly on top of the world, but in that moment it must have felt like it, since it was the highest they had ever been.

Spencer had given her island of just under two hundred thousand people, a taste of international glory three years prior when she won Gold at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada.

It is important to point out that Spencer’s two biggest titles came after the age of 30 but her impact on St Lucia’s athletics started when she was just 17 years old.

In 2001, at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Debrecen Hungary, Spencer leapt 1.81 metres to secure the bronze medal.

It remains their only medal at the event.

She dominated at the Central America and Caribbean, CAC, track and field Championships, winning the high jump on all six occasions she participated.

At the CAC Games, she won 3 of the 4 times, including at the 2018 edition in Barranquilla, Colombia.

She successfully defended her Pan Am Games title in 2019 and has also won two Commonwealth Games bronze medals to go with the 2018 Gold.

Her story is indeed one of perseverance which has culminated in triumph.

Despite all that however, Spencer and maybe St Lucia would be, if only a little, disappointed that she has not been able to cop a medal at the Olympic Games or senior World Championships.

At the Rio 2016 Olympics, she had her best shot, having finally reached a final.

She soared to a commendable 1.93 metres but it wasn’t enough as she had to settle for 6th.

And while she would have been disappointed, it was the best St Lucia had ever done at the Games and for today’s story that is the most important take-away.

And so, as Levern contemplates whether to give it one or two more attempts in the coming years, we say well done for what has already been achieved.

The way is paved and the next generation of St Lucian athletes have a marker for which to chase.

Yesterday was the 11th anniversary of Usain Bolt’s unbelievable and glorious achievement in Berlin, 2009- setting the 100m World Record.

However, on August 1, the BBC World Service uploaded an episode of ‘Sportshour’ featuring Jamaican 1500-metre runner Aisha Praught-Leer. She told BBC, just as she wishes to inspire the next generation of middle-distance runners so the island can become known for more than sprinting.

She plans to do this by fixing her eyes on the Tokyo Olympics.

If successful, Praught-Leer will be the first from Jamaica to run the 1500m in the Olympic games. For her, it will bring “more eyes and opportunity and representation to the island and to all the other little girls who are not quite ready to run the 400m or the 200 or the 100.” It would be a way to say to little girls “hey, there are more options for you.”

Admittedly it would be a personal achievement for the athlete but at the same time will transcend personal gain. It could bring social and cultural changes.

Alisha said, “I really look at my career and think what am I doing out here? Of course for myself. I really want to be the best that I can possibly be; I want to be one of the best in the world. But I also want to look around and gather people together and bring others with me and when I put on the ‘Change Jamaica’ jersey, I know I’m doing that. It tells that little girl that you can do that too.”

There was a segment in the podcast where she was asked to comment on Jamaica’s representation in the 1500m.

Praught-Leer responded by saying “there have been successful middle-distance athletes that come from Jamaica, but not many. There were two before me; two female steeplechasers who were really good but it’s not necessarily the culture to be a middle-distance powerhouse. The culture is sprint...the culture is just not set up at the moment to be a middle-distance powerhouse in Jamaica.”

It’s the way it is because, according to Praught-Leer, “there aren't many post-high school coaches or groups, or no infrastructure set up so that you graduate from high school and roll into the next phase of your life and grow as a middle-distance runner.”

Undoubtedly the talent is there. Praught-Leer acknowledged Natoya Goule, Simoya Campbell and said there were more athletes with unbelievable potential who just needed others to give support in whatever way.

“I am not the only middle-distance runner. We have a really incredible 800m women- Natoya Goule, Simoya Campbell. There are many more in the ranks that have the ability and we just need to show them that you can and give help where we can.”

When asked what seeing the Jamaican flag at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics would mean, Praught-Leer gasped in excitement before answering, “I mean I got a small taste of how that feels when I won the Commonwealth Games in 2018 in the steeplechase and it was groundbreaking for the island and something that has never been done before- a medal hadn't been won [in a distance of] over 800 metres ever! It brought such joy and meant so much to so many people. I won a silver in the American Games last summer in the 1500 and again that's just another first and I just want to keep on bringing those firsts and being able to share that with everyone.”

Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

Had it not been for the pandemic, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would have been done and dusted 10 days ago and sports fans across the world would still be gathering around water coolers and office enclosures buzzing about the spectacular show put on by the world’s greatest athletes.

World championship silver medallist Danniel Thomas Dodd won the shot put over an unlikely opponent at the American Track League meeting in Marietta, Georgia on Sunday.

Thomas-Dodd who lost the World Championship gold medal to China’s Gong Lijiao in Doha by just 8cm on October 3, 2019, 19.47 to 19.55), uncorked a 19.18m throw to win at the meet held at Life University.

The mark was the fourth-best throw in the world this year.

It was a lopsided affair as he opponent was World Championship 400m silver medallist Shaunae Miller-Uibo. The Bahamian produced a best mark of 11.70m.

Meanwhile, Miller-Uibo’s former roommate at the University of Georgia, Chanice Porter jumped 6.35m in the long jump. She was the lone competitor.

In the women’s 200m former Holmwood Technical sprinter, Chrisann Gordon-Powell was second in the 200m in 24.38s. Gordon-Powell was beaten by the USA’s Jessica Beard who clocked 23.52 for the win.

The standout performance of the meet came from 18-year-old Justin Robinson, who outran a talented field to win the 400m in 44.91s. Michael Cherry, 44.98, and Matthew Hudson-Smith 45.58 were second and third, respectively.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Machel Cedenio was fifth in 46.71.

 

Two-time Jamaican Olympian Shevon Nieto and her husband Jamie have announced the birth of their first child, a son, Jaysha King Nieto, who was born on August 10.

"On August 10, 2020, we welcomed the birth of our baby boy, Jaysha King Nieto. My world has now been made complete with this precious gift from God and the most amazing husband and now father @jamienieto," Shevon posted on her Facebook page late Thursday night.

Nieto, 37, represented Jamaica in the 400m hurdles at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece and at the 2008 Games in Beijing, China.

 Shevon Stoddart married USA high jumper Jamie Nieto in 2017. Jamie suffered a spinal injury in 2016 which left him paralyzed.

Earlier this year, Nieto, who is now pursuing a career as a singer entered the talent show America's Got Talent singing her song Through the Good and the Bad, that was dedicated to her husband. Her performance was praised by the judges including the world-famous Simon Cowell. She was four months' pregnant at the time.

However, she eventually withdrew from the competition after concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 virus caused a delay in production as well as concern for the safety of her unborn child.

"After the first round, which was pretty amazing. It was one of the best moments of my life. I was definitely looking forward to the next round. Even though Covid was there we waited to see what would happen, but when we realized that the virus was getting worse...the producers, they knew that that would be a concern. They wanted to make sure that I was also safe and I was also comfortable. It was bitter-sweet. I really appreciate the opportunity to being on the show."

 

 

 

 

The decision by the University of Technology (UTech) not to renew the contracts of their sports coaches, citing challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, seems to have exposed ongoing tensions between the university’s Sports Director Orville Byfield and personnel running the school’s track programme including Head Track Coach Paul Francis.

Francis’ elder brother, MVP coach Stephen Francis, believes UTech’s decision not to renew the coaches’ contracts, among other things, creates the impression that Byfield is trying to destroy the university’s track programme.

Sportsmax.TV reported exclusively on Monday that UTech has not renewed the contracts of all its sports coaches, a move that Dr Kamilah Hylton, Dean of the Faculty of Sports and Science, described as a temporary measure.

“We have not made any final decision. We are waiting to hear from Intercol (Jamaica Intercollegiate Sports Association) and a directive from the Acting President (Professor Colin Gyles) in terms of how many students will be allowed on campus,” said Dr Hylton speaking with Sportsmax.TV on Monday night.

“We have to make decisions on how they (athletes) would train in a safe manner,” she said while explaining that training sessions would have to abide by established COVID-19 protocols, meaning athletes would have to train in smaller groups, adhere to the required physical distancing requirements and other related safety measures.

Among the coaches, whose contracts were not renewed were those of Francis and his elder brother Stephen. However, Stephen has continued to prepare some athletes from the MVP Track Club, which has an MOU with the university to use the school’s Papine campus as a training base.

It then begs the question: if MVP athletes are able to train why then would the university not allow the collegiate track athletes to do the same, especially since MVP, through negotiations had provided UTECH with funding for the programme from PUMA. Sources indicate that the funding amounts to about US$30,000.

Stephen was at pains to find an explanation.

“Discussions are being held at a higher level to sort out this situation so I don’t want to say anything which would compromise the whole thing but it does seem to be, on the face it, a very puzzling decision,” said Francis while speaking with Sportsmax.TV on Thursday morning at Stadium East in Kingston.

Asked to comment on whether there were underlying issues between the director of sports and MVP that could have influenced the decision to impact the sport that has brought tremendous success to the university, Francis said:

“As far as I know there is no problem between MVP and Byfield. The problem is between Byfield and the UTech track programme; in that, he is giving off signs that he doesn’t think that the programme should exist.

“Maybe he wants to be the coach, I don’t know what the reason is. He has not shown a tendency to be cooperative and even though it might sound improbable, a lot of people close to programme believe he is trying to destroy the programme.”

Byfield, a track coach who has worked with Kingston College, St. George's College and Hydel High, among other high schools, joined the staff at UTech around 2008 as a sports lecturer. He was appointed Director of Sports in October 2018 following the departure of Anthony Davis.

“I think there has been a lot of upheavals since Byfield became the Director of Sport. He doesn’t seem to have the role of a normal Director of Sport, which is to maximise the performance of the teams that the school puts out,” said Francis, who was reluctant to provide details of the afore-mentioned upheavals.

“Certainly in athletics, there are a lot of stumbling blocks that he puts in the way and I don’t think anybody can argue that he is trying to maximize the performance of the UTech student-athletes, certainly not in track, probably not in football, and based on the performance in most of the sports.

“So I don’t know what he thinks his job is and I don’t know what his job has been defined as but it is not what you would expect from a person in charge of collegiate sports programmes. It is what it is so we have to find a way to work around him and work around whatever it is that he is doing.”

In response, Byfield said Francis’ comments came as a surprise.

“I don’t know what he is talking about. This is news to me,” Byfield told Sportsmax.TV on Thursday afternoon. “Both of them (Paul and Stephen) work with the university. No concerns were raised to me. It’s the first I am hearing of this.”

He added that if the Francis brothers have any concerns they should take the matter to Human Resources and have those concerns addressed.

Speaking on KLAS Radio on Wednesday, the UTech sports director indicated that he did not unilaterally make the decision not to renew the contracts of the Francis brothers or the other coaches.

‘This was a collective decision from the university. Based on what is going on at the university at this point in time the university has decided to temporarily suspend the contracts, or not renew the contracts until the university can sort out how we are going to deal with everything for the academic year,” he said.

“The coaches will just have to be patient. We want to have our coaches here with us. Our coaches have been doing a good job for the university and we would love to continue to have them.

“These times are unprecedented so the university has to take certain precautions on how we manage and maintain certain things.”

Meanwhile, as it relates to the current situation, Francis said MVP will have to step in to help those track athletes who might be left out in the cold because the programme has been suspended.

“As it is now, if it happens that no change occurs it will not really stop anything because I guess MVP would have to take up UTech’s slack in trying to develop these athletes because UTech normally provides for them a place in school and also some accommodation for some of them,” Francis said.

“MVP would have to take up the slack in terms of making sure that the athletes who are supposed to come on board in September that they are not denied an opportunity because some of them would have decided to come to UTech even though they had opportunities abroad so it’s not fair for us not to honour their commitment.”

The UTech track programme has produced the like of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Sherone Simpson, Elaine Thompson, Tahjay Gayle, Jenieve Russell, Shericka Jackson and Asafa Powell, among others.

 

 

 

 

 

Bahamian quarter-miler Shaunae Miller-Uibo pulled out of Monday’s Star Athletic Sprint Showcase out of an ‘abundance of caution’ and not a major injury, the athlete’s manager Claude Bryan has revealed.

The 26-year-old Nassau native has had a strong season to date.  She posted a then 100m world-leading 10.98, before returning to post 21.98 the next day, over double the distance, at the USA’s Back to the Track meet, three weeks ago.  The times saw the sprinter join elite company, with just four women who have run sub-11s in the 100m, sub-22s in the 200m, and sub-49s in the 400.

On Monday, however, the athlete did not present in that kind of form and crossed the finish line, in the preliminaries, in fourth place, with a sub-par 13.56 seconds.  Sha’Carri Richardson clocked the fastest qualifying time of 10.95.

Miller-Uibo did not show up for the final, which was won by Richardson in 10.83. Her absence prompted fear the athlete may have sustained an injury.  Miller-Uibo’s manager Claude Bryan, however, revealed it was “just a mild discomfort so she opted for caution.”

He further confirmed that the athlete would not be looking to shut down the season, without finishing up as scheduled.

“We’re looking for other low-key opportunities for her to wrap up the season.”

The Caribbean’s first female Olympic champion is about to receive a national honour from the Government of Jamaica.

As Jamaica celebrated its 58th year of Independence, her outstanding servants from various fields were announced to receive national recognition come Heroes’ Day October 19.

Twenty four years since shrugging off the challenge of Americans Kim Batten and Tonja Buford-Bailey in Atlanta, Hemmings-McCatty is finally receiving her due.

She is to be conferred with the nation’s fifth highest honor, the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander Class.

We could debate whether this honour is a number of years too late or even if Hemmings-McCatty should be receiving a higher accolade.

But for now, we say, well deserved.

Hemmings-McCatty was no ordinary servant of Jamaica’s track and field. She represented the country at three Olympic Games and won three medals; 2 in the 400 metres hurdles and one in the mile relay.

Since 1980, track and field enthusiasts across Jamaica, the Caribbean and the world felt that Merlene Ottey would be the nation’s first female Olympic Gold medallist.

Ottey, Jamaica’s first female world champion had been a consistent force in major events and therefore that feeling was not without a strong base.

In fact, at the 1996 Games, Ottey was denied achieving that feat by only thousandths of a second when victory in the Women’s 100 metres was awarded to American Gail Devers.

Ironically Hemmings-McCatty’s quest for Gold started the following day, July 28 and culminated on July 31.

Who can forget the voice of American commentator Carol Lewis belting, “… here comes Kim Batten.”

Batten, the world record holder at the time, was indeed making a strong push, but that season Hemmings-McCatty’s improved hurdling technique ensured there were no errors on her part as she smoothly maneuvered her way to victory, almost unbothered by the Americans who had sandwiched her.

Arms aloft as she crossed the line, the then 27-year-old, broke the Olympic record she had set in the semi-finals and became the first woman to run sub-53 seconds in the 400 metres hurdles in consecutive races.

While Atlanta 1996 was the crowning moment of her 11-year senior international career, Hemmings-McCatty’s legacy goes way beyond that.

At the Sydney 2000 Games, she overcame a period of injuries and backed up her “96 Gold with a silver-medal performance.

She also won silver as part of the country’s 4x400 relay team.

She was also a consistent force at the IAAF World Championships, winning four medals, 3 individual and a mile relay Gold, a first for the country, achieved at the 2001 championships in Edmonton, Canada. 

Since her retirement at the end of the 2002 season, she has given back to the sport in several ways, including serving as team manager for national teams and currently organises a development meet, specifically for schools in the Northern region, including in St Ann where she was born.

Not bad for a girl who was given a university scholarship “as part of a package deal” after her high school years ended at Vere Technical.

The record shows she is one of the best to have done it, and while, for whatever reason, the land of wood and water has taken some time to officially acknowledge that fact, we salute her and say thank you for being one of the best firsts to grace this blessed land.

Jamaica’s first-ever Youth Olympic Games champion Odean Skeen believes he still has what it takes to be one of the best sprinters in the world.

Skeen, the 15th Jamaican to break 10 seconds over 100 metres has a personal best of 9.98 seconds, set in 2017.

He was among the favourites to make the Jamaica team for the IAAF World Championships in London that year but pulled up with a hamstring injury in his semi-final at the National Stadium in Kingston.

The 25-year-old, who has struggled with injuries since high school, says that was an especially difficult moment for him to handle.

“That moment of time I feel like to give up,” he explained to Ricardo Chambers and Donald Oliver on The Commentators Podcast.

“I could actually win Jamaica trials or even come second,” said the confident former Wolmer’s star athlete.

The 2012 IAAF World Under-20 bronze medalist also revealed that his confidence level fell dramatically following the incident.

He has since done surgery and gone through several coaching changes but now says he has found a home in Texas with Baylor University’s Associate Men’s Coach Michael Ford.

He admitted that Ford has played a significant role in his confidence returning and while he has had doubts in the past, he is now extremely confident he can make a strong statement in 2021 including at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. 

Andre Ewers is encouraged that better days are ahead following his fast 100m run in Jacksonville, Florida last weekend.

The 25-year-old Jamaican clocked 10.04s to win his heat at the JAC Combined Events Championships, making him the second-fastest Jamaican this year. Julian Forte’s 10.03 set two weeks ago in Kingston, leads all Jamaican male sprinters for 2020.

The time was also an improvement on Ewers’ 10.10 run in Clermont, Florida, at the end of July that took the young sprinter closer to his goal in this COVID-19-impacted season.

“When I started to compete again the goal really was to execute, have fun and get a good run in and knock the rust off,” Ever said Monday. “After that, I told myself that I believe I can run sub-10 the next meet possibly 10.0x if I can find one.”

The time took him close to his personal best of 9.98 that he ran in Tampa, Florida, in May 2018 and is proving to be a boost to his belief that another sub-10 run is not far away.

“I believe I’m capable of it but, unfortunately, this may be my last meet for the year due to everything going on and the difficulties in finding meets,” he said. “Now, my focus is on the Olympics next year and working hard to accomplish my goals.

“Even though my ultimate goal was to run sub 10, I look at 10.04 as a blessing, given the circumstances and lack of resources I have right now. I’m honestly pleased with the time.”

During his final years at Florida State University, Ewers progress was hampered by persistent injury. He now says those days are behind him, thanks to the work of his coach, Ricky Argro.

“To prevent injuries, my coach makes me do a lot of different kinds of pool workouts,” he said. “My health right now is really good. I’m healthy and I’m thankful for that.”

 

Elaine Thompson-Herah looks a woman who is back to her fabulous best.

The contracts of all sports coaches, including head track coach Paul Francis and Stephen Francis, employed by the University of Technology (UTECH), have not been renewed for the coming academic year as the college moves to protect its staff and student population from possible COVID-19 infection.

The pandemic has forced the school to suspend its sports programmes until it decides how many students they will allow on campus for the academic year set to begin on August 26, 2020. 

Paul and Stephen Francis run the university’s track and field programme, and who under a Memorandum of Understanding with the university, also operate the MVP Track Club at the school’s Papine campus.

The university informed the coaches by letter on Monday, Sportsmax.TV understands.

However, the school said the move is temporary.

“We have not made any final decision. We are waiting to hear from Intercol (Jamaica Intercollegiate Sports Association) and a directive from the Acting President (Professor Colin Gyles) in terms of how many students will be allowed on campus,” said Kamilah Hylton, the Dean of the Faculty of Sports and Science while speaking with Sportsmax.TV on Monday night.

“We have to make decisions on how they (athletes) would train in a safe manner,” she said while explaining that the school will have to determine how athletes would function under existing COVID-19 protocols, meaning how many athletes would be able to train together, adhere to the required physical distancing requirements and other related safety measures.

Hylton explained that depending on the state of the pandemic some contracts could be renewed as early as the second school semester.

“Of paramount importance is the safety of the athletes. We have to ensure that we have the necessary resources to facilitate the safety of our student-athletes,” Ms Hylton said.

 Ms Hylton also confirmed that, so far, no new sports scholarships have been offered to student-athletes.

As it relates to students who are already on scholarship, Ms Hylton said the school would maintain its obligations to them and they would attend classes as usual.

“We are bound by contract, so those students would continue to be supported once they continue to meet academic criteria,” she said.

Among other measures being taken by the school is the limiting of the number of students allowed to share dorm rooms on the campus. For now, only one student will be allowed to a room. 

The college prides itself as being home to a number of Jamaica's world-class athletes.

Former 100m world-record holder Asafa Powell, Olympic medalists Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Sherone Simpson were all members of the UTECH track programme.

With an eye fixed a sprint-double campaign at what would be her final Olympic Games set for Tokyo next year, two-time Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was encouraged by her performance at the Velocity Fest 4 and 5 meets held at the National Stadium in Kingston on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

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