Jamaican Olympian and former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell said he intends to get to that elusive mark of 100 legal sub-10 times and an Olympic medal before he hangs up his spikes.

Jamaica’s Sports Minister Olivia Grange has revealed that the resurfacing of the track at the National Stadium in Kingston should be complete soon and that work on the one at the Montego Bay Sports Complex at the other end of the island is to begin soon.

The refurbishing work was carried out by German company BSW, who laid the previous surface in 2010.

The installation of the previous track in Kingston was completed in March 2011 and was expected to last for at least 10 years in line with international standards.

According to AthleticsBusiness, most modern tracks are built in three layers: a paved asphalt substrate, a rubber performance layer and a textured rubber top layer. Ideally, laser-levelling the asphalt to within a 3-mm tolerance is the first step toward making a consistent running surface across the entire oval. The middle layer can be poured on-site or manufactured in advance and delivered to the site — the latter scenario ensures the greatest consistency in terms of thickness.

According to Minister Grange, most of that work has now been done and the rest should be completed within days.

“The resurfacing of the National Stadium track is 90 per cent complete. We are a few days behind due to rain, but the resurfacing will be completed by the middle of next week, after which, the marking of lanes and boxes will commence,” the minister told Jamaica’s Daily Gleaner.

She said that after the marking is completed, World Athletics will send a technician to test the track and issue the expected certification of the Class One track, the highest possible certification.

The Minister had announced in November 2020 that work on the stadium track was set to begin and that the work on the one in Montego Bay was scheduled for the 2021-2022 financial year. She had asked that the Sports Development Foundation treat the Catherine Hall Sports Complex as a priority for the next financial year which starts on April 1, 2021.

At the time, she said two factors would determine when the work gets going at the National Stadium; the first is that because the track has to be laid on a completely dried surface, it must await the end of seasonal rains.

The other factor is the ability of the manufacturers’ representatives, BSW of Germany, to come to Jamaica to supervise the project and this will depend on covid restrictions.

The resurfacing comes at an opportune time as Jamaica is expected to have its national championships in June to select a team to compete at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan scheduled for July 23 – August 8.

 

International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound is uncertain whether the Tokyo Games will be able to go ahead.

After the Olympics were postponed in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, they have been rescheduled for this year, with events due to run in Japan's capital from July 23 to August 8.

However, COVID-19 has continued to surge globally with new variants of the virus forcing multiple countries back into lockdown situations.

The outcome of the debate about whether athletes are given priority access to vaccinations, which have just begun to be rolled out in major nations, could prove decisive.

"I can't be certain because the ongoing elephant in the room would be the surges in the virus," Pound said, per BBC Sport, about whether the Games would go ahead.

The comments from Pound came as Japan declared a one-month state of emergency for Tokyo and surrounding regions.

"The situation has become increasingly troubling nationwide and we have a strong sense of crisis," said Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who had recently vowed to hold a "safe and secure" Olympics.

Pound, who is the longest-serving member of the committee, added the vaccine debate might be different in each competing nation.

He said to Sky News: "It is a decision for each country to make and there will be people saying they [athletes] are jumping the queue [for a vaccine].

"But I think that is the most realistic way of it going ahead.

"In Canada, where we might have 300 or 400 athletes, to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level – I don't think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that.

"Athletes are important role models, and by taking the vaccine they can send a powerful message that vaccination is not only about personal health, but also about solidarity and consideration for the wellbeing of others in their communities."

Olympic athletes should be among those prioritised for a coronavirus vaccine so that the Tokyo Games can go ahead, according to International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound. 

The rescheduled Games are set to get under way on July 23, a whole calendar year after the original starting date, despite concerns over rising COVID-19 cases in host country Japan.  

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will decide on Thursday whether to implement a new state of emergency in Tokyo amid growing calls to take action, which could again put the Olympics in jeopardy. 

IOC chief Pound, the organisation's longest-serving member, believes the best way of ensuring it goes ahead is to vaccinate all athletes beforehand.

"In Canada where we might have 300 or 400 athletes - to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level - I don't think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that," Pound told Sky News. 

"It's a decision for each country to make and there will be people saying they are jumping the queue but I think that is the most realistic way of it going ahead." 

Costs for the Olympics have already increased by $2.8billion (£2.1bn) due to measures being put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus.

 

Russia will be barred from competing as a nation at the Olympic Games, Winter Olympics and football World Cup over the next two years after the Court of Arbitration for Sport partly upheld a suspension imposed for breaching anti-doping rules.

In 2019, Russia was handed a four-year ban from major international sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

WADA declared the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) non-compliant over inconsistencies in anti-doping data discovered during an investigation.

At the time, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reiterated its support for Russia's ban, which meant athletes would be unable to compete under the Russian flag at the 2020 Olympics or the 2022 Winter Games.

In a landmark move on Thursday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) confirmed Russia would be banned, albeit with the time frame cut from four years to two.

That will still discount Russia from participating in the Tokyo Olympics – pushed back to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic – plus the Winter Games in Beijing in 2022, and the next World Cup.

Russia will, however, be able to compete at the Euro 2020 football finals, which is also scheduled to take place next year, having been another event impacted by COVID-19.

This is because WADA's international standard for code compliance by signatories does not list UEFA as a "major event organisation".

Russian athletes wishing to compete at the Tokyo and Beijing Games will be able to do so, but only under a neutral banner.

CAS stated in its announcement: "This panel has imposed consequences to reflect the nature and seriousness of the non-compliance [to the WADC] and to ensure that the integrity of sport against the scourge of doping is maintained.

"The consequences which the panel has decided to impose are not as extensive as those sought by WADA. This should not, however, be read as any validation of the conduct of RUSADA or the Russian authorities."

CAS also said that its ruling aims to "effect cultural change and encourage the next generation of Russian athletes to participate in clean international sport".

In order to be reinstated at the end of the two-year ban, it was also ruled that RUSADA must pay a contribution of $1.27million to WADA, in respect of the costs incurred in investigating the authenticity of the data retrieved from the Moscow laboratory in January 2019.

RUSADA, under supervision from WADA or the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), was told it must conduct investigations into any cases impacted by the deletions or alterations of the Moscow laboratory data.

The Russian organisation must also provide any other support requested by WADA to assist in determining whether athletes whose samples are listed in the Moscow laboratory database have a case to answer.

Readers of the world renowned athletics magazine, Athletics Weekly, have selected Usain Bolt as the greatest athlete of the past 75 years. They placed Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce third among the women.

Juan Martin del Potro admitted he was struggling in his bid to return from knee surgery as he eyes next year's Olympics.

Del Potro, 32, last played competitively 17 months ago and underwent a third right knee surgery in August.

The 2009 US Open champion is still hoping to return, but admitted it had been challenging.

"I am having a hard time coming back. I still stand by the desire that I have to continue playing," Del Potro told ESPN on Friday.

"The reality is that it is difficult. I'm going to keep fighting as long as I feel like I want to continue."

He added: "Due to the pandemic, the Olympics Games are next year and I'm excited to be there.

"If I have to close my career, I think it would be to give myself an award to represent my country."

A bronze medallist in men's singles at the 2012 Olympics, Del Potro won silver in Rio four years later, and said he hoped to retire on the court.

The Argentinian also took time to remember the great Diego Maradona, who died on Wednesday.

Del Potro recalled his meetings with Maradona during the 2016 Davis Cup final, which he helped Argentina win against Croatia in Zagreb.

"In that Davis Cup final, every night, on my own without anyone knowing, I saw him 10, 15 minutes before going to sleep," he said.

"He did it in private so that he doesn't disarm the team's structure."

Del Potro added: "He sent me a very nice message after winning and I gave him my racquet."

Olympic hopefuls for the Tokyo Olympic Games have expressed delight about an expedited JMD$40 million injection by the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) under its ‘Olympic Invest’ programme, to fund their preparation and qualification.

Among them was 2016 Olympian Yona Knight-Wisdom, who underlined the impact on preparation created by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“2020 has, of course, been difficult for everybody, but particularly for athletes in so many ways - spending so much time away from normal training, losing the chance to earn prize money from competitions and also the exposure that big events can bring. So it’s great to finally be back in full-time training, preparing for whatever 2021 brings,” said the diver based in the United Kingdom.

“But to have the financial backing of the JOA will help to give me that extra bit of motivation to work hard every day and be ready to compete to my highest level when the time comes,” the 25-year-old added.

Kinght-Wisdom created history in becoming the first athlete to represent Jamaica in Olympic diving competition at the 2016 Rio Games. He explained that additional JOA funding will allow him to focus unilaterally on competition.

“This investment will allow for me to get more physiotherapy to help look after my body, as well as to help pay for day-to-day training expenses such as travel, which means I can focus on the important things,” he said.

“Hopefully this support will allow all of us to represent Jamaica to our highest level in Tokyo, because I believe a successful Olympics will bring joy and lift the spirits of the island as we come out of this terrible pandemic.”

Tafari Whitter of Skateboarding Jamaica Limited, who is hoping to become the nation’s first Olympic skateboarder believes the funds being made available will ease difficulties created by COVID-19.

“I am very proud of the JOA family on the fast track of 40 million dollars for athletes’ preparation, due to COVID making things hard for most of us,” said Whitter.

“The JOA family managed to still keep things under control throughout these rough times and that is why I am so thankful and grateful for the opportunity of being part of history. Love you Jamaica. Let’s go to Tokyo. I am so, so proud of the JOA family.”

Martial artist Alton Brown has his sights firmly set on Olympic competition in karate. He is the number-one ranked male karate athlete within the Caribbean and number two in his division across Pan America and number 22 in the world.

“I have my eyes firmly set on two objectives; qualification and medal success at the Tokyo Games and legacy within Jamaica Karate following the Games. This additional funding from the JOA will have a vital impact on my ability to continue to pursue and successfully reach those goals,” Brown said.

“The movement towards qualification at these Games has been four years in the making and would not be possible without the JOA’s support at key moments throughout this journey. In addition, the efforts of the Jamaica Karate Federation, under the leadership of Tony Robinson, have been instrumental in getting us to this moment.”

Brown explained that the rigors of qualification demands monetary support.

“Since 2018, the financial burden to the athlete of participating in the karate qualification process for Tokyo has been unprecedented, with almost 20 events taking place across five continents,” he shared.

“We have adapted well to the COVID-19 Pandemic, utilizing relationships we hold with national teams across the Caribbean and Europe to continue development. This funding will not only allow us to be present at the final qualification events from February 2021, but also maximize the relationships we hold with other national teams, to ensure vital partner training opportunities necessary to continue to produce world-class results.

“The world is taking note of Jamaica Karate and this additional funding will allow us to finish the race and make Jamaica proud,” said Brown.

 

The Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) will continue its developmental initiative dubbed ‘Olympic Invest’ to honour its commitment to athletes who are challenging for an Olympic berth in Tokyo next year, by investing JMD$40,000,000.00 in their preparation and qualifying events of the greatest global sporting event.

The Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) said it welcomes the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to increase the budget of Olympic Solidarity for the quadrennial period 2021 to 2024 by 16 per cent with the resultant increase in the budgetary allocation to each National Olympic Committee for its national activities and in the funding of direct athlete-support programmes.

IOC President Thomas Bach, in announcing the decision Wednesday said there was a clear need for more solidarity.

"One important lesson that I hope we have all learnt from the current Coronavirus crisis is that we need more solidarity,” he said. “We need more solidarity within societies, but also among societies. Solidarity is one of the key Olympic values which the Olympic community is actively promoting. Today’s decision is a very strong demonstration in times of a worldwide crisis.”

Meantime, JOA President Christopher Samuda has hailed the decision by the IOC.

"The decision demonstrates an admirable commitment to the development of its member National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and the athletes and is an empathetic response to the challenges being experienced by the global Olympic sport community in the wake of the COVID - 19 pandemic," he said.

The decision of the world governing body equates to 25 per cent increase in the funding of direct athlete support programmes which will benefit athletes of the national Olympic teams and IOC refugee Olympic teams and will support the wide range of athlete centric educational and developmental initiatives which the IOC undertakes particularly to empower NOCs to keep athletes at the heart of the Olympic Movement.

"For the JOA the athletes come first and therefore we must invest strategically in their development in realising optimally their talents in competition and in providing them with a sound foundation and springboard beyond their competition life. The IOC's decision embodies this" President Samuda said.

One of the priorities of Olympic Solidarity for 2021-2024 quadrennial is to ensure good governance, financial control and compliance by strengthening capacity-building programmes for NOCs.

Secretary General and CEO of the JOA, Ryan Foster, commented: "the JOA is all about capacity building and institutional strengthening and therefore we can readily identify with and embrace this priority not only as a principle of good governance but as a way of life in sport"

Fedrick Dacres, the 2019 World Championships discus silver medalist is now in a race against time after undergoing surgery on his wrist to repair a damaged ligament suffered during a recent fall.

Dacres, who has already qualified for the Olympic Games, revealed his wrist in a cast on social media after reportedly undergoing surgery on the weekend while announcing that he had started his own YouTube channel.

With the rescheduled 2020 Olympic set to run from July 23 to August 8, 2021, a mere eight months away, Dacres could be hard-pressed to be healthy in time as there is the chance that his repaired wrist could take as long as six months to heal. There is chance, however, that he could be fully healed before then.

His coach, Julian Robinson is optimistic that the 2018 Commonwealth champion and national record holder will be able to recover in time.

“There is some physical work that we can do on the intervening period. We will try and maximize that,” he said.

“However, the throwing part will have to start after he has recovered. When that is, I don’t know. Time will tell. I am praying that its sooner rather than later.”

The affable 26-year-old is Jamaica’s most successful thrower. He became the first Jamaican to win a World Championship medal when he claimed silver in Doha in 2019. In 2018, perhaps his most successful year as a professional athlete, Dacres won gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Australia and the NACAC Championships in Toronto, Canada.

He is the 2015 Pan Am Games champion and has a national record of 70.78m set in Rabat on July 16 2019. He is the only Jamaican to ever throw 70m in the men’s discus.

Jamaica’s Olympics-bound gymnast Danusia Francis is eager to get back into competition as she continues her preparation for Tokyo 2021.

Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah has been included on a shortlist of athletes for the IAAF Female World Athlete of the Year award.

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 28-year-old double Olympic champion has put together a strong season.  Thompson-Herah won all seven of her 100m races and finished the campaign with a world-leading time of 10.85 seconds, which was recorded at the Rome Diamond League in September.

In addition to Thompson-Herah, the list includes Femke Bol (Netherlands), Letesenbet Gibey (Ethiopia), Sifan Hassan (Netherlands), Peres Jepchirchir (Kenya), Faith Kipyegon (Kenya), Laura Muir (Great Britain and Northern Ireland), Hellen Obiri (Kenya), Yulimar Rojas (Venezuela) and Ababel Yeshaneh (Ethiopia).

The Jamaican will face still competition to land the prize, with world records broken this year by Gidey (5000m), Hassan (hour run), Jepchirchir (half marathon, women only), Rojas (triple jump, indoors), and Yeshaneh (half marathon).

The list will be trimmed to five athletes after voting takes place among the World Athletics Council (50 percent), World Athletics family (25 percent), and by fans (25 percent) by liking individual athlete graphics on World Athletics’ Facebook and Instagram or by retweets.

Thompson-Herah is the only Jamaican nominated on either the male or female list.  American Dalilah Muhammad took the honour last year when she twice lowered the 400m hurdles world record.

 

 

 

I recently had a rather eye-opening conversation with an 18-year old about one of Jamaica’s greatest ever female sprinters Merlene Joyce Ottey.

I would say this young man has a strong working knowledge of sports but especially of Jamaican athletes and their accomplishments.

It, therefore, struck me by surprise when the name Merlene Ottey did not resonate with him, certainly not in the way I would have expected.

It isn’t that he hadn’t heard the name before but the significance of it did not immediately dawn on him, not in the way speaking of a modern star like Usain Bolt or Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce would.  Sadly, I find this of most I speak to from the younger generation.

I will admit when Ottey was in her prime his generation would not have been born but to me, she is such a legendary figure that her legacy of placing Jamaica and the English-speaking Caribbean on the female track and field map must never be forgotten.

And so, I took the opportunity to educate this youngster about Ottey and her stunning career, from becoming the first English-speaking Caribbean female to win an Olympic medal in 1980, to her switch to and subsequent major appearances for Slovenia post the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

I especially focused on some narrow misses for World and Olympic 100 metres gold at the 1993 Stuttgart World Championships and the 1996 Olympics, on both occasions narrowly, and some would say controversially, losing to American Gail Devers.

This young man seemed in awe, as he should be.

“She was cute too,” he said as he watched the 1993 IAAF World Championship 200 metres final when she finally won a global outdoor gold medal.

So many youngsters are unaware of the history and believe Jamaica’s track and field success started at the Beijing Games with Bolt and company.

But since 1948, the world has respected what we have offered in the global track and field space and for 20 years 1980-2000, Ottey stood front and centre as the leading figure not only but especially for women in the English-speaking Caribbean.  

She won nine Olympic medals, including 7 in individual events, the most by any woman in track and field.

She backed that up with 14 World Outdoor medals and 7 World Indoor medals and she still holds the 200m world indoor record at 21.87 seconds.

Just this week, Ottey was again recognised at the National Honours and Awards ceremony on Heroes’ Day, receiving the country’s fourth highest honour, The Order of Jamaica.

This is a well-deserved and timely reminder of the greatness of the woman.

She was dubbed “Bronze Queen” as 15 of her 30 global medals, indoors and out, were of that variety.  She had many narrow misses for gold but Merlene Ottey’s impact in inspiring generations of Caribbean female sprinters is worth honouring and celebrating even to this day.

So, this is in honour of Merlene Ottey.

May we never forget her impact on Jamaica, the Caribbean, and indeed global track and field.  

Dani Ceballos wants to see Sergio Ramos marauding across Europe with Spain next year before going for gold in Tokyo.

The prospect of a European Championship and Olympic Games double has been shunted back by 12 months, and Ramos will be 35 by the time they take place.

But the captain of Real Madrid and Spain has indicated an appetite for playing in both, and Ceballos would love to see him flying the flag both in his home continent and in Japan.

The European Championship will be played across a host of countries, with Spain having home advantage for their three group games which will all be played in Bilbao.

Everything is conditional on the pandemic situation allowing such tournaments to go ahead, but Ceballos, who is also hoping to double up, sees Ramos as a leader who would lift Spain on the Olympic stage.

"Sergio has earned the right to decide by the performance he gives," said Spain midfielder Ceballos.

"I always want him in my team. He has been a fundamental player, he continues to be, and of course I would want to have him at the Olympic Games on my side."

The European Championship final is due to be played on July 11 in London, a mere 11 days before the Olympic men's football tournament begins in Tokyo.

Ceballos spoke of there being 15 days' difference and suggested that was "still compatible" with being able to take part in both.

Regardless of the exact gap between those events, it will be demanding for any player to fully commit to both.

Midfielder Ceballos just wants to make sure he has a chance of being involved regularly with Spain, which is why again this season he is on loan at Arsenal from Real Madrid.

At Arsenal he is set for an integral role under Mikel Arteta's leadership, but there were no guarantees he would be a fixture in Zinedine Zidane's Madrid team.

"You know that to take part you have to play for your team," Ceballos said.

"When a player is happy in his team that is for the best and that is why I decided to stay for one more year at Arsenal where I could develop my game as normal.

"After confinement we have seen a Dani Ceballos that we all wanted. I have improved a lot and I am very happy to continue at Arsenal."

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