Frustrated by recurring injuries that have stifled his ambition and cut his progress off at the knees, 2013 World U18 Champion Martin Manley has opted for retirement at the age of 24.

The Jamaica Track and Field Coaches Association (JATAFCA) believes the absence of track and field competitions because of the Covid-19 pandemic is proving to be destructive.

In light of this claim, they have called upon the relevant authorities to immediately authorize the resumption of track and field that will allow the country to maintain its standing in global athletics.

The last track meet was held on March 20, 2021, and with the ISSA Boys and Girls Championships and the World Relays in Poland looming, Jamaica’s athletes will be at a significant disadvantage.

“The current delay is destructive. The psychological and mental damage to our athletes and coaches is almost irreparable. As a nation, we cannot afford a cancellation of ISSA Champs 2021, which the delay will cause. Not only is the competition a major pillar for our world-renowned track and field prowess, it provides the platform for student-athletes to earn athletics scholarships to overseas colleges and universities.”

JATAFCA said that the available data indicates that Jamaica’s student-athletes earn scholarships valued at over J$2 billion. This is a stark contrast to the J$85.791 million allocated in the 2019-20 Estimates of Expenditures for the Ministry of Sports for Athlete’s insurance. No other line item was identified as applicable.

“We, therefore, call upon the authorities to recognize the importance of track and field to the overall national development, the psyche and contribution to the young people of our nation. We implore them to partner with the JAAA, ISSA and their sponsors, to stage these competitions safely and successfully,” they said.

The inactivity, JATAFCA said, is due to the absence of approval by the authorities for the additional competitions organized and managed by the governing body the Jamaica Athletic Administrative Association (JAAA).

“We are made to understand that the authorities are concerned about the spike in COVID-19 cases and the stress on the public health system,” the JATAFCA said in a statement Thursday.

“Let it be clear that we too are equally concerned. We are, however, of the opinion that concern for public health is not diametrically opposed to the staging of COVID-19 safe track and field competitions. It is all about striking a balance, minimize the fallouts, and pursue the things we are best at.”

The coaches’ association said that over a three-week period from February 27 to March 20th, the JAAA staged 20 competitions that saw 39 junior athletes - 27 boys and 12 girls - making the very rigorous qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championships in Nairobi Kenya.

In addition, there was at least one world-leading performance from a senior athlete.

“With some 1500 juniors and close to 300 senior athletes competing in the Qualification Trial Series (QTS), there was no reported positive COVID-19 case(s) among athletes, officials or athlete support personnel,” the coaches said.

“The JAAA executed well and established a blueprint that several countries across the NACAC region, including USA and Canada, have now adopted.

 “We also make the call for authorities to provide clear and immediate responses, within 24 hours, to the applications for permits now in their possession. Further delay would be tantamount to assisting our global competitors in making light of our efforts when we meet on the track or in the field later this year.

“As an association, we will continue to play our part in encouraging our members to practice all the COVID-19 protocols for mask-wearing, social distancing and hand hygiene. They know we hold them to a high standard of compliance, a similar standard that has resulted in us being ranked third in World Athletics.”

The 2021 Gibson/McCook Relays that was scheduled for March 27, have been cancelled.

The decision to cancel this year’s event was made at a meeting of the Gibson Relays Organizing Committee on Wednesday. They cited the “catastrophic rise” in the number of Covid-19 cases in the country in recent weeks.

Since its inaugural staging in 1973, the Relays were previously cancelled on four occasions - 1983, 1997, 1999 and 2002.

The news will be a blow to Jamaica’s track and field athletes many of whom are preparing for the Olympic Games in July as well as the Carifta Games and World U20 Championships in August as it follows on the heels of the Jamaican government’s decision to withdraw approval for the hosting of the Central Athletics Championships and Eastern Athletics Champions in the past few days.

The organizers said they are optimistic the Relays will resume next year.

“We look forward to hosting this event in 2022. Thanks to our many sponsors and other stakeholders for their continued support of this 48-year-old event which was planning its 45th staging.  Since its inaugural staging in 1973, the Relays were previously cancelled on four occasions (1983, 1997, 1999 and 2002).

“The Gibson McCook Relays Organizing Committee regret this decision but feel certain that fans of track and field in general and GMR fans will understand and support this decision.

“We would like to extend our condolences to the families of those who have lost loved ones and we empathize with those who are suffering from COVID-19. We implore all Jamaicans to follow the necessary protocols in order to stay safe and finally, we encourage the taking of the vaccine which will help to prevent further spread and hasten our return to a level of normality.”

NACAC President Mike Sands believes that the new August dates set for the 2021 Carifta Games could possibly create opportunities for a second tier of athletes to compete at the Games, in light of the more elite athletes opting to compete at the World U20 Champions set for Nairobi, Kenya from August 17-22.

NACAC announced on Thursday that the 2021 Carifta Games are to be held in Bermuda from August 13-15 due to the Caribbean Examinations Council setting the 2021 external examination dates from June 14-July16. Those dates overlap with the previous dates of July 2-4 for the Carifta Games.

Responding to whether fewer athletes would turn out for the Games because of how close they were to the World Championships, Sands said it was a concern, it was also an opportunity.

“That is a fix that we cannot resolve other than the fact that it does two things; one, countries are going to have to make a determination where their athletes will compete, but having said that we must understand that for the Carifta Games there is not a set qualifying standard,” he said.

“What you may have is that individual member federations have standards for their athletes to achieve, and so as opposed to the World U20 championships where there is a set standard, and so the question remains, how many of our area athletes would make those standards, particularly those from the smaller countries that may have a number of athletes making the standards for the world event.

“If that is the case, it now means that the member federations would have to make a determination whether some of their athletes go to Carifta and the qualifiers go to the WorldU20 championships.”

That scenario, he suggested, opened the door for a “second level of athletes that may not have qualified” for the global championships but who would become available for the 49th edition of the regional youth championships.

He cited athletes from Jamaica, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados who would be among those benefitting from the situation.

Garth Gayle, President of the Jamaica Athletic Administrative Association (JAAA), on the prompting of the NACAC president said his federation would be reviewing the matter carefully with the intention of sending its very best athletes to both competitions.

“President Sands, the options that you have put forward would have been very clear to us but let me say from the get-go the JAAA will be supporting both events. We are Caribbean and therefore Carifta is critical to us and to youth development,” Gayle said.

“We are also part of the global stage and so our elite junior athletes would also have that option to move onto the world event. We believe it is doable and we do not see a major issue.”

He said the athlete and his or her coach would essentially choose which event they would want to compete in.

Since it's inception in 1972, Jamaica has won the Carifta Games on more than 40 occasions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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