CHAMPS: Jamaica's obsession with Track and Field...100 yrs. old.
In search of the champs
Everyone agrees - if there was ever a year to attend Jamaica’s high school track and field championships - "Champs" - this is it.
The competition will be stiffer, the energy will be higher.
The cheers will be louder, and the crowds bigger.
The championships, the breeding ground for Jamaican stars such as Usain Bolt, Herb McKenley, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Merlene Ottey, Donald Quarrie, and Shelly-Ann Fraser, marks 100 years since the very first competition was held for six boys’ schools in 1910.
The girls came later, in 1957.
Champs seen as crucial
A lot of attention has been on Jamaica’s track and field since its athletes' exploits at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and their repeat performance at the World Championships in Berlin a year later.
The consensus among the experts, the track and field aficionados, and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President, Lamine Diack, is that the Championships are the main reason behind it.
Actually, the entire Jamaican system of grooming athletes from as young as six and sticking with them throughout their high school junior years at weekly development meets has been credited with the country’s success.
No clear favourite
What makes this year extra special is that unlike in previous years there is no clear favourite athlete or school.
Of course, everyone has his or her predictions and there are one or two athletes which most would say seem unbeatable.
Like, for example, the reigning Carifta double sprint champion, Jazeel Murphy, in the Class Two boys 100m and 200m.
The Boys’ & Girls Athletic Championships organisers have put close to J$40 million (US$446,900) into the celebration and if Tuesday’s two and a half hour long opening ceremony is anything to go by, the rest of the week until Saturday’s final day will be a show worth travelling from as far as South Africa to see.
Why 2010 is special
Staging the opening ceremony a day before competition begins highlights the significance of this year as in former times the ceremony was stuck into a half-hour mid-way competition on Friday’s programme.
However, Organising Committee chair, Colleen Montague, said her team knew that 2010 could not pass without fanfare.
“It has been months of preparation … this year is a big event and it needs to be recognised for what it is,” she said.
The committee has also invested in publishing a commemorative book documenting the history of the championships, the winning schools, and its greatest athletes since 1910.
Event attracts foreign coverage
The Champs are credited with bringing Jamaican talent to the fore
A group of students has travelled from South Africa to attend, so has a record number of foreign press including television crews from France, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
And Jamaicans will also be travelling from far and wide to see their favourites on the track at Kingston’s National Stadium.
Tickets for the covered grandstand section of the stadium were sold out within half-an-hour of the ticket office opening.
Some people were standing in line for as long as six hours to ensure they got their hands on one of the coveted tickets.
Literally everyone agrees that "there’s just something special about Champs".
South African students arrive for Champs
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
TWENTY-EIGHT students and three officials from Willowridge High School in South Africa arrived in the island on Monday for a 10-day visit, during which they will attend the Boys' and Girls' Championships at the National Stadium.
The group was met at the Norman Manley International Airport by Minister of Sport Olivia Grange, representatives from the South African High Commission and the Jamaica/South Africa Friendship Association.
Speaking with journalists at the airport, Grange said the ministry has arranged a number of activities for the group, including visits to schools such as St Jago, St Hugh's and GC Foster College.
The Willowridge team was slated to attend the Champs Opening Ceremony at the National Stadium yesterday, and was later expected to visit the South African High Commission and attend a cocktail reception hosted in their honour.
On Saturday, the students will be at Champs, where they will witness the handing over of the Queen's Baton.
Grange said the visit will further strengthen the bond between South Africa and Jamaica.
"Jamaica has to continue to strengthen its bond with the continent of Africa and we do not have enough visits and exchanges, and so this is a part of a deliberate effort to strengthen those ties," she said.
The minister said during her visit to South Africa last year, the South African minister of sport had expressed an interest in bilateral co-operation with Jamaica in sports.
"I did meet with the minister of culture as well and we have signed that agreement, so what's left to be signed is the bilateral agreement in sports between myself and the minister of sports on behalf of Jamaica and South Africa. And that will become a reality some time this year," she added.
The visit was initiated by the school's head coach, Olympian Geraldine Pillay, and approved by Grange during her visit to South Africa to attend the Fourth World Summit on Arts and Culture, which was staged by the International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies (IFACCA) and the National Arts Council of South Africa, in Johannesburg.
Pillay said the idea to arrange the tour came about after attending the 2007 Boys' and Girls' Championships and observing the talent displayed by young Jamaican athletes.
"I thought it was a good opportunity for high school students to come and experience not only the vibes around the preparation that goes into it, but on the track and off the track.
"It's also for them to get an opportunity to experience world-class performances and to meet and see the world's best athletes," she said.
According to Pillay, the trip was arranged last year after she was appointed as the athletics director at the school.
Pillay lived in Jamaica in 2007 and trained with Stephen Francis and the MVP Track Club at the University of Technology.
Congrats to the Yardies for cleaning up all those medals in the Carifta games this weekend and to Trinidad doing a hell of a job coming in second in medals. The caribbean will dominate the track for the next ten years from what i seen. Keep an eye on Jehu Gordon from Trini the guy got promise. Also to the VI for bagging two.