Jamaica making giant leaps in athletics field events

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TAJAY GAYLE

Over the years, Jamaica has gained worldwide acclaim for its stellar achievements in track events, most notably the 100 and 200 meters and, to a lesser extent, the 400 metres, also both sprint and 400 metres hurdling. In recent years, however, Jamaica has been improving its performances in the field events steadily: great news for track and field in the country.

The 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, was a historic one for Jamaica in the field events. For the first time in the country’s history, its athletes won medals in the Shot Put and Discus at a global athletic championship: Danniel Thomas-Dodd and Fedrick Dacres each won a silver medal in the women’s Shot Put and Men’s Discus, respectively.

danniel-thomas-dodd performs in field events
Danniel-Thomas-Dodd

Both athletes stressed how important the achievement was for them personally and, more importantly, for the country in general. They believe their performance and success will help to stimulate greater interest in field events and inspire up and coming Jamaican athletes pursuing those events. Their success augurs well for the continued development of field events on the island.

fedrick dacres
Fedrick Dacres

Tajay Gayle earned Jamaica its first-ever global gold medal in men’s long jump history and Shanieka Ricketts won a silver medal in the women’s triple jump. Kimberley Williams came perilously close to winning the bronze medal but was overtaken by Caterine Ibarguen, the flamboyant Columbian, on the latter’s fifth and penultimate jump.

The battle between China’s Gong Lijiao and Jamaica’s Thomas-Dodd for the women’s Shot Put title was nail biting and had many Jamaicans on the edge of their proverbial seats. It was an interest normally reserved for sprinting events. In the end Gong, the favourite for the title, defeated Thomas-Dodd by a mere 0.08 metre. Thomas-Dodd’s gallant effort has piqued the interest of Jamaican track and field fans, who, no doubt, will be paying keener attention to her competing in the future.

Shanieka Ricketts (field events)
Shanieka Ricketts

The total of 4 medals – 1 gold and 3 silver – won in the field events in DOHA, was the first time Jamaica managed to win more than 1 medal in those events at any global athletic championship.

Jamaica’s commendable performance in the field event at the 2019 World Championships did not happen by chance. It is the result of the new deliberate focus on the field events in the country by track and field coaches over the last several years. When we take a look at the 4 medallists, we see that all of them came through the local system: Thomas-Dodd came through the Edwin Allen Program, Fedrick Dacres through Calabar’s outstanding track and field program, Tajay Gayle through Papine High School’s rapidly developing program, and Shanieka Ricketts came through the quality Vere Technical athletic program.

Though Tajay Gayle, the sole gold medallist in the group, is a product of Papine High, he is coached by the renowned Stephen Francis of MVP Track Club: a factor that could augur well for Jamaica’s further success in field events. Francis’ overwhelming success as a coach in track events may blindside many to his all-round coaching ability: he coached the late Germaine Mason to being Jamaica’s national high jump champion and record holder. He continued coaching Mason when he switched to Great Britain and won a silver medal for that country at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Could Francis’ success with Tajay Gayle lead many promising field athletes to MVP Track Club?

Over the past five years, field events have been taking on increasingly greater importance at the Issa Boys’ and Girls’ Championships as schools try to earn points in a wider array of events. Consequently, field events have become more competitive and supporters of the competing schools have taken greater interest in them.

As a result of the increased focus on and success in field events, more coaches are being trained at the GC Foster College, specifically in that discipline. Graduating coaches are then recruited by high schools all over the country to impart their knowledge in terms of technique, dieting and other factors that are required for success in the field events.

We are now seeing world-class performances at Boys and Girls Championships in the field events which is a direct result of better coaching. This new level of coaching has raised the expectations of Jamaicans in what we can achieve as a country in the field events and Jamaican fans are now fully on-board with field events.

It is the hope of many Jamaicans, no doubt, that the country’s haul of 4 medals in the field at the 2019 World Championship will act as a catalyst for greater performances in the field events for the country in the future.