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Team Jamaica ended the 2019 IAAF World Relay at the Yokohama International Stadium in Japan in a creditable No. 2 position with a 27 point tally equal to that garnered by the host nation. However, it was by some distance short of the usual table toppers, USA, who doubled the count of the aforementioned by accumulating 54 points.
Jamaica took home three medals comprising silver in the men’s 4x400m, silver in the women’s 4x100m and bronze in the women’s 4x200m. The team benefited from disqualifications to their USA rivals and were moved up one place from that in which they crossed the line in the first and last named event. A probable medal went a begging when Jamaica along with eventual gold medallist, USA, was an automatic qualifier from the heats of the Mixed Shuttle Relay on Day One, only to have Andrew Riley and substitute, Norman Pittersgill, downed by injury and unable to report for the final.
The moment the travelling squad was named, persons aligned to the sport, were disappointed with the team selected, some seemingly outraged. There was the usual talk about one local training camp or another being favoured in the selection of athletes. The popular term that “fren an fren” featured in the process was rife. Then, 2011 World Championships 100m champion, Yohan Blake, withdrew from the delegation, with his agent, Cubie Seegobin, expressing dissatisfaction with his charge “travelling so far to run one event.”
These unwholesome sounds escalated after some shocking displays of faulty baton changing during the women’s 4x200m relay. With a crack squad of world and olympic champions and finalists headed by Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, only the lane violation by the USA saved the country some blushes.
Whenever a team is selected without Trials being held, there is always going to be those who do not agree with or heatedly dispute a particular set of athletes who are named. There is nothing unusual about that and should not be deemed to be an act of prejudice or bias. Whoever departs for competition should receive the full support of our people, as the athletes chosen will be representing the black, gold and green of the country.
Regarding the Yohan Blake withdrawal and the reason put forward, it should not take a long debate to decide on what should be the outcome. Once he is not hurt, the athlete should be ordered quietly and without fanfare or public announcement to either board the plane or face a sanction. Our athletes, no matter how good they are or what they have achieved, should be reminded that their journey was accompanied by support from elsewhere. Sponsors play a big role in that scenario and they should have the best in quality of participating personnel to invest much needed funds in the event, as other outlets for their spending are available. There is a question to be asked. Why has Blake, who boasts a season best of 9.98 seconds in the 100m or Seegobin, not given in to the incontestable fact that the athletes in his event were forced to compete without their leader and the disadvantage to which they would be put? The pair in question seemed to have forgotten that this was a relay event and there was a dependence on each other to perform for the team. The Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) is urged to consider this, if or when such a situation resurfaces. In fact, Foster’s Fairplay is of the view that it would not be out of place for the JAAA to revisit Blake’s failure to “take up the baton” for Yokohama and at least issue a warning against a recurrence.
The matter regarding the women’s 4x200m relay was shameful and cries out for an investigation. From what has come out of the mishaps, there appears to have been disputes as to who should pass to whom. They seemed to have been centred around disagreements between two or more parties. Wherever lies the truth, what was seen on television is not acceptable given the talk as to what was the background to the two foul-ups.
Unfortunately, the JAAA has no tradition of probing into these situations, even when they are pointed out publicly by senior members of the team administrative staff. With that in mind, one should not expect any change in that stance.
Will the JAAA surprise us this time? Maybe, just maybe, the feeling within the administration, is that the adoring public does not have a right to know.
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News Credit: The Jamaica Gleaner | Read here http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/sports/20190517/laurie-foster-time-jaaa-take-some-action