Carifta Games Review

2011 Carifta Games …… it was not just about Jamaica (by Clayton Clarke)

The race for top honours at the recently held Carifta Games in Montego Bay, Jamaica was among the keenest in years.  Some thought that many of the participating teams may be settling for second against the powerful Jamaicans on their home turf. However, the performances at the St. Catherine Sporting Complex put that thought to nought. Neighbours Bahamas somehow heard that the Jamaicans were declaring that no gold medal will be leaving their shores and this challenge seemed to have motivated the Junakoo runners.

Backed by their ever present and die-hard noisy band of supporters, the athletes shocked all of Jamaica as well as the region. Led by Antonique Strachan, the blue-clad Bahamians swept three of the four sprint titles on the opening day.  Strachan dispatched  reigning the girls under 20 100m champion, Michelle Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago and home-girl favourite Christiana Williams. The Bahamian fans beat their drums, blew horns (and tuba) and had the stands rocking. The celebrations were somewhat curtailed as their star, the reigning World junior 400m champion, Shaunae Miller false started in the girls under 20 400m finals as Jamaica went 1-2 in that event.    
In the 200m there were regional flavor in the victories. Bahamas took both girls titles as Strachan equaled the great Veronica Campbell-Brown record of 22.93 in the heats before capturing the senior girls gold and the Austin Sealy Award for the most outstanding athlete of the Games.  Trinidad and Tobago’s Machel Cedenio nailed the boys under 17 half lap race (the title was likely given to him by the antics of Jevaughn Minzie of Jamaica). Turks and Caicos’ Delano Williams upset the pack in the boys under 20 event. Bahamas ended the meet on a high, taking the boys under 20 4x400m relay ahead of TT and Jamaica.  The win was not all guaranteed as the Bahamians had to survive a strong protest to hold on to the title.
St. Kitts and Nevis struck gold in the boys under 17 Javelin as Adrian Williams defended his title in fine style setting a new championships record of 60.15m.  In the boys under 20 Javelin TT’s Kishorn Walcott followed his early season form with a sensational win in a new Carifta record of 72.04m, bettering the previous mark of 65.52 in his first four attempts. Walcott captured his second straight Carifta gold. He also won the boys under 17 gold in 2009.  (His older brother Elton took his third consecutive gold..and fourth in total... in the boys under 20 triple jump).
From the first day, one sensed that it would not be all Jamaica as Barbados were just behind on second with Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago all in striking range.  The final medal tally reflected the intense competition. Jamaica eventually pulled ahead and left the others to battle for the minor places. And what a contest it turned out to be. Bahamas grabbed second place ahead of Barbados who were in runners-up spot for most of the meet. The final placing was determined by the outcome of the protest of boys under 20 4x400m relay which delayed the closing ceremony.

The see-saw exchange highlighted the athletic prowess of the region.  Jamaica shone but so did the region.  For too long the rest seem to have settled for second or maybe first among the rest. This year’s performance was really encouraging as it continues to show that the Caribbean area is blessed with sporting talent which comes to the fore every year. The success was not only in terms of medals but also participation. Jamaica has long established itself as the sprint factory of the world with Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados having their own legacy.

The highlight for me was to see Montserrat and Haiti in action. Beset by the misfortunes of natural disasters, it was so refreshing to see the Olympic ideals of participation being kept alive. Montserrat contingent  of two (in the Boys under 20 100m - Alford Dyett and Lester Ryan) indicated that for the first time in 15 years there was a full 100m field on the island to train on.  Their goals were quite simple … making it into the finals.  Haiti’s team of eight came to Montego Bay with no track and competition but they were there and competed.
Look out for part two …………