'Blessing in disguise'

'Blessing in disguise'

COVID-19 pandemic a blessing in disguise for local athletes – Coach Ricketts

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

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Athletics coach Kerry-Lee Ricketts believes fears in many quarters that the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has hampered the chances of top athletes getting scholarships overseas mightprove to be “a blessing in disguise”, based on the strength of performances from local-based athletes in the recent past.

Ricketts, who coached his wife Shanieka Thomas-Ricketts to the triple jump silver medal at last year's World Championships, strengthened his claim with the fact that local-based athletes have produced more medals than the overseas-based Jamaicans in recent years.

“Everybody is on a one-way street. A lot of people [are] not seeing that this probably is a positive for some of these talents to say, let's stay home and study and train,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

“This is the opportunity. It is a blessing in disguise because if you think about between UWI [The University of the West Indies], UTech (The University of Technology, Jamaica], G C Foster [College], and Mico [University College], the bulk of the success of recent Jamaicans to the Olympics and World Championships are actually local-based athletes who served the colleges at Inter-Col,” he asserted.

In Doha, Qatar, last year, Jamaica finished with 12 medals, inclusive of three gold, five silver and four bronze, with 24 athletes collecting medals. Only six trained overseas — Natalliah Whyte and Jonelle Smith (4x100); Nathon Allen (mixed relays and 4x400); Daniel Williams (100 hurdles); Danniel Thomas-Dodd (shot put) and Akeem Bloomfield (4x400).

Ricketts, who also coached his wife to the Diamond League trophy in her pet event last year, said on closer examination of the Doha medals table, local coaches should have commanded more respect.

“So, if you look at the medals from Doha, all of these institutions I speak of are actually affiliated with one club. UTech has MVP Track Club; G C Foster has Sprintec; UWI basically has two in Pelican Track Club and Racers Track Club; Mico has Cameron Blazers, and all these have people on the team [Jamaica],” he reiterated.

“If you talk about UWI, you talk about Pelican with a Fedrick Dacres silver in the discus; Shanieka Ricketts silver in the triple jump; a Rushell Clayton bronze in the 400 hurdles; a Roneisha McGregor who medalled as part of the mixed 4x400m team, along with Tiffany James of Mico, and Tajay Gayle, gold,” he noted.

“It is only fair that we local coaches get some of these talents,” he added.

Ricketts believes a lot of people are actually overlooking the local-based universities and they certainly have the technical expertise that's needed.

“This is not 1970, this is not 1980 or in the 1990s when we probably just have the National Stadium and a few half-decent grass fields around the place and a couple good coaches. Things have changed,” he argued.

“I think this [COVID-19] will actually work out in some of the athletes' favour and Jamaica's athletics fraternity will benefit,” said Ricketts.

“If you should sit and analyse the number of people who won at Champs with some good times or distances in the past 10 years, and if you could ask, where are these athletes now?

“Majority of these athletes went overseas and they haven't matured into a world-class athlete. If you look at the ones who stayed at home. Shelly [Fraser-Pryce] medalled at Champs but she wasn't a massive athlete at Champs. Elaine [Thompson] wasn't a big athlete at Champs. You could put in Asafa Powell. Where are those persons who were winning Champs when Elaine was at high school?”

He continued: “Where are those people winning Champs when Shelly was at high school? Where are these people who were winning triple jump when Shanieka and Tajay Gayle were in high school? And the list goes on!

“This is something like a blessing in disguise for Jamaica's athletics fraternity. Some of these athletes should open up to opportunities to local institutions rather than stress themselves out that the COVID-19 situation has put them in a sticky situation in getting to train and study overseas,” said Ricketts.

“Jamaica's local coaches are doing so wonderful and should get some respect and encouragement,” he concluded.

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