Generations apart, Jamaicans thrive with medal flurry

Thursday, August 02, 2018

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BARRANQUILLA, Colombia — Nesta Carter, Jonielle Smith and O'Dayne Richards all crowned themselves in gold, while Ashinia Miller took silver on the second day of track and field competition at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games Monday night.

Their finely chiselled achievements drew applause from President of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) Christopher Samuda, who has been here supporting the athletes and making presentations, even to some of them.

“I'm very happy because it also reinforces Jamaica's dominance in regional track and field. I'm hoping that as the competition progresses we'll not only secure more gold, but we will demonstrate our prowess as a nation,” said Samuda.

“So, congratulations to our gold medallists. The Jamaica Olympic Association is indeed proud. We indicated to them, those who are experienced athletes lead from the front and they have led from the front and demonstrated to a nation what constitutes success — dedication, hard work, love of country and pride of country,” he added.

Miller analysed Jamaica's movement in track and field athletics as he referenced the stash mined in the main stadium.

“I think the scope of Jamaica's throwing overall is going in the right direction. Just like Champs, you need your throwing and your sprinting. Jamaicans have always been good at sprinting from the get-go and now we're better at throwing so eventually Jamaica can get to the top of the medal table at the Olympics, and so forth,” assessed Miller, who threw 20.19 metres.

He had just completed a Jamaican quinella in the shot put event, which was won by Richards, in a Games record 21.03 metres.

Later in the evening, Jamaica would capture gold medals through Smith and Carter in track and field's marquee event, the 100 metres, signalling their depth in the sport.

Both sprinters are at opposite ends of the spectrum and Carter, after being kept out of competition for three years, won in a season-best 10.07 seconds.

“It's not the best conditions here in Colombia, but we're making the best of it,” he said. “Running a season best, I'm very pleased with it.”

A man with a career-best 9.78 seconds over the distance, Carter was not perturbed about his time.

“The time will come; I just have to get back in the groove. I've been out for three years so I've to take it a race at a time,” he assessed. “Next year is the World Championships, I want a medal, whichever colour it may be.”

The race was not without drama as there was a delayed reaction to the starter's second gun and several runners raced almost to the finish line, following a false start by Barbados' Steve Ellis. Carter heard the call early and stopped near 20 metres.

“False starts will always happen, you just have to remain focused and do what you're out there to do and just focus on your lane,” he admitted. “Experience helps a lot and it's always good when you learn from your mistakes, so it's all down to experience.”

There was no such drama however, in the women's finale, as Smith led from gun to tape.

“I feel awesome. I don't think I could've executed a better race. I felt like I stayed patient through the drive phase and when I got up I really ran,” noted the up-and-coming sprinter with a big smile, who clocked a personal-best 11.03 seconds.

“…From the senior trials coming up I've been behind the top names so to come out here with a strong field and start well and finish strongly also, I think that's good on my side,” remarked Smith.

“After this long season, it feels amazing to be running fast and getting faster. I think the wind kind of assisted me a bit, but I'm pretty happy for that. A PR is always good.”

Richards knows a lot about personal bests, he has been around the block many times. The year, however, had not been going well, until he rose to a record challenge to establish a new mark.

The previous two throws were record-breaking, including Miller's 20.19m which got him silver. It seemed to spur Richards into action.

“I'm feeling good. The year has been a struggle for me,” said Richards. “To God be the glory, I hit 21 tonight and hopefully for the next competition I'll go even further.”

Commenting on the Games record, he added: “Those are good things, but what really gives me the most joy is the execution aspect of it. Once I'm able to execute, win, lose or draw, I'll be happy. Getting the gold medal and winning, it's only determined by what other people throw.”

He could've been talking about Miller, who compares career-wise to the sprinters.

“I feel good. This is my first year as a professional and it's always good representing Jamaica, it's always good getting a medal, so I feel good about it,” said Miller. “I could've done better, but I think with more experience I should be fine.”

The JOA sent its largest contingent of 186 athletes to CAC this year and Samuda said successes across age groups vindicate the numerical decision.

“The Jamaica Olympic Association makes no apologies. We are in the business of giving our young people and our young talent options and opportunity to transition to the regional and international stage,” said Samuda. “We're giving an opportunity to experienced athletes also that they too have transitioned and they are providing examples to a younger generation.”

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