Mixed views as coaches digest reduced Diamond League scheduleSunday, May 31, 2020
BY PAUL A REID
All things being equal, at least one set of local-based Jamaican athletes could be on the reduced Wanda Diamond League circuit this year.
And Maurice Wilson, head coach of the Sprintec Track Club, said he would “encourage” athletes under his charge to grab the oppurtunity to make their mark on the global stage.
Despite being forced to cancel or reschedule a number of their early stops on what was supposed to be a 14-meet schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic, World Athletics, the global ruling body for the sport, recently released a condensed schedule set to start in August.
While Wilson urged athletes to jump at the oppurtunities, US-based Jamaican coach, Lennox Graham, prefers the cautious approach, claiming it was more than just “putting down dates” that would be required for him to consider the Diamond League.
Additionally, Graham who is based in South Carolina, said COVID-19 protocols would also determine the number of races in which athletes could compete, if quarantine would be required when international borders are crossed.
Meanwhile, Glen Mills, president and head coach of Racers Track Club, told the Jamaica Observer his organisation is “still speculating” about taking part in the international track and field season, saying “presently I have no athlete training on the track”.
Up-and-coming athletes, Wilsom argued, could grab the chance to make their names with big performances, while more established ones could use the meets to enhance their own earning power.
Wilson, who is also the principal of GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sports, said: “Track and field has always been about performances, and unless you are an established star, it is important that you continue to improve on your performances every time you get the chance.”
“Spectators will always want to see who can throw the longest, who can jump the highest, and who can run the fastest,” he added.
Wilson admitted that he has had a change of heart after first giving up on the 2020 season because of the coronavirus, says he was ready to make the best of the situation.
“Even though I was one of those persons who thought that it would not have been possible for any more meets to be held [after late June], but now that World Athletics have come up with a number of proposed meets I think that it would be good for those athletes who have not made a name for themselves to utilise the opportunity to compete and make the world be aware of their presence and what they can deliver,” noted Wilson.
With some of the more established stars expected to sit out the season, he said this was the time for the unknowns to stake their claim with global championships around the corner.
“If, for example, one of these second or third tier athletes should perform in one of those Diamond League meets and produce a superb performance, you best believe that come next year it will be on the minds of people, so I am advocating for my athletes who are still in training to try and attend some of these meets,” Wilson stated.
Among those who he said would be looking to make themselves available are former Muschett High sprinter, Romario Williams, who ran 10.20 seconds at the Intercol championships in 2018, went away to the US, but has returned home; Tovia Jenkins, the former Inter-seconary School Sports Association (ISSA) Girls Champs medallist; quarter-miler Dawnalee Loney; and sprinters Chadic Hines, who Wilson said was in fine form, and Everton Clarke.
Former World Youth 100m hurdles champion, Yanique Thompson, was another consideration, as she is injury free for the first time in almost eight years.
Physically, Wilson said his athletes would be ready, as they had been maintaining “athletics shape and form” during the lockdown, and doing so despite the logistics that had to be put in place.
“I made it very clear to the athletes from two days before we had the lockdown that it is their responsibility to maintain athletic shape,” he said recently.
Graham, who conditions hurdlers, Danielle Williams and Kemar Mowatt, among others at his Clemson University base, told the Observer that, “I have noted that World Athletics has revealed a reduced Diamond League schedule starting in August.”
“And I note that we are expecting that there will be some easing of restrictions, [and] it's hard to plan for that [as] you have the national federations, the meet directors, the Olympic associations, and the governments are looking at the economic side and the public health sides and all of those things kinda have to line up in some form of way for these things to happen,” he reasoned.
Graham said getting to cities for meets could pose some problems.
“For example, if there are Diamond League meets in Europe and there needs to be quarantine, that whole thing, or if you have to go to Europe and come back into the USA and you have to quarantine, there are those uncertainties that we don't know, so it's tough to say from way out from where we are now,” he noted.
Wilson said, however, that there were some positives and things were moving in the right direction.
“It's encouraging to see that people are confident and starting to put dates down, but there are a lot more details than just the dates,” he said.
One hurdle his athletes would face, Graham said, was getting back to competition fitness after not been able to train properly for the last two months or so.
Williams, the 2015 World Champion and 2019 bronze medallist in the 100m hurdles, had earlier pulled the plug on her season due to the uncertainties. Graham said: “For us specifically we were not able to do any training; facilities were closed down here in South Carolina, and so my athletes are not in a position now where they are anywhere near ready to race.”
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