By Noel ‘Bravo’ Francis, Special to

Several quality athletes from all over the Caribbean will be seeking track & field glory at the 43rd CARIFTA Championships in Martinique from April 19-21, 2014.

It is my view that over the last few years, the CARIFTA games and the wonderful athletes on display have not received the best promotion or hype, to attract track-loving fans leading up to the annual championships like other local track meets in Jamaica. Any junior athletics competition that assisted in nurturing the likes of Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Melanie Walker, Kerron Stewart, Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie, Shaunae Miller, Kirani James, Ato Boldon, Obadele Thompson, Kareem Streete-Thompson, Jehue Gordon, Keshorn Walcott etc. deserves better recognition.

Usain Bolt established the existing world junior record for 200m (19.93) at the CARIFTA Games in 2004. It is a premier track and field event; and therefore, I take this opportunity through this medium to present to you the next generation of Caribbean stars.

Already a number of events are attracting a lot of interest here in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. I will be previewing a few selected clashes that await track fans tuning in from all over the globe in details through a series of articles. In today’s feature, we will look at some of the most talented sprinters eligible for this year’s CARIFTA games in the French Island.

Under-20 Boys 100m

Jevaughn Minzie of Jamaica who ran 10.16 seconds at the Boys & Girls Championships (Champs) for silver behind Anguilla’s Zharnel Hughes is supremely confident that he will win his first individual gold medal at the CARIFTA games. Minzie has had some memorable outings at CARIFTA over the years and three readily come to mind.

1) His infamous turn around gesture in the last 30m to call his T&T opponent Machel Cedenio in the Under-17 200m final in 2011.

2) His dramatic disqualification for a false start a day after claiming the silver medal in the boys Under-20 100m finals in 2012 and

3) Narrowly losing on the line in the Under-20 boys 200m final in Bahamas last year to Teray Smith who ran out of lane eight. Nevertheless, Jamaicans are truly happy that Minzie seems to be on a mission this year to fulfill his enormous talent. His newfound desire to succeed and being fitter, stronger and faster are the main reasons behind his amazing performances this season.

Interestingly, Hughes the defending CARIFTA Under-20 champion at 100m and born on July 13, 1995 is still eligible to compete this year. However, it is not certain if he will participate or skip the games to recover sufficiently from an injury sustained at ‘Champs’ in his record-breaking run of 10.12 seconds and focus on the World Junior Championships in July. Nevertheless, it would be a great boost for the games and the population of Anguilla if a fit Hughes the best junior sprinter in the Caribbean makes an appearance.

The impressive Jonathan Farinha of Trinidad & Tobago looks set to make a big statement at the CARIFTA games this year. The tall and powerful sprinter outclassed his competitors in the T&T trials and won the final in a wind-aided 10.18 seconds. The 2.2 metres per second following wind was just above the legal limit of 2.0. Nevertheless, track fans, including this writer, expect incredible performances from this speedster at the games in Martinique. Farinha who is more of a 200m specialist having won the Under-17 title in 2012 and placing 5th in the finals at the 2013 IAAF World Youth Championships in 21.00 seconds, is also a proficient sprinter in the 100m and could be amongst the medals.

Levi Cadogan the top Barbadian sprinter who placed fifth in the 100m finals last year in 10.53 seconds will be aiming for a podium finish this year. Cadogan, who ran a personal best of 10.28 seconds in 2013, has been in great form this season. He first ran 10.30 seconds on February 23, 2014 and recently broke the 100m dash record at the 2014 Barbados Secondary Schools Athletic Championships with a 10.41 seconds clocking. He will need to produce another outstanding run to medal at this year’s games. The Bahamian sprint pair of Deedro Clarke (10.58) and Cliff Resias (10.59) will not be intimidated by the times of their more illustrious opponents and will be coming to the games with a lot of self-confidence.

Some countries like Jamaica have more than two quality sprinters who have met the Under-20 100m CARIFTA qualifying standard. With only two athletes eligible per event for any country, the management team must choose between Raheem Robinson and Michael O’Hara for the second and final spot to join Jevaughn Minzie for Jamaica. Robinson who was second at the trials in 10.48 seconds has since improved and ran a personal best (10.37) at ‘Champs’ for the bronze medal behind Hughes and Minzie. Whilst, O’Hara who missed the CARIFTA games last year in Nassau, Bahamas because of chicken pox and was granted a medical exemption from the trials this year, has already registered a personal best of 10.29 seconds on February 8, 2014. Either athlete will represent Jamaica with distinction.

If everyone reports in peak condition (Zharnel Hughes included) then this 100m final will be one of the most exciting events on the first day of the championships. Strange as it may seem, a 100m line-up at CARIFTA (on paper) that includes Hughes, Minzie, O’Hara/Robinson, Farinha, Cadogan, and Resias may be marginally more impressive than the Class 1 ‘Champs’ 100m final this year.

However, fans wait anxiously to see if the level of intensity and fast times at ‘Champs’ can be matched or surpassed. Yohan Blake’s 10.11 seconds is the championship record for this event.


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