By Noel 'Bravo' Francis, Special to TrackAlerts.Com
Track & field fans were treated to some of the most glittering performances seen to date on the athletics calendar on May 9th, 2015. A number of athletes achieved season and personal best milestones at the 12th staging of the Jamaica International Invitational Meet inside the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.
The over 25,000 patrons in attendance received more than value for their money as a festive mood lingered throughout the event which lasted a shade over 3 hours. The passionate and knowledgeable Jamaican track fans had several animated discussions about the night’s proceedings and what the future has in store. We now take a look at some of the highlights of this meet which gets better every year.
|Elaine Thompson enhanced her growing reputation with a wonderful victory in the International women’s 100m…her time 10.97secs to beat Blessing Okabare and Allyson Felix|
Elaine Thompson enhanced her growing reputation with a wonderful victory in the International women’s 100m. Thompson, the joint world leader at this event, showed great poise in executing an almost perfect race upstaging African record holder and Commonwealth double sprint champion, Blessing Okagbare and American superstar Allyson Felix. Her winning time (10.97) and margin of victory shows that she is now ready for the big stage.
For all those who witnessed the emotional return of Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, they must rank his victory in this event as the performance of the meet. He not only silenced his critics, he restored faith among his adoring fans and delivered a strong message to his rivals. Powell’s 9.84 seconds clocking is the fastest time in the world this year by some distance and the manner of his victory suggests that his confidence and fitness are at an all-time high. It was a welcome return to form and strengthens Jamaica’s sprinting chances against the Americans.
This event produced the fastest female 200m times seen this season, a Bahamian record and the meet record being equalled. Bahamian sprinter, Shaunae Miller, confirmed in emphatic fashion that she is one of the best 200m sprinters currently on the circuit. Her personal best winning time of 22.14 seconds confirmed what was said in the preview article for this event that she would have been very difficult to beat on the night. Miller, however, had to dig deep into her reserves to overcome the spirited challenge from Tori Bowie (22.29) and 2013 World Championship double sprint champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (22.39) in the home straight. A lot more is expected from these three wonderful sprinters during the course of this season.
In my preview of the men’s 200m event, mention was made that American Tyson Gay’s movements will be under scrutiny like that of a closed circuit camera. Those images never materialized as Gay was a no-show and only a satellite service could have determined his whereabouts. Nevertheless, track fans were treated to a great race with Jamaica’s Nickel Ashmeade (20.25) edging compatriot Rasheed Dwyer (20.28) for the victory. Jamaican fans love to see intense competition and this event provided lots of it throughout. No one could have predicted the winner with 50 metres remaining and credit must be given to Canada’s Aaron Brown (20.30) and young Julian Forte (20.39) for their sterling contribution to a fantastic race.
WOMEN’S TRIPLE JUMP
From the moment Colombia’s Caterine Ibarguen changed into her outfit and started stretching on the runway area there was something striking and different about her from the other competitors. She attracted a lot of attention and looked all business and flamboyant at the same time. It came as no surprise when the 2013 World Champion and 2014 triple jump Diamond League winner entered her name in the Jamaican Invitational record books when she established a new triple jump meet record of 14.87 metres. The Colombian who has a nursing degree has set her sights on winning gold at the Pan American Games and World Championships in July and August respectively and also the small matter of breaking the world record of 15.50m. She was probably using this meet as a warm up and based on her display in Kingston, Ibarguen seems on target to achieve her lofty goals.
Two meet records and a world leading time were established in the men’s and women’s sprint hurdles. Firstly, the women’s 100m hurdles event saw red hot American Jasmin Stowers showing a flawless technique and running the fastest ever race of this kind seen in Jamaica. She won in a meet record, world leading and personal best time of 12.39 seconds. The young American must have her eyes firmly set on making the American team to Beijing, and as strange as it may sound, she will probably need to run much faster to ensure selection in June.
Secondly, the unbeaten streak of Aleec Harris continued in Kingston. The current world leader looks unstoppable this season. He destroyed another good line-up and in the process established a new meet record of 13.16 seconds. He has a unique hurdling style where his arms flap like a humming bird, however, it is effective and has generated a lot of success for him all season. The sky is the limit for this gifted young man who has now dedicated his energy and focus on this particular event.
|Sanya Richards-Ross (centre) wins the women's 400m in a world leading 49.95 ahead of Francena McCorory and Stephenie-Ann McPherson|
Jamaican born American quarter-miler, Sanya Richards-Ross, produced a world leading run of 49.95 seconds to win the International women’s 400m event. Richards-Ross who has been competing at the Jamaica International Invitational track meet since 2006 looked commanding and in control throughout the event. She relegated the previous world leader and defending meet champion, Francena McCorory into second position. McCorory, who ran a blinding 350 metres before being caught by the rampaging Richards-Ross came home in 50.73 seconds ahead of Stephenie-Ann McPherson who registered 50.98 seconds. Christine Ohuruogu and Novelene Williams-Mills must now realize that they have a lot of catching up to do for the remainder of the season. Thankfully, they have enough time to get ready.
This was another epic event, featuring a host of the world’s best male quarter-milers. Javon Francis, who has embraced the responsibility to spearhead Jamaica’s 400m revival, was competing for the first at the Jamaica International Invitational Meet as a senior. As is customary, Francis did not disappoint running in his usual aggressive manner in front of his home crowd, as he gave his more illustrious rivals a scare when he led for most of the contest. However, ‘the Arabian Rolls Royce’ – Yousef Ahmed Masrahi ran a great race to overhaul the field and take victory in a meet record and season best time of 44.59 seconds. The defending World Champion, LaShawn Merritt, who is now improving with every race dipped below 45 seconds for the time this season with a 44.80 clocking for second. Francis ran a lifetime best of 44.90 seconds to claim the final podium spot to end a satisfying evening for the ardent track fans.
In post race discussions, some observers argued that with increased exposure, Javon ‘Donkey Man’ Francis will gain the necessary experience and learn to reserve a little more fuel for the last 50 metres.
It was a great night of athletics and I had a lot of fun taking in all the action from the Bleachers section this year.
About the Author:
Noel ‘Bravo’ Francis is a very exciting and creative freelance sports writer specializing in the fields of athletics and cricket. His colourful down to earth yet professional personality makes him a favourite amongst athletes and fans. Readers are often exposed to his detailed knowledge and passion which usually increase their interest in the athletes, events and the sport overall. He has a first degree in Banking & Finance and works in the financial industry. Contact Noel at [email protected]