The 46th version of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARI-FTA) Games will take place April 15-17 in Curacao on the Easter weekend as per usual.
For the wide body of the Caribbean young boys and girls who take part in this preeminent regional track and field competition, but particularly those from The Bahamas, the challenge once again goes out, a strong plea, for a much greater focus on Jamaica.
Over time, Jamaica has advanced to the point of being out of reach, as it annually devastates the opposing national squads. Without a doubt, our country is generally considered to be next to Jamaica in track and field, in the Caribbean. Ironically, although Jamaica has separated itself from the rest of its sister nations in CARIFTA athletics, there was a time, when The Bahamas was the top CARIFTA Games nation. Yes indeed, during the very early 1980s, The Bahamas won its four, and only titles.
Ever since, Jamaica has been as dominant and perhaps more so (if a thorough research is ever done) than any other country in regional sporting activities. To be frank, although the CARIFTA Games remain easily, the marquee junior sporting competition in the Caribbean, it has become an event of two categories, Jamaica on its throne and the rest of the CARIFTA zone sitting around on the floor in its great presence.
It is truly an amazing run the Jamaican CARIFTA athletes have had. Out of the 45 previous regional junior track and field extravaganzas, Jamaica has won 40 of them. Just The Bahamas with four and Bermuda with one have interrupted the awesome string of phenomenal performances by Jamaica.
It is simply incredible to factor the impressive numbers in favor of Jamaica. Since The Bahamas won the last of its four titles in 1984, no other country has threatened Jamaica. Indeed, for the remainder of the 1980s and the three decades following, Jamaica has been untouchable.
It is almost as if Jamaica could send half of a team and still be favored to win in Curacao.
Let me present one more compelling statistic, to bear out the dominance the rest of the Caribbean, The Bahamas and all, are up against.
Jamaica has won 726 gold medals. The total gold medals won at the CARIFTA Games during the 45 events is 1,423. If you subtract Jamaica’s total of 726, you end up with 697 for all the rest of the Caribbean participating countries. So, Jamaica has won more gold medals than the rest combined. If not a known fact, it would be unbelievable.
Thus, this is where we are at, 33 years after The Bahamas was considered the No. 1 CARIFTA Games country.
What has evolved merits much reflection on the part of The Bahamas, in particular. It is indeed quite an uphill climb faced by the national body for the sport in the country, the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA).
Are we to be perpetually satisfied to be no better than a distant second to Jamaica and sometimes further back, in third or fourth when the points are tallied?
Look, it would be unreasonable to expect The Bahamas to reach Jamaica’s level overnight.
There is the vast population difference. Jamaica has a far wider and deeper pool of talent from which to draw.
However, can we set our sights higher though, to be no worse than second at the CARIFTA Games?
Can we aspire to draw closer and closer to Jamaica, so that one year, in the not too distant future, we could wear the CARIFTA Games crown once again?
Is there willingness within the BAAA to embark upon an exhausting talent search throughout the country to find and nurture a variety of raw talent, capable of competing seriously against Jamaica in all areas of track and field?
I believe the potential is there for the aforementioned to be achieved.
Let’s see what the future unfolds.
• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published Tuesday, March, 14, 2017