Athlete of the year and the Hall of Fame

Article by: 
Bernie Panton
February 24, 2018

The Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) has not announced selections for “athletes and coaches of the year” for the past two seasons. Prior to this hiatus, annual award functions were held under the sponsorship of the Bank of Nova Scotia. Although no reason has been proffered for the cessation of the event, it would seem that declining attendance by award winners may have been a contributing factor.

From the outset, there has been unease with the name of the awards – “Golden Cleats” being an import from North American sports and deemed inappropriate for track and field awards in Jamaica. Whatever

the causes for the break, an annual award function for our athletes and coaches should be reinstated to honour those who have brought so much glory to our nation. _This effort should be led the JAAA and

cannot be just an adjunct to the admirable RJR/Gleaner “Sportsman of the Year’ ceremonies.

This situation comes against the background of neglect by successive JAAA administrations to publicly recognise the contributions of those who have retired from the sport. One remedy is to continue to select entrants to the JAAA’s Hall of Fame, established in 2003. The only induction ceremony to date, which was sponsored by the VMBS Group, took place almost fifteen years ago, when the Helsinki heroes

were inducted into the Hall.

The proposed annual induction ceremony would include a segment for the awards to current performers, and thereby lift the profile of the suspended awards - heroes of the past inspiring the stars of the present and future.

The names of some potential hall of famers come quickly to mind: Jumpers, James Beckford and Trecia Smith; sprinters, Ray Stewart and Juliet Cuthbert; (I have not forgotten Ottey, Quarrie and Bolt, all of whom have had statues erected in their honour by a grateful nation); quarter-milers, Bert Cameron and Lorraine Graham; hurdlers, Winthrop Graham and Deon Hemmings, also Melaine Walker and Foster-Hylton; and of course, posthumous awards to George Kerr, Lennox Miller and Keith Gardener, and coaches G.C.Foster and Ted Lamont.

Entrants would be considered after an agreed number of postretirement years and would be limited, to say, three or four inductees per year. A physical location for the Hall has still not been identified, but this should not be allowed to delay the resumption of the award ceremonies.

Athletes of the Year 2017

Who would be my current choices for the 2017 awards?

Male Athlete of the Year – Omar McLeod

Female Athlete of the Year – Ristananna Tracey

Coach of the Year – Maurice Wilson

Junior male Athlete – Dejour Russell – 110m hurdles under-18

Junior female Athlete – Britany Anderson – 100m hurdles under-18

However, there are some excellent challengers for most of these selections. Dejour’s quality times (world’s 3 fastest times in 2017) gave him the nod over Youth World Champs 400 winner, Antonio Watson, and PanAm Juniors 200 champion, Christopher Taylor. Thrower, Kevin Nedrick’s multiple medal

hauls in regional meets, also merited consideration. Sanique Walker had the world’s fastest time in the under-18 400m hurdles for the year but missed out on the youth world champs gold by 4 hundredths of a second, and yields to Britany, the youth world champion in the sprint hurdles.

At the senior level, Tracey’s bronze medal at London’s World Championships edges out Elaine Thompson’s string of fast sprint times during the year. Producing her lifetime best in the final of

the 400m hurdles -when it matted most- would make Tracey a worthy recipient of the honour.

We have been amiss in not publicly recognising the sacrifice, hard work and dedication of most of our retired athletes and coaches.

Our Association has to show its own explicit appreciation of the stellar service to our country on the world stage by these outstanding patriots. Let us provide the platforms on which to say ‘thank you’ to our past heroes and our current ambassadors.