Jamaica long jumper Tajay Gayle looks set to add an Olympic medal to the gold he won at the 2019 edition of the World Athletics Championship in Doha.

The Jamaica national champion’s best distance this year is 8.29, well short of the 8.60 recorded by world leader, Greece’s Miltiadis Tentoglou in May.

However, track and field analyst and SportsMax.tv Tokyo Take host Leighton Levy believes the jumper's improvements in other areas will make him a force to be reckoned with when he faces the field in Tokyo.

“I think Gayle is going to fly in the long jump and be among the medals, gold even,” Levy said on this week’s episode. (See full episode below)

“His improved speed is an asset and once he makes the adjustments on the runway for that additional speed, we are in for a spectacular performance from Gayle.”

The jumper has, in fact, shown off plenty of improved speed after recording new personal bests in both the 60m and 100m sprints this season.  Gayle ran 6.78 in the later in February but was even more impressive in the 100, clocking 10.18 to shave huge chunks off his previous personal best of 10.74.  Gayle’s personal best of 8.69, in the long jump, was set in 2019.

Iconic St Lucian high jumper Levern Spencer is yet to achieve her dream of standing on the Olympic medal podium, but very few could dispute the great heights she has already achieved for the tiny island and the wider Caribbean as a whole.

It would have been easy to sit back and accept that odds are stacked against her.  After all, she hails from an island with a population of less than 200,000 and much fewer resources to spare for sport than much bigger nations. 

She did not begin competing in the sport until 14, much later than many of her peers, and at 5’ 9’ in a field where competitors consistently range well over 6ft she is routinely one of the smallest.  But, throughout her life and career, Spencer has habitually slain her fair share of Goliaths.

What she may lack in height, is more than made up for in a big heart filled with determination that has driven her journey of unprecedented achievement so far and the burning desire to keep flying higher.

In total, Spencer, who began representing St Lucia as a junior some 22-years ago, has claimed 21 gold medals for her country so far.  Most famously, she won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, a first for both herself and her country.  It was a proud moment.

“St Lucia had never won a gold medal at this event, and it was my fifth Commonwealth Games, and winning a gold, having won two bronze medals in 2014 and 2010, it was a big deal for us,” Spencer recalled.

 Levern Spencer Wins High Jump Title At Hvezdy v Nehvizdech | World-Track  and Field Website

 

“Being the one to create history is something I will always remember…whenever I stand on the podium hearing my country’s national anthem, seeing the flag being flown, it’s always very special and emotional.  I always had in the back of the mind that it is because of my efforts, because of something I did,” she added.

As with a great many things, barring a twist of fate, the world might never have heard of Spencer.  Things could have turned out much differently for herself and the country.  The athlete did not consider doing the jumps as a very young athlete and only gave it some consideration after it was suggested by a teacher.

“One of my teachers at the time just advised that I do the high jump for my house (intra-school team) and I won the event not knowing anything about technique or the high jump.  So, I’m so thankful that I did not say no and gave it a try,” Spencer said.

“I’m just happy that, that teacher who was my first coach as well, Mr. Gregory Lewin, introduced me to the sport.  Sometimes it’s good to listen and say yes, you’ll give it a try.  Maybe if I had said no, I probably would not have been the high jumper I am today.”

The rest as they say is history, in addition to winning numerous medals and awards, Spencer went on break the county’s national records on several occasions.  In fact, she set the first when she was just a 14-year-old, not too long after starting the event.  She set the current mark of 1.98m in 2010.

At 37, the jumper is heading into the twilight of her career and the time for Olympic glory has all but run out.  Heading into her fourth Olympic Games, however, hope burns eternal that she may be able to create history for St Lucia, yet again, but this time on the grandest of stages.  Spencer knows it will take something extraordinary.

“In order to win Olympic gold, I would definitely need something special on that day.  It might take around a clearance of 2m, which I haven’t done but it’s possible, anything is possible.  I would need something special on that day,” she said.

“Two high jumpers that inspire me are Ruth Beitia and Chaunte Lowe, Ruth despite her age and not having an Olympic medal after three attempts, just like me, she kept going until she won her gold medal and 37 and Chaunte because like me she is one of the smallest in the field and always manages to be competitive despite having to overcome so many challenges.”

In truth, however, even if the athlete were to leave the Games empty-handed, perhaps, for the final time, she had more importantly already served as inspiration for future generations and when it comes to putting her country on the map, flew well clear of that bar, with plenty to spare, a long time ago.

“Despite the many medals that I have won, what I regard as my biggest success in my athletic career is that coming from a tiny nation of only 180,000 people I was able to work hard and be competitive against the best in the world.  Sometimes on many occasions defeating them.  I am happy I have served as an inspiration for up-and-coming St Lucian athletes and I know that I gave my all and my best at whatever I did and persevered to the end.”

2011 World Champion Yohan Blake clocked his fastest time this year after winning the men’s 100m at Friday’s American Track League in Atlanta, Georgia.

The 31-year-old got a solid start before putting away the field to finish in a time of 9.95.  The Jamaican was the only athlete in the field to dip below 10 seconds.

American Elijah Hall was second in 10.08 and his compatriot Kyree King third in 10.12.  Another Caribbean athlete in the race, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Jason Rodgers was fifth in 10.26.  Another Jamaican, Javoy Tucker finished eighth in 10.35.

Blake finished in second position at his country’s national trials two weeks ago but has vowed to leave the Olympic Games later this month with a medal.  The sprinter, who has the second-fastest time recorded over both the 100m and 200m was excited by his performance with the Olympics just a few weeks away.

“I am very excited about the time; give God thanks,” said Blake.

“This is going to be my last Olympic, and I am looking forward to it. Definitely, I am not leaving that stadium (Tokyo 2020) without a medal.”

 On reflection, three-time Jamaica national 400m hurdles champion Janieve Russell can’t help but think that it was her destiny to compete in the event, after the fortuitous circumstances that led to her moving away from the long jump, a discipline near and dear to her heart.

After a superb run that led to her blowing away the country’s best athletes, in a season-best of 54.04 seconds, to claim the Women's 400m Hurdles title at the Jamaica National Championships, it was clearly a great choice but for a long time, one that wasn’t even on the cards.

In fact, Russell spent the majority of her junior career as a long jumper and competed successfully at the ISSA Boys and Girls Championships for her high school, Holmwood, in the event.  The 2019 World 400m hurdles silver medalist now believes wholeheartedly that the track itself called her to her destined event after the unexpected way she ended up competing in it.

"I believe the track was choosing my destiny for me because I really love long jump; that was my main event back in high school and by some chance, I was entered to the 400m Hurdles because someone on the team had to pull out. And then, I just continued, went to MVP and the coach said you are going to stick to the hurdles, not the long jump,” Russell explained.

Russell has had a solid career, and in addition to the three national titles, has picked up wins at the Commonwealth Games and World Cup.

Winning her third national title was a special moment for Russell, who admitted that she fully expected to be up against a challenging field. Her top priority though was to finish in an automatic spot, then channel all her energy to focusing on Tokyo.

"It is a tough field in the 400m hurdles event this year, so I am just using these trials to work on my mental state and I am just really happy to come out on top because my aim was just to be in the top three and just be on the Olympic team,” Russell said.

Off the back of a rectus femoris injury (acute tearing injury of the quadriceps) that she suffered in 2016, Russell insists that she has gotten stronger physically and mentally. 

"My MVP team and I have been working hard on our mental training, been working on my physical (fitness), ensuring that I am not injury prone, because, trust me, two weeks or one week before any trials I have always had an injury. I have been very careful this year, I have been eating properly, I have been doing everything by the book and I am just really grateful again to be out here by the grace of God to compete injury-free and to be on top."

Though she is a decorated nine-time gold medalist at the CARIFTA Games and a double gold medalist at the 2012 World Junior Championships, Russell’s ultimate aim is to match the feats of Deon Hemmings and Melanie Walker who both won gold medals for the country at the Olympic level.

"I will definitely try, as I said before it is a very tough field. I am just going out there with guts and to just represent my country, come out with a personal best and just do the best I can."

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will run from July 23 to August 8.

 

Double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson-Herah legitimately feared missing out on a chance to defend her Olympic titles because of a longstanding, ongoing injury issue.

The athlete finished third in both the 100m and 200m at last month’s Jamaica National Championships but admits for a few weeks leading up to the event she was not sure she could have taken part.

The 29-year-old said that leading up to the national trials, she suffered from an Achilles injury that earlier forced her to withdraw from the Gateshead Diamond League event that she was scheduled to compete in on the 23rd of May.

“It’s that same Achilles injury, it’s been bothering me for almost five years now…it’s not that bad for surgery but it’s overworked I guess, so I have to monitor it properly, Thompson-Herah revealed.

The athlete put in a dominant performance at the Rio Olympics five years ago, where she won gold in both sprint events and silver in the women’s 4x100m relay.

The result at the national trials might not have been exactly what she wanted, but Thompson-Herah maintains she is grateful that she managed to at least finish third in both events, and with that securing the chance to win back-to-back Olympic titles.

“It’s been a challenging month, over the last month I have been in a lot of pain. I drew God closer and said God I am talking to you now, help me to do this at the trials,” Thompson said.

“I spoke to my coach and asked coach ‘will I be able to go to the trials?’ because I was in so much pain. But, I can’t complain, I am not frowning I am smiling through my pain, I have made my second Olympics and I am super excited, the work has to go on.”

Despite the fact that she was hampered by the injury, Thompson-Herah knows that she had to work that much harder, as the competition to secure spots on the team remains fierce.

“A lot of females are out here, and they are hungry for the Olympics, it’s the Olympics, everybody wants to go to the Olympics. I am the reigning Olympic champion, so everybody wants to get to that line (first), myself included.”

As the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games inches closer, quizzed about her expectations, Thompson-Herah insisted she would not be placing any pressure unnecessary expectations on herself, as she focuses on herself and her well-being.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t put any pressure on myself, my main focus is me and my health, I just put in some more work, reset and refocus.”

 

 

Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson continues to send clear signals that she will be a force to be reckoned with in the sprints this Olympics, after registering a convincing win over the Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller-Uibo, at the Gyulai István Memorial meet, on Tuesday.

Jackson, who was formerly a 400m specialist, stepped down to the shorter distances this year and has had impressive results.  The sprinter clocked new personal bests of 10.77 and 21.82 last month at her country’s national championships.

In Hungary, on Tuesday, the runner continued in that vein, dismissing the field to finish first in 21.96.  Jackson seized control of the race early and comfortably held off a typically fast-finishing Miller-Uibo, who took second in 22.15.  Dafne Schippers, the 2017 World Champion, was third in 22.70.

In other action, both Caribbean athletes in the men’s 110m hurdles failed to secure a podium spot.  Jamaica’s Ronald Levy finished fourth with a time of 13.25 and Shane Brathwaite was 7th in 14.10.  The race was won by the United States’ Grant Halloway who took the top spot with a time of 13.08.

In the women’s 400m hurdles, Jamaica’s Janieve Russell took third in a season’s best 53.68.  The race was won by Netherland’s Femke Bol in a meet record 52.81.

Reigning Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah scored an impressive win over compatriot and rival Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, in the women’s 100m, at the Gyulai István Memorial meet on Tuesday.

Two weeks ago, it was Fraser-Pryce who beat Thompson-Herah to claim the Jamaica 100m national title.  This time around, Thompson-Herah turned the tables to lead virtually wire to wire to clock a fast 10.71.  The time was a new meeting record and just one 100th of a second outside of her personal best.

Fraser-Pryce was second in 10.82, with Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josée Ta Lou third in 10.86.  Another Caribbean athlete, Trinidad and Tobago’s Michelle Lee-Ahye was third in 11.09, her second-best time this season.  Fraser-Pryce owns the fastest time in the world this year, and second-best all-time, after her 10.63 clocking last month.

Elsewhere, Stefanie-Ann McPherson continued her excellent run of form after clocking another sub-50 time to claim the women’s 400m.  Running from lane 4, the Jamaican national champion had all but covered the field by the halfway mark and was comfortable in getting to the line in 49.99.  The United States’ Wadeline Jonathas was second in 50.70, with the Netherlands ’ Lieke Klaver third in 51.29.

In other events, Jamaica’s Fedrick Dacres claimed third spot in the men’s discus after registering a best of 65.08.  The event was won by Sweden’s Daniel Sthal who recorded 67.71.  Lithuania’s Andrius Gudžius was second with a mark of 66.71.

The Olympic Games serve as the world’s biggest showcase of sporting talent.

For the Caribbean region, when we hear Olympics, the sport we mainly think about is track & field.

With the region’s rich and storied history of success in the sport, gold, silver and bronze medals are often used to measure the success of respective athletes.  It is, however, far from the only stand.

For some countries, having a representative on the biggest global track & field stage in the world is worth just as much or more than any individual medal.

Antigua & Barbuda is one of those countries and the athlete who has represented them the best on the big stage is sprinter Daniel Bailey.

Bailey, the 100m sprint specialist, has represented his nation in four Olympic Games and five World Championships.

His best result came at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Germany.

The headliners were Olympic champion and world record holder Usain Bolt and defending double sprint champion from the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Tyson Gay.

In the fastest race in history, Bolt ran 9.58 to destroy the world record, Gay ran an unbelievable 9.71 to finish second and Asafa Powell finished third in 9.84.

Bailey just narrowly missed out on a historic medal for Antigua & Barbuda, finishing fourth in that race with a time of 9.93.  It wasn’t his first major championship appearance, but it was also when Bailey became a household name in men’s sprinting.

However, Bailey’s first time representing Antigua and Barbuda on the biggest stage of global athletics came five years earlier in 2004.

As a 17-year-old, he carried the flag for his country during the opening ceremony of the Athens Olympics. It is a memory he will carry with him forever.

“I was elated. I was really, really excited to be holding the flag for my country Antigua & Barbuda. A couple of days before, we had a meeting to decide who would do it and when they shouted my name and said ‘Daniel Bailey, you’re going to hold the flag’, it was a special feeling because I know how much it meant for an upcoming athlete to be holding the flag for his nation,” Bailey said.

To put that into perspective, he carried the flag at those Olympics just one month after competing at the World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy where he finished 4th in the 100 metres in a time of 10.39.

At those Athens Olympics, Bailey finished 6th in his 100 metres heat in 10.51.

Four years later, at the Beijing Olympics, Bailey, then 21, was again the flag bearer.

During the Games, he advanced to the quarter-finals after finishing second to Bolt in 10.24 in the preliminary round.

Bailey then ran 10.23 to finish 4th but failed to advance from his quarterfinal, a race which saw him lined up against Jamaica’s former world record holder Asafa Powell and American Walter Dix, who eventually won the bronze.

A year after those Olympics would see Bailey enter the prime of his sprinting career.

He would finish 4th at the 2009 World Championships and then fifth at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu.

On July 17, 2009, in Paris, Bailey ran a personal best and an Antiguan national record of 9.91.

Bailey then carried his nation’s flag at the third straight Olympics in London 2012 where he competed in the 100 metres.

Running in heat 4, against Bolt once again, Bailey would run a time of 10.12 to finish 2nd   and advance to the semi-finals.

Bailey then lined up against Bolt, American Ryan Bailey and  Richard Thompson, the silver medallist from the 2008 games in his semi-final.

He finished 6th in that race in 10.16 and failed to reach the Olympic final once again.

Bailey admits that he had entered into those Olympics with high hopes but suffered some setbacks along the way.

“I had it in my mind to make my first Olympic final. I was really working hard that year and then I got an injury that set me back a little bit. The first week I got to London I caught a bad flu, and it took a toll on my body. I got eliminated in the semi-finals, but I think my overall performance was good based on what was happening.” 

Fast forward four years to the 2016 Rio Olympics and Bailey became one of the few athletes in history to ever be their country’s flag bearer at four straight Olympic Games opening ceremonies.

That year, he competed in Heat 2 of the men’s 100 metres and finished 2nd in 10.20 behind eventual silver medallist Justin Gatlin and advanced to the semi-finals.

He was then slated to appear in semi-final 3 but did not show up for the start due to injury.

Bailey may not have had the medal haul of many Caribbean greats but he has competed at the highest level of the sport for more than a decade and is a role model for sprinters hailing from smaller Caribbean islands like his native Antigua & Barbuda.

“You have to love it and enjoy it,” were Bailey’s words of wisdom for a new generation of up-and-coming athletes.

“My word to the up-and-coming athletes is to go for your goals. Whatever you believe in, nobody can stop that. Always work hard and smart and remember that dedication is the key to success at all times.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

2011 World 100m gold medallist, Yohan Blake, has promised a return to ‘beast mode’ for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games, reviving an association with a moniker he had given up several years ago.

Just a few months before competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics, Blake publicly stated that he wished not to be called 'the beast' anymore, an on-track persona that had seen him become the second fastest man ever over 200m, after clocking a lifetime best of 19.26secs in 2011.

On the back of a few serious injuries, however, Blake has failed to hit those heights since.  At Jamaica’s National Championships, after a disappointing second-place finish in the men's 100m finals, he was motivated to take the top spot in the 200m.

Unfortunately, things did not go as he had planned.  He was second-best yet again in his second final of the meet. 

With legendary sprint sensation Usain Bolt having retired in 2017, many will be fancying their chances of winning a prized gold medal, and among the hopefuls is Blake himself.

And, for the 32nd staging of the Olympic Games, Blake says he is taking back the 'beast mode' this summer.

"It was a transition that I thought that in myself that the beast represents evil but when I look at it, it’s just a fiction and for me, it’s just acting,” Blake said of the decision.

“It is not like I am taking on the beast, but I am drawing back for the beast, so the beast is going to be back at the Olympics,” he added.

 "I am feeling my old self, I am feeling everything and with God all things are possible. I am getting in my finishing touches and going back to my coach.”

Blake said that finishing second in both sprint events will not impact his confidence going into Tokyo because he is confident in his abilities.

"I know what I can do and definitely, I should have won that 100 with ease, but for some reason, God doesn't want the spotlight to be on me as yet. I just want to sneak up because I know I am not leaving that stadium without a medal."

 

 

 

JeVaughn Minzie's fifth-place finish in the men’s 100m, at the Jamaica National Championships, did not secure one of the automatic spots to Tokyo but it was a dream come true all the same as it did secure an appearance at a second straight Olympic Games.

The 25-year-old was confident heading into the race and insists he and was not intimidated by a strong field.  He had one job, and it was to be sitting on that flight to Tokyo next month.  Three automatic spots were up for grabs and, he was optimistic about his chances.

"For me as long as I made the Olympic team, that was my goal. Just making the Olympic team because I was struggling all season long and came out here back-to-back each time running a season's best. For me, making the team, just making the team, that's all I wanted,” Minzie told SportsMax.tv following the men’s final.

It was not his best-executed race, as many looking on would have noticed. He was made to chase the big guns from start to finish. As a result, the former Class 1 Boys 200M champion had to do a lot to hold on to his fifth-place ticket to Tokyo.

Minzie believes his struggles to secure one of the automatic spots are a result of the last phase of his race, he is convinced that the last forty metres of his race needs to improve before taking the track in Tokyo.

"(I am) working on my last forty metres, I believe that part of my race can get a lot better,” he added.

Minzie, the 2016 4x100m relay Olympic gold medalist, revealed that he will be aiming to finish in the top three of the 200m.

"Tomorrow in the 200 let’s see if I can make the team, stamp it, seal it this time around tomorrow for the 200m."

Minzie also took the time out to laud his mother, who he says gave him great motivation to finish strong at the national championships.

"My mommy called me last night and said, ‘guess what, run for your life' so that is what I just did, and I have made the team."

The finals of the men's 200m is scheduled for Sunday, at 8:45 pm. The former Bog Walk High Schoolboy will no doubt be looking to reclaim some of his Boys and Girls Championship glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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