BY PAUL A REID
Garth Gayle, president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), said it was the hard, unrelenting work of the federation and in particular the competitions and medical commissions that has led to the restart of track and field in the island, this coming weekend.
Yesterday the JAAA announced it had been given permission for competition to restart this calendar year, following a one-week delay, and as many as nine meets are slated to be held across the island on Saturday.
“The Jamaica Athletics Administration Association has received permission from of the Government of Jamaica, through the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Ministry of Sport, and the Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development, to host a series of Qualification Trials to give our junior and senior athletes the much-needed competition,” the release said, emphasising that “there will be strict enforcement of COVID-19 protocols at all meets”.
No spectators will be allowed at the meets, which will see a restriction in the numbers of people who will be allowed to attend. The venues where the meets will be held are St Elizabeth Technical High School, Herbert Morrison, Cornwall College, Kirkvine, G C Foster, Jamaica College, National Stadium, Stadium East, Calabar High School, UWI-Mona and Excelsior High School.
Meanwhile, president of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) Keith Wellington said the restart was a big step forward for track and field, but admitted that there was still a lot of work to be done if the five-day Boys’ and Girls’ Championships could be hosted in late April.
It was expected that the sport would have restarted last weekend after being put on pause since last year, but a significant increase in new COVID-19 infections had seen the Government clamping down on restrictions including lowering the maximum number of people who can gather to 10 and bringing the start of the daily curfew up to 8:00 pm.
The JAAA announced a four-week series of meets and said all athletes who wish to take part must sign a ‘COVID-19 waiver’ adding: “Athletes under 18 years old must submit a waiver signed by a parent or guardian. The waiver can be downloaded from the entry portals or from the JAAA website.”
Gayle told the Jamaica Observer yesterday, “We were clear in our message and in our reporting to the ministries. We kept one focus, which was to reduce the likely spread of the SARS-COVID-19 and so we did all the things as we had set out in a letter to our athletes last week.”
He said the organisation had worked tirelessly to get the go-ahead from the Government. “The executive as well as two sub-committees — the competitions and the medical commissions — both have been working on a daily basis to see how best we can engage all stakeholders, from the meet organisers and the various training components, and so with all this being combined we were confident that we would be able to get the restart of our beloved sport of track and field, and so today I am happy to have received the written authorisation from the Office of Disaster Preparedness & Emergency Management (ODPEM) giving us permission for a four-week series of trials, and we know we will make good on it and we will ensure that all medical protocols are observed, social distancing and wearing of masks, etc.”
The JAAA boss was grateful to the government agencies the organisation worked with and also thanked the “athletes and coaches who have been patiently waiting on this response”.
Wellington added, “We are pleased with the announcement that the Government has finally given the go-ahead for track and field to resume, this means a lot to us at ISSA,” he said. “We are continuing our plans for Champs, but we are however still cognisant of the fact that while we may be able to get a start to our track and field season this weekend, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of getting the COVID-19 virus under control to make it safe enough for us to have a meet of the magnitude of Champs, even the scaled-down version that we plan to have.
“We are happy that our students can start preparing in a meaningful way for Champs but we also realise that a lot still needs to be done for us to get to that point where it will be safe to have Champs, but this is a big step for us,” the ISSA president added.
Photo: President of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), Garth Gayle