Jamaican throwers packing a punch
By Dania Bogle
Fedrick Dacres, Traves Smikle, O’Dayne Richards, Chad Wright, Ashinia Miller. What do all these names have in common? They are all athletes who in the last four or five years put Jamaica’s name on the map in track and field in the throws, be it discus or shot put.
Dacres is currently the most celebrated, becoming Jamaica’s first athlete to win a gold medal at the world level when in 2011 he won gold at the World Youth Championships in Lille, France and repeated a year later at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain.
In 2011, Richards won a gold medal for Jamaica in the shot put at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China and also captured the top medal at the Central America and Caribbean Games in Colombia in 2013.
Miller holds the national shot put record of 20.15m which he threw in January of 2012 and Smikle qualified to compete at the London Olympic Games in 2012.
Except for Richards, all the athletes mentioned also attended Calabar High School where they were coached by Julian Robinson, a former thrower himself.
Another celebrated Jamaica throws coach, Michael Vassell, who is chief organiser of the King of the Ring meet, told Milesplitja that it augurs well for the sport locally that the throws are finally getting respect.
Cornwall College’s Warren Barrett threw 54.94m at the 2014 King of the Ring, which surpassed the record (51.75m) for the event at the Boys & Girls Athletic Championships, and Vassell noted that more than six records had fallen on the day.
“So the throwers are making the records looking like their soft records,” he said.
“The results are showing that we are getting to world class standards. Technical competence has improved and as a result we are seeing the improvement all around.”
Among the teams which competed at the event held on February 8 were non-traditional schools such as Meadowbrook, Yallahs High, St. Catherine, St. Jago, and Vere Technical.
“So we see these schools starting to produce throwers.”
Vassell tried to account for the sudden surge in local throwing talent.
“I think it’s about seeing people things they never knew throwers could do. It started with Traves. You’ve been seeing him at Champs. Seeing him going to UWI and he is still here. It gives them hope that they can also achieve it.
“When you see Dacres who we see every week on our TVs at the World Youth winning a gold medal and we see him come back at a track meet it shows us that it can be done and I think this is one of the greatest things that has happened out of this.”
Vassell believes it will encourage other youngsters to take up the throws.
“It will. Last week at the Big Shot (Invitational) we had over 500 athletes and today we had 480. It shows that there is a whole group of persons that are throwing or who want to throw.”
“We’re getting there. We are building our community. We are building our stars.”