ISSA’s tough call - Sporting body to make final decision on Champs date soon

ISSA President Keith Wellington says that a decision is expected to be made soon regarding whether to stick to the planned date for the 2021 ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships (Champs) or to finalise a new date.

ISSA tentatively designated March 23-27 as the primary date for this year’s Champs in December, with a provision to host it from May 4-8 should the island experience a surge in COVID-19 cases. However, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has not yet approved the restart of events for the junior track and field season, resulting in several postponements of developmental meets such as the Queen’s/Grace Jackson Meet, and most recently, the Milo Western Relays.

Wellington said that a resolution to the matter could be reached by next week after completing discussions with its various partners.

“We have been having discussions all week as to what our options are, but we need to complete the discussions with all our stakeholders before we indicate publicly what would be the date. We expect to do so some time during the course of next week,” Wellington said.

Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) president Garth Gayle said recently that approval for meets could be granted in two weeks. Despite the ministers of sport and health indicating their commitment to restarting sports, the wait could complicate the schedule, with events having to be reorganised, in addition to other international events such as Penn Relays (April), Carifta Games (July), and the World Athletics Junior Championships (August).

OPPORTUNITY FOR ATHLETES

Wellington says that ISSA still intends to have as many meets as it can leading up to Champs and says that the likelihood of schools missing the Penn Relays this year could present an opportunity for athletes to continue competition at home if the alternative May date is used.

“What we would want is to have as many meets as possible each weekend so that teams would not have to travel across the island, and everyone does not have to turn up at [the] meets,” he said. “If we can get more meets spread across the weekend and have smaller numbers at each meet, then it would be a model of the way going forward. I doubt that we’ll see anyone attempting to go to Penn Relays this year.”

JAAA first vice-president Ian Forbes says that ISSA’s contingency plan, if activated, could work if approval is given promptly.

“It is looking very dicey for that March date at this point in time because there is a very limited window for athletes to qualify in respect to time and distance. [But] if we get started in short order, that looks doable,” Forbes said.

Champs was cancelled in March last year because of the pandemic, the second time that the event was not held in its over 110-year history. The first time was in 1944 because of the World War II.


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