Cayman Islands athletes came away with two medals at the CARIFTA Games in the Bahamas, both in the javelin.
Alex Pascal won gold in the boys Under-20 in his final CARIFTA appearance and novice Daneliz Thomas surprised her coaches by winning bronze in the girls Under-17.
Mr. Pascal, 19, was the heavy favourite for the gold as he was ranked No. 2 in the Caribbean in 2012 behind Keshorn Walcott who a few months after winning CARIFTA last year was the London Olympic champ.
Mr. Pascal threw 67.50 metres in the final in Nassau, ahead of Janeil Craig of Barbados who threw 63.36m. Adrian Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis was third with 63.22m.
Ms Thomas is only 14 and will return to CARIFTA for another two years to compete in the Under-17 division.
She threw a personal best of 37.99m to finish behind Dominica’s Shanee Angol (43.89m) and Barbadian Hayley Matthew (40.30m).
Mr. Pascal said: “I could have thrown further if the run-up wasn’t so sandy, otherwise I would have been shooting for the mids-70s. Anyway, I got what I came here for, the gold.
“I’m very excited. This was my fourth CARIFTA and first medal. I’ve met a lot of good people and made new friends here in the Bahamas. It was nice coming here because I’ve never been here before.
“People in Cayman are really proud of me and sending me lots of nice messages.”
He is back at military school and continues to train till May when he graduates from Florida Air Academy.
His father Richard said: “Alex’s mood going into the CARIFTA Games was good, very confident.
“He told the local media and said on TV the day before that he was not leaving Bahamas without the gold.
“He had some small challenges as it was extremely windy and the run-up surface was too sandy, which caused him to slip each time, so he had to turn to plan B, which was to use his power and speed in his arms.
“After this there are all sort of plans, all depends on funds. We would like to bring in his coach from Cuba to Cayman, or send him off to a training camp.
“Hopefully either one will prepare him for the upcoming senior Central American and Caribbean Games in July, then the Island Games in Bermuda in the same month, then there are the Pan Am Juniors in August.
“The big one to aim for are the World Championships in Moscow in August. The qualifying standard is 81m, so he has his work cut out.
“God willing, by then he could be going off to the University of Missouri–Columbia, where Kareem Streete-Thompson (the former top Caymanian athlete) is coaching.
“They are very excited and looking forward to him being part of their team.”
Dalton Watler, president of the Cayman Islands Athletic Association, said: “Alex performed to expectations at a good distance although he was hoping to reach the 70 metres-plus mark.
“I hope his success will inspire more youngsters. It was a coincidence that we got medals in the javelin but is shows that we need to develop our programme to maximise our resources.
“Danezil’s medal was a surprise. Even though she had only thrown around 29m, 30m and 31m in domestic meets we thought we would give her chance and she threw almost 38m to win the bronze.”
Mr. Watler added: “Pascal has got good support from the athletic association and the government and now we would like to bring in two field coaches from Cuba to extend the programme.
“The association is prepared to pay for their accommodation, transport, food, gas and general expenses but we need the government to pay their salaries.”
Minister of Sports Mark Scotland said: “Alex Pascal has been sponsored by the government since last September so it is no coincidence that he won gold at CARIFTA.
“Congratulations to him but, frankly, we didn’t expect anything less. We have sponsored him around $40,000 so far. Congratulations to him and Dalton Watler and the rest of the track association.
“Coaches have said that he has the potential to be world class. One from the University of Missouri-Columbia who came here to assess him last December said that he had never seen a youngster like Alex throw the javelin so fast.
“I’ve known Daneliz since she was five because she is a good friend of my daughter. I’ve seen her progress in track. She has always been a good athlete but tried in the wrong disciplines, like sprinting.
“Both her parents are former athletes and it’s nice to see her in her right discipline now.
“Congratulations to the whole CARIFTA team. The 4x400m relay team was fourth. Track and field is on the rebound, there are a lot of youngsters coming through.”