Ready to take on the world

CARIFTA Cayman at the starting line

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In the quiet of a half-empty Truman Bodden Sports Complex Tuesday afternoon, 13-year-old Stephen Watson went through a handful of practice high jumps, effortlessly flopping over the bar in a light training session.

On the track, athletes practised their starts and went through stretching drills, putting the finishing touches on months-long training programmes, tapering towards what for many will be the biggest track meet of their lives.

Elsewhere, dance troupes rehearsed their routines in front of an empty grandstand, while administrators huddled in back offices in the bowels of the stadium, inking in the last details of the schedule.

By Saturday, it will be a very different scene.

The stands will reverberate with the sound of screaming parents and the booming bass drum of the Bahamian Junkanoo band when CARIFTA 2019 gets under way.

The spotlight will be on Cayman’s young athletes for three days as the annual track and field meet that brings together the best competitors in the region comes to the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.

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“It is going to be fun,” said Watson, who is among the youngest of Cayman’s 52-strong team and will compete against much older athletes in the U-17 category.

“I think maybe when I am 15 or 16, I will have a better chance to win; it is a good experience for me so when I get older, I know how to handle it.”

The tournament may offer a chance to see some of the Olympic stars of the future.

Usain Bolt made his blistering debut at CARIFTA in Trinidad in 2003 before going on to become the best sprinter in history.

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This year, another Jamaican sprint phenomenon, Briana Williams, is expected to light up the track en route to a likely Olympic debut in Tokyo next year.

Among the Cayman competitors, there are high hopes for Rasheem Brown in the 110m hurdles and for Louis Gordon in the high jump, among others.

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For all of the Caymanian contingent, it is a chance to test themselves against some of the best in the world.

Head coach Kenrick Williams has one ambition for his athletes.

“The best-case scenario is that they leave their hearts, their blood, sweat and tears out on the track or on the field,” he said.

“The medal is a bonus but I want to know at the end of the day every athlete did their best.”

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He said there were several athletes with medal hopes and he has high expectations for the relay teams. Coach Williams believes home-field advantage may also spur Cayman on to beat its haul of five medals from last year’s event.

“I think they will rise to that occasion,” he said. “That’s why we have such a large contingent.

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Most of the kids really put their heart and soul to compete in front of their country right here.”

Day passes priced between $10 and $25 are available here.

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