The Cayman Islands’ history with CARIFTA is a long and positive one.
The inaugural CARIFTA Games were held in 1972 and the Cayman Islands sent its first team to Kingston, Jamaica seven years later in 1979 to compete. The 2019 CARIFTA Games is the third time that the Cayman Islands will proudly stage the region’s premiere junior athletics event, having previously hosted in 1995 and 2010. The games run this weekend from Saturday through Monday at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.
Cayman’s medal-winning athletes
Cayman earned its first CARIFTA medals in 1982 when the games were held in Jamaica. Tabitha Parchment took silver in the U-17 girls’ 1500m and Sandra Wellington secured bronze in both the U-17 girls’ 800m and 1500m. The first gold medal came the following year in 1983 when Adam Llewellyn took first place in the U-17 boys’ discus.
While Llewellyn was the country’s first CARIFTA gold medal winner, Edward Manderson was the first Cayman athlete to win multiple gold medals. Manderson brought home gold in the U-20 long jump in 1985 and double gold in the 1987 Games in the U-20 long jump and triple jump events.
In 1988, Racquel Morrison won gold in the U-17 high jump and in 1990, two of the Cayman Islands’ impressive three gold medals went to Ryan Haylock who took the top spot on the podium in both the U-20 discus and javelin events. In 1991, Dominic Powell took the gold in the javelin competition.
During the late 1980s to early 1990s, Kareem Streete-Thompson led the Cayman Islands in its acquisition of CARIFTA hardware.
Streete-Thompson – a three-time Olympian, now associate head coach at University of Texas San Antonio – has twice won the coveted Austin Sealy Award and still holds two meet records: One in the U-17 long jump which he set at 7.83m in Bridgetown, Barbados in 1989 and the other in the U-20 long jump which he set at 7.94m in Kingston in 1990.
In all, he won a total of four gold medals for the Cayman Islands – one each year from 1987 to 1990 – the most individual gold medals obtained by any of the Cayman Islands athletes at the CARIFTA Games.
In 1996, Cydonie Mothersill brought home the Austin Sealy Award along with two gold medals in the U-20 100m and 200m sprints. She followed it up with a third gold medal in 1997 in the U-20 100m and had an overall CARIFTA medal haul of seven medals with her silver and three bronze medals won in the 1994 and 1995 games. Mothersill continues to be active in the sport and serves in a volunteer capacity on the Cayman Islands Athletic Association Board. Along with government support, she has hosted her own international meet, the Cayman Invitational, six times. Participants have included Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, LaShawn Merritt, Asafa Powell and Carmelita Jeter.
The Cayman Islands would not see gold again for the next seven years (although athletes did earn five silver and nine bronze during that period) until Carlos Morgan and Shane Evans brought it home in the U-20 javelin and the U-17 shot put respectively in 2005. These two events have proved very rewarding at CARIFTA for Team Cayman over the years.
In 2010, Chantelle Morrison won gold in the U-17 100m before a cheering home crowd at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex, and in 2013 Alexander Pascal brought Cayman’s overall gold medal count to 19 when he won the U-20 javelin.
Lacee Barnes is the most recent athlete to put on the triple golden crown for the Cayman Islands at the CARIFTA Games. She dominated the games in her event – shot put – in both 2016 and 2017, and in 2018 led the Cayman Islands team with gold in the U-20 discus and silver in the shot put. Barnes’ teammate Daneliz Thomas also won gold in 2016 in the javelin. Not to be left out, the men ably added to the gold medal count in 2017 with Dominic Dyer winning Cayman’s first gold in a longer distance, the 5000m, while Jamal Walton delighted with a gold in the 200m.
The Cayman Islands has won 25 gold, 32 silver and 42 bronze medals at CARIFTA for a total of 99, a remarkable haul for a country with a population of just over 63,000. Team Cayman is looking forward to passing the century mark at CARIFTA 2019, a goal that is quite attainable with the support of the home crowd at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.
Austin Sealy Award
Over four decades ago, Sir Austin Sealy created CARIFTA, now one of the world’s leading regional junior track and field meets. CARIFTA celebrates its 48th year in 2019 and despite a long list of stellar career achievements, Sealy still views the Caribbean’s junior track and field championships as his biggest achievement in sports.
Sealy, a past president of the Barbados Olympic Association and the first Barbadian to be a member of the International Olympic Committee, recalls that in the 1970s he had meetings with some fellow Barbadians about athletics.
“We couldn’t find any senior athletes at that time and it led, in fact, to the thinking that saw the birth of the CARIFTA Games,” he explains. “In 1972, we had a few athletes on scholarship in the United States, but they weren’t performing exceptionally well, so we thought we would start from scratch.”
Thus, the CARIFTA Games was born. The name CARIFTA is the acronym used for the Caribbean Free Trade Association, which provided economic linkage between the English-speaking countries from 1965 to 1972 and was superseded by CARICOM. CARIFTA was meant to continue to enhance relations between the English-speaking countries of the Caribbean, but the CARIFTA Games took that idea a step further, including the French and Dutch Antilles in the annual junior track and field championship meet.
In 1977, the CARIFTA Games committee recommended the Austin Sealy Award be instituted to honour the contribution of Sir Austin Sealy in the development of the CARIFTA Games. This prestigious trophy is awarded to the most outstanding athlete for either his/her record accomplishment or quality of his/her performances as compared to other top medallists in each year CARIFTA is held.
The Cayman Islands has won the award three times: in 1989 and 1990 by Kareem Streete-Thompson and in 1996 by Cydonie Mothersill.
For tickets and the full schedule of CARIFTA events, visit www.caymancarifta2019.ky.