Carnival atmosphere for CARIFTA

Cayman snags javelin bronze as Jamaica dominates

Jamaican sprint sensation Brianna Williams claimed gold in the women’s U-20 100m and 200m finals. Williams is being hyped as a future Olympic star. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Update Monday evening:

The CARIFTA Games came to a close Monday night with the dominant Jamaicans completing a clean sweep in the sprint relays.

Cayman’s Rasheem Brown came within two-hundredths of a second of giving the islands its second medal on the final evening of what has been a memorable three-day event.

Brown finished fourth in the 110m hurdles.

With the final medal tally still being counted, there was no doubt about the overall winners. Jamaica took 85 medals, including 36 golds, more than three times more than their nearest rivals, Bahamas.

Original text:

The stands of Cayman’s national stadium were shaking this weekend as thousands of track fans gathered to watch the next generation of Caribbean superstars.

A carnival atmosphere pervaded the Truman Bodden Sports Complex, with the flags of almost every Caribbean country waving in unison for CARIFTA 2019.

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A cacophony of thumping drums, blaring trumpets and screaming fans provided the soundtrack to the annual track and field festival.

It was the green, black and yellow of Jamaica that dominated in the stands and on the track, with the perennial sprint kings leading the way.

Seventeen-year-old Brianna Williams took back-to-back gold medals in the women’s U-20 100m and 200m, leaving many inside the stadium wondering if they had just witnessed the arrival of Jamaica’s next great Olympic champion.

Williams said it was great to be a CARIFTA champion again. After her 200m win, she ran another half-lap of the track to celebrate with the large Jamaican contingent packed in to the Mackie Seymour Stand.

“I am very proud of what I did today. I love coming back to CARIFTA. I remember my first time. I was like a nobody and now … I just love this,” she said.

Another name to watch will be Oblique Seville who took the men’s U-20 100m title in 10.24 seconds.

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Amid such intense competition, Cayman’s 52-strong team found the going tough and by Sunday night had just one medal in the official tally to show for their efforts. Competition was ongoing at press time on Monday.

Rachell Pascal, 14, picked up a bronze in the javelin. High jumper Louis Gordon, 18, just missed out on a podium spot with a valiant performance to finish fourth in his class. Aijah Lewis also took an unofficial bronze in the girls’ high jump, though there were not enough competitors for that success to count towards the overall medal table.

Pascal, who threw a personal best 35.5 metres to take bronze on Sunday, said it had been a great feeling to perform so well in front of such a passionate home crowd.

“Cayman is like a big family to me,” she said. “Everyone up there was helping me and cheering me on.”

Lewis, who jumped 1.6 metres to finish third of three competitors in the high jump Saturday, said she was disappointed not to have had the chance to test herself against a larger field, but was happy to get her moment on the podium.

She said it was exhilarating to experience such a large home crowd cheering her on.

“Every time I look back at a CARIFTA games, I will always remember medalling in Cayman,” she said.

Gordon was left disappointed after falling two centimetres short of a top three finish in the men’s U-20 high jump.

“I am disappointed in my final jump, but to be able to perform in front of my home crowd is a good feeling,” he said afterwards.

Levi Superville in the U-17 1500m, Michael Smikle in the U-20 800m and Jaden Francis, a finalist in the women’s U-20 200m, provided some of the other highlights for Cayman.

For others, the games provided a valuable, sometimes chastening look at the level of competition around the Caribbean.

Nahomy Bonilla, 16, only started training in the hurdles four months ago, practicing six days a week for hours at a time to prepare for the competition. She found herself thrown into the lion’s den against some of the best in the world in the 4 x 400m event, finishing seventh overall.

“It was very intimidating,” she admitted after seeing the calibre of the competition.

But she said she had enjoyed competing for Cayman, despite experiencing some nerves in front of such a large crowd.

“It felt quite amazing,” she added.

“I will be back next year and will try to do way better.”

Tahan Rice, 17, had a similar feeling after failing to make it through the 400m heats.

“The competition is fierce. There is no one out there taking it easy,” he said.