Baptiste scorches track
By STEPHON NICHOLAS Wednesday, December 14 2011
EPHRAIM SERRETTE, president of the National Association for Athletics Administration (NAAA) has described 2011 as a progressive year for track and field.
Speaking to Newsday, Serrette outlined several positives that took place in the sport which culminated in a memorable bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships in South Korea.
Tobago’s Kelly-Ann Baptiste created history with her first medal at an international Championships, crossing the finish line third in the Women’s 100m final in a scintillating 10.98 sprint.
The 25-year-old had an impressive European season with gold medals at the 90th ISTAF Meet in Germany, Areva Meeting in France and Spitzen International Meet in Switzerland as well as several top three finishes.
Serrette hailed TT’s sprint queen and believes she was undoubtedly the standout performer of the year.
“She was consistently under 11 seconds and was on the rostrum at the World Championships. It’s a breakthrough for our female sprinters and something I know they’ve been waiting on for a long time,” Serrette said.
Despite only finishing with one medal courtesy Baptiste, the NAAA boss maintains that TT performed well at the World Championships.
“The sport continues to progress and we had a very interesting year for the juniors. The seniors also got a good indicator at the World Championships before the Olympics; people have a sense of what is required...Much has been said (about the single medal haul) and we always think we can do better (but) we had some unfortunate incidents with the Men’s relay team and the Americans falling in their path but for me it was a good indicator. We had some great achievements with 19-year-old Michelle Lee Ahye reaching the semi-finals of the Women’s 100m (11.48) and 19-year-old Kai Selvon (23.11) in the “semis” of the Women’s 200m. The Women’s 4x100m relay team finished fourth in the final and broke the national record. Expectation is always more than what is delivered,” he explained.
Serrette believes these performances as well as others by national juniors show that the future of the sport is in good hands.
Ahye won gold in the 100m at the 2011 Junior Pan Am Games while Keshorn Walcott demolished the CARIFTA record in the Boys Under-20 javelin.
“The two 19-year-olds on the world stage performing like that, it augers well for us. The onus is for us to work with the athletes and ensure they develop,” he said.
Serrette says his organisation has made significant strides in 2011 and they are on their way to becoming self-sufficient.
“Our sport continues to grow as a spectator sport. We had over $100,000 in gate receipts at the National Championships. Last year we won Administration of the Year at the First Citizens Awards and I don’t think this year is going to be different. We’re a non-profit organisation and depend on Government assistance but we’re working to be self-sustained,” he said.
The NAAA president revealed negotiations are in place with a corporate sponsor for the implementation of a programme which involves talent identification, recruitment of athletes in schools and a national policy.
With the 2012 Olympics the next major event to look forward to, the NAAA head remained coy about his predictions and said the nature of the sport makes predictions foolhardy.
“Our sport is not an exact science to predict. You have to wait and see who are the athletes in shape leading up (to the Olympics and then on day who is ready,” he said.
The year did not pass without its share of controversy in the sport with the postponement of the National Championships due to the incomplete installation of a new track at the Hasely Crawford Stadium not going down well with players or the NAAA.
The event has to be pushed back two months and took place mere weeks before the start of the World Championships in August. Several athletes complained that it would affect their preparation for the international meet but the NAAA held firm that the date was the only one in the calendar that was available.
National sprint champion, Richard Thompson, scorched the tracks at the “Nationals’, breaking Ato Boldon’s 100m record with a sublime 9.85 clocking. He failed to get moderately close to that time at the “Worlds” and bowed out at the semi-final stage as pundits stated he perhaps peaked too early. The controversy did not stop there as World Junior 400m hurdles champions, Jehue Gordon, almost did not take part at the “Worlds” because the NAAA failed to register him.
NAAA general secretary, Allan Baboolal, took full blame for the error but the blunder did not hurt TT as the IAAF eventually accepted Gordon’s late registration.