Elite League gets un­der way to­day

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS - HU­BERT LAWRENCE has made notes at track side since Ray­mond Graham Gleaner Writer

AWARDS SEA­SON is here in all its glory. In a Ja­maican con­text, it cli­maxes at the RJR Sports Foun­da­tion Sports­man and Sportswoman of the Year Awards Cer­e­mony in early Jan­uary, but two big ones will ar­rive be­fore the end of this month. The Caribbean Sports Jour­nal­ists As­so­ci­a­tion will dole out prizes for per­for­mances in 2016, while the Caribbean Hall of Fame Awards for Ex­cel­lence will hon­our both the past and the present.

The lat­ter presents an in­trigu­ing face-off with a coach­ing award cat­e­gory that pits track and field high achiev­ers Glen Mills and Stephen Fran­cis against each other. It will be fas­ci­nat­ing to see who wins. More im­por­tant, it’s heart-warm­ing to see the re­gion hon­our­ing its own.

Fur­ther afield, de­lib­er­a­tions con­tinue with regard to the IAAF Ath­lete of the Year Award. At first blush, South Africa’s Wayde van Niek­erk seems to be a run­away win­ner. The 24-yearold ticks all the right boxes, with an un­de­feated sea­son capped by a world record 400-me­tre run to gold at the Rio Olympics. The year 2016 was also when the smooth-strid­ing South African be­came the first ath­lete to have times un­der 10 sec­onds in the 100m, un­der 20 sec­onds in the 200m and un­der 44 sec­onds in the 400m.

Add his mighty im­pres­sive 31.03-sec­ond run over 300 me­tres at the in­au­gu­ral Rac­ers Grand Prix and you have a cock­tail of ex­cel­lence. Those who favour other can­di­dates for the IAAF award will dig deeper. They see that, though van Niek­erk stormed to a world record of 43.03 sec­onds from lane 8, he never had even one other time un­der 44.

Grist for that mill in­di­cates that his his­toric sub-10 – 9.98 sec­onds in Bloem­fontein, South Africa – came at 1395 me­tres of al­ti­tude and with a near-per­fect aid­ing wind of 1.5 me­tres per sec­ond. The track and field num­bers peo­ple cal­cu­late that down to 10.08 sec­onds if you zero the wind and al­ti­tude.

ONE BIG PER­FOR­MANCE

If you take the po­si­tion that van Niek­erk had just one big per­for­mance in 2016, you might give the award to some­one else, but it would have to be some­one who won in Rio AND who was con­sis­tently good through­out the Olympic cam­paign.

When Us­ain tripped, re­cov­ered and then ac­cel­er­ated and eased up in front of a fine field to win the Rac­ers Grand Prix 100 in 9.88 sec­onds, it looked like the tall man might have been headed for some re­ally fast times. The same feel­ing arose when he ran 19.78 sec­onds in his Olympic 200-me­tre semi­fi­nal. An in­jury en­forced break, how­ever, made real speed im­pos­si­ble and caused him to ‘lose’ at the Na­tional Cham­pi­onships and to cut his sea­son short.

De­spite that, one sports ra­dio show host asked re­cently if Bolt could not win on sen­ti­ment born of his com­ple­tion of the Olympic triple tre­ble. The vot­ing for the award ac­tu­ally does have a po­ten­tially ‘sen­ti­men­tal’ com­po­nent as the IAAF Coun­cil’s vote will only count for 50% of the re­sult, while the IAAF Fam­ily’s votes and the pub­lic votes will each count for 25% of the fi­nal re­sult.

The IAAF fam­ily is com­posed of IAAF mem­ber fed­er­a­tions, IAAF Com­mit­tee mem­bers, IAAF meet­ing di­rec­tors, IAAF ath­lete am­bas­sadors, ath­letes’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives, top ath­letes, mem­bers of the in­ter­na­tional press, IAAF staff mem­bers and the IAAF’s of­fi­cial part­ners. Could Bolt sen­ti­ment hold sway within this group? We will soon see.

Kenyan Con­selius Kipruto dom­i­nated the 3000-me­tre steeplechase all sea­son and won in Us­ain Bolt (left) train­ing with South African Wayde van Niek­erk at the UWI Bowl ear­lier this year.

Rio. How­ever, he never crossed the 8-minute bar­rier. Omar McLeod won the 60-me­tre hur­dles at the World In­door Cham­pi­onships, broke the 13sec­ond bar­rier in the 110-me­tre hur­dles AND won gold in Rio. Two pre-Olympic losses, one due to a fall, dam­aged his card.

De­signed to fa­cil­i­tate com­par­i­son, the IAAF Per­for­mance Ta­bles give van Nierk­erk 1310 points for his world record. Bolt would need times of 9.71 and 19.44 sec­onds in the 100m and 200m, re­spec­tively, to find par­ity. His fastest 2016 100m was clocked at 9.81 sec­onds in Rio. The ta­ble equates that to a 43.57 400m me­tre time and 1273 points.

Bri­tish dis­tance king Mo­ham-med Farah tripped and

fell but re­cov­ered to win gold in the Olympic 10,000m fi­nal and com­pleted the dou­ble with a vic­tory in the 5,000m. Marathon mae­stro Eliud Kip­choge and de­cath­lete Ash­ton Ea­ton both won both of their com­pe­ti­tions, in­clud­ing the Olympics. The ta­bles aren’t too kind to any of these men. Farah gets 1237 for his fastest 10,000 of the year – a time of 26 min­utes 53.71 sec­onds, with Ea­ton’s Olympic record score of 8893 gath­er­ing 1247 points and with Kip­choge scor­ing 1288 for his best marathon of 2 hours 03 min­utes and 5 sec­onds.

By com­par­i­son, van Nierk­erk’s sec­ond-fastest 400 of the year – a 44.11 – nets a mere 1237 points from the IAAF ta­bles.

The his­tory of the award is, nev­er­the­less, in­struc­tive. World records have been on the port­fo­lio of 21 of the 29 pre­vi­ous win­ners. As we all know, the only man with a world record in 2016 is Wayde van Niek­erk.

Only one ques­tion re­mains. With all these awards, ex­cept the Sports­man and Sportswoman of the Year Award, tak­ing place in 2016, what hap­pens to big per­for­mances if they oc­cur in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber? For ex­am­ple, West Indies bats­man Chris Gayle scored 333 against Sri Lanka in the mid­dle of Novem­ber 2010. Would such a per­for­mance be too late to make the awards cut?

ISEVERAL of the is­land’s top net­ballers will be in ac­tion to­day as the third stag­ing of the Berger Elite League (BEL) will get un­der way in­side the Na­tional In­door Sports Cen­tre with the play­ing of two matches.

In the open­ing game at 6:30 p.m., the Un­der-21 Shin­ers will take on the St Ann Orchid, while at 7:45 p.m., de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Claren­don Ga­tors will op­pose Kingston Hum­ming­birds.

In the cur­tain-raiser, the Janet Guy-coached Orchid team will start as favourites over the Na­tional Un­der-21 out­fit, as they have a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence in their squad.

The team will in­clude the likes of vet­eran Si­mone Forbes and Althea By­field, and will be com­ple­mented by Shan­ice Beck­ford, Giselle An­der­son and Adean Thomas, who are all part of the present na­tional se­nior line-up.

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how the Un­der-21 team matches up against more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers as they con­tinue their prepa­ra­tion for the Net­ball World Youth Cup slated for Botswana next July.

In the fea­ture, the Dalton Hinds-coached Claren­don Ga­tors will be hop­ing for a win­ning start and coach Hinds, de­spite los­ing most of his play­ers from last year’s team, re­mains very op­ti­mistic about their out­look for the up­com­ing sea­son.

“We will be with­out four play­ers from last year’s win­ning team but our chances of re­tain­ing the ti­tle are very good,” said Hinds. Beck­ford

Kasey Ever­ing and Ni­cole Aiken-Pin­nock will lead the charge here for the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons.

Marvette An­der­son’s Kingston Hum­ming­birds will be hop­ing to deny the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons a good start and will look to­wards the likes of Shameera Ster­ling, Stacey-Ann Facey, Thristina Har­wood and Kerry-Ann Brown to pull off the win.

Pre­ced­ing the games there will be an open­ing cer­e­mony and uni­form pa­rade in­volv­ing all eight teams. The other teams in­volved are Un­der-21 Suns, St Cather­ine Rac­ers and St James Sharps.

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