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JM | Apr 21, 2022

Let’s talk, Mr Baptiste: Don’t compare when you don’t compete 

Gavin Riley

Gavin Riley / Our Today

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Jamaican athlete Marchino Rose wins the boys Under-17, 400-metre final in 48.41 seconds at the 49th staging of the CARIFTA Games at the National Stadium in Kingston on April 16, 2022. (Photo: JIS)

Andre Baptiste, a Trinidadian sports journalist and writer for the T&T Guardian‘s ‘Dancing Brave‘ column, has chastised Carifta Games commentators who he believes gave ‘too much attention’ to Jamaica’s dominance at the recently concluded junior athletic meet. 

Baptiste, in a scathing April 20 article, while praising the visual quality of the production as “good”, slammed the mostly Jamaican commentators for failing to unify the region. 

According to him, based on his interactions with other Caribbean nationals, the “collective” consensus on the Games became a desire for anyone other than Jamaicans to win in the competitive events. 

“It reached a stage, wherein many areas of the Caribbean, I can gauge through my interaction with several persons elsewhere in the region, once a Jamaican was competing in an event, the rest of the region wanted someone else to win,” wrote Baptiste.

“So perhaps the authorities got their wish, in the unification of the region, as only sports can, however the ‘collective’ appears to be more against Jamaica than with it, which cannot have been the intention,” he added.

It’s one thing to ‘feel’ like your presence is not wanted versus the strong opposition to said presence being explicitly expressed to your face. I, for one, am not surprised by Baptiste’s language. 

Andre Baptiste. (Photo: National Association of Athletics Administrations of Trinidad and Tobago)

Are we forgetting that we are talking about children?

Firstly, let’s start with your opening line from Greek philosopher Socrates – “The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.”

I’ll agree wholeheartedly!

Like John Snow, Baptiste really knows nothing and his article clearly states as much. 

For anyone curious, here’s the medal table with the top five places below: 

CountryMedals (Gold/Silver/Bronze)
Jamaica92 (45 Gold/29 Silver/18 Bronze)
The Bahamas17 (4 Gold/6 Silver/7 Bronze)
British Virgin Islands7 (4 Gold/2 Silver/1 Bronze)
Trinidad & Tobago23 (2 Gold/11 Silver/10 Bronze)
Guyana7 (2 Gold/3 Silver/2 Bronze)

So, to be clear, you are upset that Jamaica, with a record 92-medal haul and a 36-consecutive-year hold on the Carifta title, was *checks notes* hogging the spotlight?

What are you expecting the commentators to do if Jamaica’s world-renowned (yet criminally underfunded) track and field programme displays years of tradition, competition and inter-school rivalry?

This stance is also very interesting considering how openly countries within the so-called Caribbean Community voice their contempt for Jamaicans.

Imagine being one of these brilliant young athletes over the Easter holiday—giving your all on the track and being rightly recognised—only for a grown man on the other side of the Caribbean Sea to fix pen to paper and whine ‘what about the rest of us’?

Year after year, despite the location of the Carifta Games, Jamaica’s athletes show up and demonstrate why the country is a global force in track and field—a statement you confirmed yourself in your opening sentences—so what is all the faux-outrage about, Mr Baptiste?

Not even speaking to event winners here, but where are the articles when Jamaican student-athletes get the cold shoulder for merely participating at Carifta?

Who wins when our ‘neighbours’ root for our demise?

Secondly, your arguments are unfair to the hard-working Carifta team of commentators who repeatedly celebrated non-Jamaican winners at Kingston’s National Stadium.

I, PERSONALLY, heard Hubert Lawrence hail the British Virgin Islands’ (BVI) triple gold medallist Adaejah Hodge as a star of the future, a talent the region must closely watch. Hodge receiving the Austin Sealy award for being the Games’ most outstanding athlete also proves this.

British Virgin Islands athlete Adaejah Hodge beams after winning her third gold medal in the U17 girls’ 200m final with a time of 23.42 seconds. (Photo: world-track.org)

Mike Fennell, chairman of the Carifta local organising committee (LOC), who I interviewed just Tuesday, also highlighted the tremendous work being done by BVI, Antigua, Curaçao and Guyana.

Mr Baptiste, it’s okay to be intimidated, jealous or even angry at the dominance of Jamaica at the 2022 Carifta Games. After all, these are human emotions! What we won’t do, kind sir, is pretend that this ‘rhetoric’ is okay.

Jamaica and her athletes must not be made to ‘feel bad’ that they are competitively dominant at Carifta.

If you really appreciated the facts laid bare, you would know that track and field is not ‘just’ a sport in Jamaica; it’s a way of life. From primary school to the Olympics, it is evident.

The annual Boys’ and Girls’ Championships serves as a rite of passage for many of the country’s most decorated athletes: Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herah, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Asafa Powell—the lists from the Champs ‘conveyor belt’ of stars could fill a room and still spill over.

Perhaps this would be more palatable if the Games were not held in Jamaica and that’s also a fair remark, given our sheer numbers and athletic prowess but, as you know, it was supposed to be in Guyana.

In that vein, it bears noting that with Champs, Jamaica already has its own developmental meet of young athletes. For us, Carifta is essentially a plus, not a necessity. If Jamaica decided to withdraw its participation from Carifta, we wouldn’t be worse off for the move. I’d go one further to argue that it could minimise our external distractions.

The broader conversation needed in the face of this should be, how do we get our regional brothers and sisters up to speed (forgive me) with Jamaica?

Jamaican athletes Delano Kennedy (right) and Shemar Palmer celebrate, after placing first and second respectively, in the boys Under-20, 400-metre final at the 49th staging of the CARIFTA Games at the National Stadium in Kingston on April 16.

It remains to be seen whether years of disdain will taint Jamaica’s receptiveness to sharing some of its secrets amid all this overt lashing around “Jamaica-centricity”, but I have faith in the sports experts.

The Caribbean’s increasing inclusion in global discussions on athletics was hard-earned; we must not forget or attempt to trivialise where we have come from.

The pioneering role of Jamaica and its continued significance on the global sporting stage cannot be understated.

Please, Mr Baptiste, don’t compare when you don’t compete.

Send feedback and comments to gavinriley@our.today and editorial@our.today.

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