By Loshaun Dixon
Basseterre, St. Kitts-The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is celebrating High Jumper Jermaine Francis who was not only successful in defending his U20 High Jump title at the recently concluded CARIFTA Games held in Curacao but also established a new record in that event.
The young jumper won the gold medal in the event in 2016 in Grenada with a height of 2.11 meters and bettered his mark over this year, winning gold with a height of 2.22 meters and setting a new record. Jermaine finished ahead of two Bahamian jumpers who captured second and third respectively.
His mark is also a national junior and senior record.
Public Relations Officer of the St. Kitts Amateur Athletic Association Evris Huggins gave The Observer an overview of the Federation’s performance at the game competed over the Easter weekend.
“The highlight of the performance is definitely Jermaine Francis with his gold medal and new CARIFTA record. To my knowledge he is the second person from St. Kitts and Nevis to hold a CARIFTA record and I hope that will spark a legacy in the region,” he said.
Jermaine’s mark Follows Adrian William’s effort in 2011 when he won gold and broke a record in the Javelin throw and Huggins has indicated that the mark has since been eclipsed.
He (Jermaine) is creating a legacy for himself not just in the federation but also in the region and now having the second best leap as a U20 athlete in the entire world speaks volumes to the tremendous talent that Jermaine has and it could take him to higher heights.
However the PRO stated that Jermaine’s mark also had global implications.
“Some further research we did shows, that he ranks number 2 in the world as a under 20 athletes in the world in respect to the event and number 19 worldwide among senior athletes,” he said.
“As young and as inexperienced the team was at that level of competition, we were quite excited that most of them were successful in advancing to the finals in their respective events. We saw a few personal best being achieved.
“I must point out Leroy chapman in the 800m he achieved his personal best by achieving second in the heats and went on to the finals and chopped more than a second off his personal best. We also must make mention of Jahnaza Francis who did a total of 2000m of sprinting over these three days and was able to advance to the final in every event that he participated in. it was unfortunate the 4×400 meter team they false started after they advanced to the final of that event.
Mr. Huggins added that they were successful in their campaign to expose the Under 18’s to both the 4×1 and 4x400m relays and gave them a reason to further invest in the relays.
He however noted that there were misfortunes the team suffered while in Curacao.
“We understand that our lone thrower on the team sustained an injury while competing in the finals thus being unable to complete the event. We also had high expectations for Dimitri Browne who also sustained an injury before the long jump event started,” he said.
He was however pleased with the performance of the team with most of the athletes being able to advance to the finals.
“We are very happy with the overall performance of the team and most of the athletes were able to advance to the next round. We are happy with the decisions we made with the selection as an executive. I think the team would have inspired a host of persons on the side-lines who took the sport for granted and trivialised competitions and I think we are going to see an injection of new talent to the sport.”
A special ceremony was organized at the RLB international Airport to welcome home the team and speaking at that ceremony the Gold medalist told members of the media of his mind-set before the competition.
“I had a positive mind going into the competition I had to defend my title from last year so I just keep my head,” he said.
He added that received good competition from the two Bahamian Jumpers and also spoke the feeling after having the medal in the bag and his future plans
“It was unbelievable I can’t express it in anyway. I hope to get into a university and continue to make St. Kitts and Nevis proud.”
Francis was also hopeful that he can make the senior World Championship to be held in London this summer so that he garner that experience.
The qualification mark for those games are 2.30m
Speaking at the ceremony head coach Roatter Johnson thanked the SKNAAA for having confidence in her as head coached and indicated congratulated the athletes.
“All the athletes made a stamp on my hearts and I must congratulate all for their effort,” she said.
She also hailed Leroy Chapman and Jahnaza Francis who she said ran over 2100m for the entire games.
“If they able to run in the 4x400m they would have done over 2400m which is very difficult for someone to do.I want to thank everybody and I want to let them know that I am so proud of them…and I want to let them know that I really love them and I get to know them personally,” she declared.
She also made special mention to Jermaine and called the entire federation to get to know him and his struggles.
“I got to know Jermaine even though we both grew up in Sandy Point I expressed myself to him and what we have been through and the entire federation should not just praise him but get to know him because he is hurting. We shouldn’t just celebrate his gold medal and his record he is hurting and he is in need of assistance also… so let us rally with him and the others,” she said.
Minister of Sports Shawn Richards also congratulated the entire team on their efforts
“You left here successful in your individual events and even though they did not return with all gold medals you return home having participated in your individual events and doing a very good job.”
Mr. Richards also hoped that the experience would assist them in getting better in their respective events.
“I’m also certain that you would have made new friends and coming out of that experience in curacao you are better prepared to represent the federation and yourself.”
He also singled out Francis for his performance in the past two years.
“In particular I think we have to congratulate Jermaine Francis who would have won the gold in the high jump. I know that last year we would have been back to welcome you back when you did well. This year having done it again you have proven it is not just about going out and fluking but you are actually the best.”
He however urged all the athletes to continue to do their best and they will continue to receive support from the government.
“The government would have made a contribution to your participation and we continue to provide funding for our athletes because we believe that is an important part of your development and development of St. Kitts and Nevis.
The President of the National Olympic Committee Alphonso Bridgewater said he enjoys welcoming successful athletes.
“There is one habit that we have that I like and that is coming to this particular room. It takes me back to the 70s when almost every year religiously, the netball team use to walkthrough there champions. It is the same doors Kim Collins came regularly when he made his successful exploits and is the very same doors Jermaine came last year and it is not a flash in the pan this is a demonstration of excellence.”
He then put in perspective of Jermaine’s achievement.
“Gold medal in the CAARIFTA games means you are placed in the same league as people like Usain Bolt and most the people from the Caribbean who has made it to the top in Track and Field all who have passed through CARIFTA,” he said.
Mr. Bridgewater also stated that the NOC has been badgering the athletic association for some time to expand into the field events that have been improved in the recent past and added Jermaine performance has added a relevancy to the field events.
Some members of the team also improved on their personal marks and qualified for other international youth and Junior competitions to be staged later this year.