Usain Bolt congratulates Yohan Blake after his 200m triumph at the Jamaican Olympic Trials.
Photo Credit: Daily Mail
The 2012 London Olympic Games may see a changing of the guard insofar as many of the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) countries are concerned.
Injuries have had a major impact on the fortunes of many who have been the trailblazers in recent years but, for the present at least it seems that their replacements are capable of giving good accounts of themselves.
This is the first of two publications that examine the prospects of athletes from the CAC region as they prepare to compete at the 2012 Olympics. This first installment examines the men, while the second publication will focus on the women.
The question of whether Usain Bolt can defend his title will be answered shortly. Certainly, he and his Jamaican colleague Yohan Blake would be favoured to claim the gold and silver medals, but either is capable of snatching the top prize.
Other potential medalists from the region would include the third Jamaican, former world record holder Asafa Powell and Trinidad and Tobago´s Keston Bledman. The veteran St.Kitts and Nevis sprinter, Kim Collins should be capable of reaching yet another global final and the Trinidad and Tobago pair of Richard Thompson, the Beijing silver medalist and Mark Burns, a solid big meet performer, are also capable of attaining places in the final.
Despite his loss to Blake at the Jamaica Nationals, Bolt should rate as the favourite here. Blake is a clear No.2 (or 1) ahead of the American Wallace Spearmon and France´s Christophe Lemaitre. Other Caribbean athletes with possibilities of advancing to the final include Trinidad and Tobago´s Rondel Sorrillo and Warrren Weir of Jamaica. Churandy Martina, formerly of the Netherlands Antilles, should also be a finalist, and perhaps a medalist, but this time will be wearing the orange colours of Holland. Panamanian Alonso Edward has the talent to rank with the best, but has competed only sporadically in recent years.
Grenada´s Kirani James, who is the 2011 World Champion, while still a junior may be a less fancied choice for London than the American La Shawn Merritt, but is certainly capable of winning the one-lap event.
The Dominican Republic´s 18 year old Luguelin Santos, the World Junior champion, could be this year´s Kirani James and has a good chance to feature among the medals. So too could Bahamian Demetrius Pinder.
His countrymen Chris Brown and Ramon Miller could also play a part in the final as could Tabarie Henry of the U.S.Virgin Islands, not so fast on the clock this year, but with good big-meet credentials.
Not to be overlooked as a likely finalist is Costa Rica´s Nery Brenes, winner at the 2011 Pan AM Games and the 2012 World Indoor Championships.
This event has declined considerably in the region in recent time, especially with the departure of Cuban Yeimer Lopez. Colombia´s Rafith Rodriguez has dipped below 1:45.00 and has a good international record, but would be fortunate to advance beyond the semi-finals.
Mexican record holder Juan Luis Barrios may not have super-fast times, but if the pace is to his liking should be capable of making the final.
Juan Luis Barrios of Mexico could be among the top fifteen finishers after 25 laps. This event is contested so rarely outside Championships that it is difficult to assess the quality of participants before the race is run.
Men's 110m Hurdles
Question marks have surrounded World Record holder Dayron Robles of Cuba in recent years as he has seemed to be troubled by fitness issues as often as not. His younger teammate, Orlando Ortega seems set to continue Cuba´s tradition in the event set by the likes of Alejandro Casanas, Anier Garcia and Robles, and while probably not yet a medal contender, could advance to the final.
Jamaica too could be well represented. Andrew Riley, faster on the flat than any of his counterparts, and the less well-known, but consistent Hansel Parchment, could each find a place in the final eight if at his best.
Men's 400m Hurdles
Puerto Rico´s Javier Culson has been arguably the world´s best over the past two seasons and should prove a handful for any of his opponents. Trinidad and Tobago´s Jehue Gordon, Cuban Omar Cisneros and Leford Green of Jamaica, are others from the region who could line up for the final.
Not to be overlooked is the veteran Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic who continues to rank among the leaders in this event, finishing 4th at the 2011 World Championships. As a 2004 Olympic champion with two World Championships golds and a silver, he would be keen to make the most of what is likely his last Olympic appearance.
Men's High Jump
Bahamian Trevor Barry was a bronze medalist at the Daegu World Championships in 2011 and has had a solid season this year. His compatriot Donald Thomas has never been known for consistency, but at his best could reach the final and trouble the favourites. St.Lucia´s Darvin Edwards was also a World Championships finalist last year, but his performances this year have not been nearly as good.
Men's Pole Vault
Cuban Lazaro Borges was the silver medalist in Daegu and has been quite consistent since then, but has competed sparingly this year.
Men's Long Jump
The worldwide decline in this event is reflected in the fact that there are only four C.A.C. athletes entered in the event. One of them; however, is Panama´s Olympic champion Irving Saladino, who seems to be recapturing his best form.
Bahamian Raymond Higgs was once the leading junior high jumper in the region, but has changed course and could threaten for a place in the long jump final in London. So too could Jamaica´s Damar Forbes, who has had an outstanding collegiate career, but who may be a bit short on international experience. Mexican Luis Rivera could also get to the final twelve if at the top of his game.
Men's Triple Jump
Two triple jumpers stand out, although the region is fairly well represented. Cuban Alexis Copello and Leevan Sands of the Bahamas are fairly certain finalists and are capable of podium finishes. Samyr Laine of Haiti and the Cuban duo of Yoandri Betanzos and David Girat are also capable although the latter two may have seen better days.
Men's Shot Put
For the first time at the Games there will be more than one representative from the region in the shot put. Both Dorian Scott of Jamaica and Cuba´s Carlos Veliz have reached major finals before, but the road will be arduous in London as neither has reached 21 meteres, which will probably be needed for the final cut.
Men's Discus Throw
Four throwers from the region have made their way to London. Cuba´s Jorge Fernandez was a finalist at Daegu in 2011 and has an outside chance to repeat. His compatriot Yunio Lastre has improved markedly this year, but is relatively untested at the highest level.
Two Jamaicans present interesting possibilities. The veteran Jason Morgan and 20 year old Traves Smikle have surpassed 67 metres this year. Smikle has apparently thrown farther than any left-hander in history and, should he advance to the final 12 in London, would become one of the youngest ever to do so in this event.
Men's Hammer Throw
Cuba´s Roberto Janet has been selected but, although outstanding in the Americas, is unlikely to trouble the Europeans.
Men's Javelin Throw
Guillermo Martinez of Cuba has twice been a medalist at global level, most recently placing second in Daegu, but suffered an early season injury this year and has not competed since. A name for the future, if not necessarily the present, is World Junior Champion Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago. His mark of 83.82m should make him competitive among the best seniors and he is more consistent than many of the bigger names.
Cuba´s Leonel Suarez has usually found himself on the victory podium at global events and could do so again, but will have to reduce the deficit he has tended to carry after the first two events.
His compatriot Yordani Garcia is capable of finishing among the top eight, but in recent years has not competed as well as expected outside his homeland. The veteran Jamaican, Maurice Smith, was selected, but is reportedly injured and unlikely to compete. An interesting newcomer is Grenada´s Kurt Felix, the first decathlete from a Caribbean island other than Jamaica or Cuba to attain an Olympic qualifying standard.
Men's 4x100m Relay
Tahesia Harrigan-Scott (left) and J´maal Alexander
Photo Credit: Comet24
World record holders Jamaica perhaps have an embarrassment of riches as far as selection is concerned and on paper start as clear favourites.Trinidad and Tobago is the third fastest team based on aggregate of individual personal bests. St. Kitts and Nevis often seem to punch above their weight, but have a solid and seasoned quartet, who may be the least likely of any of the medal possibilities to commit a botched pass.
Men's 4x400m Relay
Six of the sixteen qualified teams hail from the C.A.C. region and with the probable exception of Venezuela, all seems capable of reaching the final. The Bahamas with three sub 45 second runners this year are likely to give the United States their sternest test, but Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba and the Dominican Republic are all capable of breaking the three-minute barrier.
Men's 20 Km Walk
Mexican Eder Sanchez is a former World Championships medalist and could still pose a threat to the world´s best. He could be joined among the event´s leaders by Eder Arevalo of Colombia and Guatemala´s Erick Barrondo.
Men's 50 Km Walk
Successful doublers at the two walk distances are becoming increasingly rare but the Guatemalan Erick Barrondo is entered in both events and could prove the exception to the rule. Mexico´s Horacio Nava and Oscar Zepeda should also give good accounts of themselves.
Reynold O'Neal is a former President of the BVI Athletics Association and founding member of the BVI Amateur Athletics Association, now named the BVI Athletics Association.