By Noel ‘Bravo’ Francis, Special to TrackAlerts.Com
The Jamaica International Invitational Meet (JIIM) is now ranked as one of the top athletics meet on the track & field calendar. Now in its 12th year, the premier Jamaican track & field event as grown from strength to strength and has gained IAAF World Challenge status in recent times.
This year a galaxy of international stars and some upcoming ones have confirmed their participation making the various disciplines a must see for die-hearted track enthusiasts. It is more appealing from the standpoint that we are in the year of a major championship and several top athletes tend to appear at these meets to gauge their preparation and monitor main competitors.
May 9th, 2015, promises to be a night of sizzling track & field action in the Jamaican capital. Two of the highlight events of the Jamaica International Invitational Meet are the men’s and women’s 100m showdowns.
University of Technology (Utech) student-athlete, Elaine Thompson, is a woman on a mission. After capturing the inter-collegiate 100m title in a meet record 11.10 seconds, she followed up that performance a week later at the Utech Classic with a world leading, meet record and personal best 10.92 seconds. Thompson is being conditioned to run much faster as the season progresses. She should get her biggest test when she encounters Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare, one of the world’s leading female sprinters for the past three years. Okagbare captivated the Jamaican crowd last year on her way to victory in this event.
American superstar, Allyson Felix, working her way back to top speed will also line up in this event. The inclusion of World and Olympic Games individual silver medallist, Kerron Stewart, who is looking to reclaim past glory when she was running sub-11 seconds on a regular basis, will ensure this is an intriguing affair. This event is scheduled for 8:10 p.m.
Jamaica’s most beloved sprinter of recent memory, Asafa Powell, will make an emotional and overdue appearance inside the National Stadium. He is gradually working his way back to his best form and will receive the necessary competition and support in this event on home soil. Powell ran 10.08 (-2.6 m/s) in his season opener in Guadeloupe recently. He will be joined by the enduring and consistent Nesta Carter. Carter, the 100m bronze medallist at the 2013 World Championship looks certain to have another successful season. Warren Weir, who won individual Olympic 200m bronze and World Championship 200m silver, will want to show that the 100m is not out of his comfort zone. Weir who had stated his intentions last year to run more 100m races this season, has a personal best of 10.02 seconds.
Commonwealth champion, Kemar-Bailey-Cole, has not looked as fluid as he could be in the early part of the season. Some fans are expressing dismay over Bailey-Cole’s robotic form after two ordinary outings at the Gibson-McCook and IAAF World Relays. However, it is argued that he is recovering from the Chikungunya virus and his 10.14 third place finish at the UTECH Classic in between those relay races mentioned should restore faith among his supporters that he will go faster when he starts his speed work. He should benefit greatly from the quality competition in this field.
Trinidad & Tobago’s standard bearer, Richard Thompson, a crowd favourite in Jamaica, is another athlete who looks to be regaining his best form. The T&T record holder has so far registered a season best of 10.04 seconds, the third fastest world leading time this year. This event will go a far way in assisting Thompson’s preparation for the long season ahead.
American sprinters Ryan Bailey and Walter ‘Mr. Shades’ Dix complete a fantastic field. Ryan Bailey should receive a nice ‘warm’ Jamaican welcome. His mocking slit throat gesture of Usain Bolt’s trademark pose after the U.S.A’s win in the 4x100m at the World Relays did not go down well with some Jamaicans. Track observers are anxious to see if he wins at the Jamaica Invitational if he will pull off a similar stunt in front of Bolt’s home crowd. The Americans have started the fire; let us see what happens when the smoke clears. This race runs off at 8:14 p.m.