Sun | Apr 5, 2020

Riley hails Pan Am jumpers

Published:Thursday | August 15, 2019 | 12:13 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer

Jamaica’s four-medal jumps performance at the recent Pan Am Games has at least one observer smiling.

David Riley, head coach at Excelsior High School, is tipping his hat to Tajay Gayle, Shanieka Ricketts, Tissanna Hickling, and Kimberly Williamson and he believes that Gayle, Ricketts, and Hickling have boosted their stocks as they prepare for the World Championships later this year.

Gayle took the long jump silver behind Cuba’s 2018 World Indoor Champion Juan Miguel Echeverría. His best jump taped out to 8.17 metres and garnered Jamaica’s first men’s medal in the event since Wellesley Clayton got the bronze in 1967. Ricketts matched Suzette Lee’s 1999 silver in the triple jump with the bonus of a national record distance, 14.77 metres, in pursuit of World Indoor and Outdoor champion Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela.

The gangly Rojas stepped out to 15.11 metres with her Colombian arch-rival Caterine Ibargüen on the sidelines after a foot injury incurred in the long jump.

Hickling and Williamson took bronze medals in the long jump and the high jump, respectively. In 1999, like Hickling, Elva Goulbourne took third place in the long jump and followed by reaching the 2000 Olympic final, while Williamson’s third place secured Jamaica’s fourth bronze medal in Games history.

Andrea Reid won a silver medal in that event in 1971.

Speaking to The Gleaner, Riley says these are good results, given the level of competition and the chilly conditions in Lima, the Peruvian host city of the Games.

“Pan Am is still a very strong region for competition, especially in these events where you have the US and Cuba and Canada present, you know,” he outlined. “The US didn’t send their strongest team but you had the Cuban jumpers and so the performances were strong in conditions that were cooler than normal.”

During the track and field competition, forecast temperatures fell to a low of 13 degrees Celsius.

“When we do the comparativeanalysis to see what everybody else did in the competition, our athletes did good,” said the noted jumps coach with special reference to Ricketts’ national triple jump record.

Asked what the Pan Am results would mean in the context of the World Championships, which start on September 27 in Doha, Qatar, he painted a bright picture and referred to the recent 10-medal prediction by the respected US publication TRACK AND FIELD NEWS.

“We’re at least looking like a team that we want to look like, and it looks good going into Doha for sure,” said Riley.

In a final note, he added, “These athletes should be very confident.”