Organisers are putting the finishing touches on preparations , as St. Kitts readies itself to host the 44th edition of the CARIFTA Games, which gets underway at the Silver Jubilee Stadium on Saturday.
The leading athletes from 26 countries across the region will do battle in the Under-18 and Under-20 categories through the weekend, as they contest honours in what is the Caribbean’s premier junior track and field championship.
Teams have started arriving for the showpiece which organisers expect to attract large crowds, with the island hosting CARIFTA for the second time in seven years.
“The interest for the Games in St. Kitts and Nevis is definitely there. People understand what CARIFTA is and are excited it’s back in St. Kitts,” said Lester Hanley, Director of Marketing for CARIFTA 2015. “We are expecting a bumper crowd.”
He also assured that work on the venue would be finished by yesterday, paving the way for a smooth start to the championship.
Hosts St Kitts will field a 37-member contingent and will be hoping to increase their haul this year, after picking up three medals last year when the meet was staged in the French Caribbean island of Martinique.
As usual, powerhouses Jamaica will be expected to dominate the Games, with their 78-member strong contingent tipped to be the ones to beat yet again.
Their squad will be headlined by the outstanding Jaheel Hyde, the World Junior 400 metres and Youth Olympic Games 110m hurdles champion and Michael O’Hara who won four gold medals at last weekend’s Boys and Girls’ Championships in Jamaica.
Jamaica won 89 medals last year – 42 gold, 34 silver and 13 bronze – and will be going all out to better that mark. The powerful Jamaicans have won all but five of the meets over the CARIFTA Games history.
Trinidad and Tobago, also a major force in regional athletics, were settling in at the Games village with their 68-member team who are expected to make their competition mark.
The TT squad includes sprinter Kayelle Clarke who won the 200 metres and Chelsea James, who has dominated the shot putt for the last three years with gold medals.
T&T finished second to Jamaica last year with 25 medals.
Barbados, meanwhile, who did well to pick up 16 medals in Martinique, have a 26-member squad at the Games.
Included is Sada Williams, the reigning girls Under-18 400 metres champion; Rivaldo Leacock, who took silver in the boys Under-18 400m hurdles and Hayley Matthews, who also claimed silver in the girls Under-18 javelin.
Doubts, though, remained over Guyana’s involvement, with reports yesterday saying they would be forced to withdraw from the Games because of the unavailability of flights.
The highlight of the Games will come tomorrow night when the marquee 100 metres for both boys and girls are contested.
Sunday will be headlined by the sprint relays across all categories, with the 200m finals climaxing the championship on Easter Monday.
Reporting by: Rey Davis
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