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IN PRAISE OF HAMPTON GAMES by Rae Samuel

posted 25 May 2013, 06:00 by Gerry Kangalee

This week end sees the staging of 38th edition of the Hampton International Games at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. To share a bit of history, the Hampton Games was one of the big meets in the Caribbean when Trinidad and Tobago staged the "Diamond League" of track and field in the region in the 60's and 70's. The other big meets were Southern Games, dubbed the Olympics of the Caribbean and rightly so, Northern Games, Palo Seco Games and our own National Senior Championships.

I worked on the organising committee in 2010 and got to realise how valuable these Games were to certain countries in the Caribbean and to what extent they still contribute to the development of track and field in these islands.

In 2010 the games were scheduled around May 24th but PNM under Patrick Manning felt for a licking which they deservedly got. Yesterday, (the Friday before the Games), moonlighting as a photographer (see the cover of 2013 Games magazine) I wandered into the Technical Meeting. For the uninitiated, this is a meeting of coaches and team officials with the meet managers. This is where important details such as scheduling, rules of the competition, accreditation and transportation are worked out.

In the room were officials from Suriname, French Guiana, Antigua, Martinique, St. Kitts. In 2010 there were delegates from Venezuela. I remember the Venezuelan coach telling one of her team members that if she did not do well she would have to swim back home. The young lady did get to fly back. But these countries have been attending the Games for years.

We do not read about them in news from the big meets, but Hampton has been and remains an important meet for them. It remains high up on the calendar for countries like Venezuela and Guyana who have ruled the roost in middle and long distance running in the region for years.

I did a bit of translating for a local television station in 2010. I have noted Venezuela is not here this year. I am not taking the blame for that one. More likely it is the political situation there at the moment. My Spanish cannot be THAT bad.

Another important feature of the Games is the number of under-13 athletes who participate. At the heats the call room was packed with these youngsters. There is no other meet that sees so many in that age group.

What is the call room? That is where the athletes go to be "processed" before they go onto the track/field for their event. You go in there as a hopeful and come out with a gold medal and a Nike/Puma/Adidas contract. Yes I have been there. No I have not done that...yet. Actually I did: in a Seniors’ meet in Barbados in 2005; but whenever I called Adidas subsequently I always got a voice message.

Speaking of messages, I met our famous Cuban compatriot, Ishmael Lopez, coach of Keshorn Walcott. He had just returned from Shanghai and Doha where he had accompanied our young gold medallist to Grand Prix meets. A few metres away one of his compatriots was working out with a few high school athletes. History of under-utilisation and poor planning is repeating itself. The present administration still has not "gotten the message.

So congrats are in order for the Hampton brigade for keeping the brand alive in difficult times.

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