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Report19 Apr 2022

Jamaican quartet breaks world U20 4x100m record at Carifta Games


Tina Clayton, Serena Cole, Brianna Lyston and Tia Clayton celebrate their world U20 4x100m record at the Carifta Games

A women’s world U20 4x100m record and a gold medal treble by Adaejah Hodge highlighted the 49th edition of the Carifta Games in Kingston, Jamaica, from 16-18 April as athletes and fans passionately celebrated the return of the event after a two-year postponement.

The three-day event saw Jamaica maintain its Caribbean dominance on home soil, topping the medal table with 45 gold, 29 silver and 18 bronze medals. The Bahamas finished second with four gold, six silver and seven bronze medals, followed by the British Virgin Islands with four gold, two silver and one bronze.

Alongside the world U20 4x100m record of 42.58 set by Jamaica's Serena Cole, Tina Clayton, Brianna Lyston and Tia Clayton, there were several other exceptional performances from the next generation of regional stars, sparking hope for a bright future.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe, an annual visitor to the Games, gave the keynote address. Also in attendance were Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who declared the Games open, Bahamian Prime Minister Philip Davis and Mike Sands, President of the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association, plus Sir Austin Sealy, founder of the Carifta Games, and Olivia Grange, Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.

Joining them in watching the next generation of athletics stars were some of the sport’s legends, including Jamaica’s sprint greats Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

It was clear from the 100m heats that there would be plenty of fireworks in the finals. However, an unlikely candidate – not from Jamaica – emerged and drew admiration from the appreciative crowd with a flawless display of sprinting. Hodge, representing the British Virgin Islands, kept winning and shaving chunks off her personal best times throughout the rounds.

In the U17 final she recorded a superb win in 11.29 (0.5m/s), just 0.02 off the Games record held by 2018 world U20 champion Briana Williams. This followed performances of 11.54 (-3.2m/s) in the heats and 11.44 (0.8m/s) in the semifinals. 

“I was trying to break the 100m record because Briana Williams and I share birthdays and it would have been cool if both of us broke the Carifta record,” said Hodge, who now holds her country’s national U20 record.

"I've waited for this competition for so long," said the 16-year-old. “I’ve watched the Carifta Games on TV and just wanted to come here and execute my races how I wanted and make myself and everybody proud, and the way my mom celebrated meant the world to me,” added Hodge with notable joy.

In a moment of high drama, Hodge added the U17 long jump title to her achievements with her last attempt, leaping a wind-assisted 6.20m (4.1m/s). The long jump competition was taking place at the same time as the 200m semifinals and Hodge capped an amazing weekend by completing a memorable sprint double and Games treble, storming to 23.42 (-3.0m/s) in the 200m final to cement her status as the most outstanding athlete of the Games and deservingly securing the Austin Sealy award.

“My brain was scrambling, I was very worried about not being able to run or not being able to finish my jump,” said the 16-year-old about the tension built between events. "Then I remembered to stay relaxed as it had happened to me before and I can get through this. The 200m final was amazing, I got off the curve really hard and continued to work on my stride down the straight and I’m proud of how I finished the race after all the events I did this weekend.”

Adaejah Hodge receives the Austin Sealy award at the 49th Carifta Games in Kingston

Adaejah Hodge receives the Austin Sealy award at the 49th Carifta Games in Kingston (© Athelstan Bellamy)

The decibel level from the expectant crowd went up several notches prior to the start of the highly anticipated U20 100m finals, and the Jamaicans did not disappoint. World U20 champion Tina Clayton collected another 100m title after edging her twin sister Tia - 11.22 to 11.30 (0.6m/s).

“My start threw me off a bit, but I executed well during the rest of the race and I think I did fairly well,” said Tina, who was competing at her first Carifta Games.

In the men’s U20 final, De Andre Daley recovered from a sluggish start to finish with a flourish, posting a lifetime best of 10.23 (0.7m/s). His fleet-footed Jamaican teammate Bouwahghi Nkrumie (10.28) had looked the likely winner after detaching from the field with his trademark explosive start and led with 30 metres to go before Daley motored by and relegated him to the silver.

“I’ve realised, in recent times, that I’m not getting the start that I want,” said Daley. “However, I tell myself if I’m not better than the field at the start, I must be better than them at the finish.”  

Jamaica has a reputation for producing some of the fastest 4x100m relay times in the world, including world records. On Saturday (17), the quartet of Cole, Tina Clayton, Lyston and Tia Clayton – in that running order – triggered unrestrained celebrations inside the national stadium after they broke the women’s world U20 4x100m record with a 42.58 run. It improved on the previous record of 42.94 also set by a Jamaican quartet last year at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya. 

“This was the second world record for me,” said Cole. “However, this one felt different because it was in front of our supporters and the celebrations at the end made us feel great.”

The world record was a tough act to follow, but the host nation’s U20 men, sensing that they had to keep the festive atmosphere going, ran at full tilt to register a world-leading and Games record of 39.15. The victory also ensured that Jamaica captured all four age group sprint relays.

"We can go way faster, we have not yet gelled as a team, and we didn't get pushed today, but I'm happy and grateful with our performance," said lead-off runner Nkrumie.

The host country brought the broom out in the 4x400m relays, sweeping all contested finals by wide margins.

Jamaica maintained its stranglehold on the 400m, claiming all four U17 and U20 titles and achieving three 1-2 finishes. Delano Kennedy equalled his personal best of 46.66 in the men’s U20 final, while in the women’s equivalent Kaylia Kelly chopped more than a second off her previous best (53.46) by running 52.32.

“I felt grateful performing in front of my home crowd,” said Kelly. “I was so happy for their support and I just went out there to do my best and I got a personal best.”

Michelle Smith of the US Virgin Islands was another standout performer, who displayed her vast range, collecting two U17 gold medals in the 400m hurdles (58.61) and 800m (2:10.78) respectively and a silver in the 100m hurdles behind Jamaica’s Bryana Davidson.

Guyana’s Attoya Harvey (4:45.24) and Trinidad and Tobago’s Keeran Sriskandarajah (4:10.58) halted Jamaica’s dominance in the middle distance events, winning the girls’ and boys’ U17 1500m finals respectively, with sweetly timed runs. 

Elsewhere, Trinidad and Tobago’s Aaron Antoine, who trailed on countback, produced a clutch performance to prevail in a fantastic duel with Jamaica’s Florida-based Brandon Pottinger in the U20 high jump final, after clearing a personal best of 2.16m on his final attempt.

“It’s the best competition I’ve ever had in my life,” said Antoine. “I’m thankful to the Jamaican crowd, who were very supportive and gave me the energy.”

Jamaica’s world U20 triple jump silver medallist Jaydon Hibbert set a Games record and bounded out to a wind-assisted 17.05m (2.8m/s) to add to his long jump (7.62m) success a day earlier.

Jaydon Hibbert in the triple jump at the 49th edition of the Carifta Games in Kingston

Jaydon Hibbert in the triple jump at the 49th edition of the Carifta Games in Kingston (© Athelstan Bellamy)

Keyshawn Strachan, a towering Bahamian who stands at 6ft 5 inches, set the tone on the opening day when he launched the javelin 79.89m to establish a world lead and championship record, eclipsing the previous mark of 78.28m held by Grenada’s 2019 world champion Anderson Peters.

“I came to this championship with a positive mindset,” said Strachan. “My goal since I started training in September last year was to come to Jamaica and break the record. My next goal is to win gold in Cali, Colombia.”

His compatriot Dior-Rae Scott broke the championship record in the girls' U17 javelin, sending the spear out to 44.57m.

In the boys' U20 discus, Jamaica’s Kobe Lawrence threw 60.77m to win gold, his second-best performance behind his 60.92m personal best. Lawrence also showed his prowess in the shot put, pushing the metal ball out to 20.02m for a Games record. 

After its two-year postponement, World Athletics celebrated the return of the Carifta Games by launching a campaign to help plant 15,000 fruit trees in its honour in this year's host country of Jamaica. The campaign has seen World Athletics team up with One Tree Planted, a US-based donor-funded environmental NGO that plants one tree for every US dollar that is donated.

Participants can donate as little as $2 through the contribution page and during the event weekend contributions were raised for more than 2600 trees.

Noel Francis for World Athletics


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