Central American And Caribbean Athletes At The IAAF World Championships 2009

C. A. C. Report – Berlin 2009 by Reynold O’Neal


As much of a success story as the Beijing Olympic Games were for the countries of the Central American and Caribbean Area, the Xlth I.A.A.F. World Championships in Athletics saw the achievements of 2008 surpassed on a number of fronts. 


(a)  In total medals won, Berlin 2009 saw the region’s athletes amass 28 (13 male and 15 female) compared to 20 in Beijing, a totalthat included 11 won by men and 9 by women. 


(b)  At Beijing the C.A. C. medals went to athletes from only 5 countries; in Berlin eight countries saw their flags raised. 


(c)  The number of place-winners (fourth to eighth) remained fairly constant. In each global championship there were 17 males who finished in the top 8 but the 13 female place-winners in Beijing increased by two a year later. The number of countries which had athletes finishing in the top 8 places rose from nine in Beijing to seventeen in Berlin. 


(d)  At the Olympic Games no athlete from a country without a history of having a podium finish at the senior global level won a medal. At the World Championships medals went for the first time to Barbados (Gold) and Puerto Rico (Silver). 


(e)  Countries with top-8 finishes for the first time included Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Anguilla became the smallest country to have a top-8 finisher at any level of I.A.A.F. competition. 


(f) The number of other C.A.C. countries which had representatives in the top 16 of their respective events actually declined. There were eight such in Beijing compared to six in Berlin. New comers to the “Club” in 2009 included the British Virgin Islands and Honduras. 

At the Olympic Games the Central American Countries Belize and Costa Rica attained the milestone for the first time. 


(g)  The only World Records of the meet were set by an athlete from the region, Usain Bolt. On this occasion though he had to be content with two. Championship Records also fell to Bolt’s Jamaican teammates Shelly-Ann Fraser and Melaine Walker. 





100 Meters (Men) – The performance by Usain Bolt in setting a World Record of 9.69 seconds in Beijing left few in doubt of his capability to lower the mark further. Anticipation was high for a clash between the Jamaican and the defending champion Tyson Gay of the USA. As it turned out Gay ran a marvelous race to finish in 9.71 seconds, but was still over a metre adrift of Bolt’s 9.58 second World Record. 


In third, Asafa Powell repeated his finish of two years earlier and held off the challenge of the much fancied young Antiguan Daniel Bailey who finished fourth. Trinidad and Tobago joined Jamaica and the USA with two finalists each. Olympic Silver Medalist Richard Thompson was fifth and March Burns in seventh place extended his run of attaining global finals to four. 


200 Metres (Men) – A victory by Bolt especially after the withdrawal of Tyson Gay became a given but few would have anticipated his knocking, 11 seconds off one of the more impressive records in athletics. He got off to an excellent start quickly ate up the stagger on those outside him, and powered to victory in an unbelievable 19.19 seconds.


There was Bolt; and there were the rest. The best of the latter was Panama’s Alonso Edward. Still only 19 he had enjoyed an exceptional season in the U.S. Junior College ranks and his 19.81 clocking for Silver made him the youngest medalist in this event at the World Championships. Jamaica’s Steve Mullings, returning to top level International Competition also impressed, dropping below the 20 second barrier in finishing fifth.


400 Metres (Men) – That there should be three C.A.C. Finalists in the 400m was not surprising. That none would have been Jamaican was. The veteran Bahamian Chris Brown must have deemed Berlin a great opportunity for a podium place. However he faded badly in the last 50 metres and the expected Bronze Medal went instead to former World Junior Champion Renny Quow of Trinidad and Tobago. Splitting Quow and Brown (fifth) was Tabarie Henry of the US Virgin Islands who had revealed his promise a year earlier in Beijing.


800 Metres (Men) – Once again Yeimer Lopez of Cuba carried C.A.C.

hopes in the 800 metre final and once again came up short. Possessed of more natural speed than his regional counterparts his “wait and kick” tactics have not served him well at global events.


10,000 Metres (Men) – Mexico’s Juan Luis Barrios finished seventh in the 5,000 metres in Beijing but in Berlin tried his luck at double the distance and came up well sho


110 Metre Hurdles (Men) – After his impressive victory at the C.A.C.

Championships in his homeland and an unbeaten string on the European circuit the smart money was on Cuba’s World Record holder Dayron Robles to repeat his Beijing triumph.


At the World Championships however Robles entered carrying an injury and departed in the semi-finals. Victory instead went to Barbados’ Ryan Brathwaite, whose 2009 campaign included several loses to Robles but only two to anyone. His win came in 13.14 seconds, his fifth National Record of the season.


In fifth place was the veteran Jamaican Maurice Wignall. A finalist at the previous two World Championships as well as the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. A surprising 7th placer was World-Class Sprinter Dwight Thomas, making a successful return to an event in which he had dabbled over the years, and in which he enjoyed a highly successful post Berlin campaign including a National Record 13.16 seconds performance.


400 Metre Hurdles (Men) – Disappointing in Beijing after breaking 49 seconds for the first time the Lanky (6ft 6 in/1.98m) Puerto Rican Javier Culson was much more battle-hardened in 2009 after an International campaign that saw him win the C.A.C. title among other honors. Unbothered by “bad” lane assignments he focused on his task and was rewarded with a Silver Medal and a 48.09 seconds National Record.


In Fourth place was one of the Championships major surprises, Trinidad and Tobago’s Jehue Gordon, still not eighteen years old had made no major impression at last year’s World Juniors but this year improved to the point of winning a C.A.C. Bronze in 49.45 and placing second at the Pan Am Juniors. Still no one would have expected his 48.66 performance in the heats in Berlin. Advancing to the finals on a fastest-loser basis (fifth in his semi) he upset the formchart with a storming home stretch run to stop the clock at 48.26 seconds, the second fastest performance ever by a Junior.


Jamaican veteran Danny McFarlane ran well for sixth, while former Champion Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic was never able to overcome form problems and trailed the field. There was disappointment for Jamaica’s Isa Phillips whose second bad race of a perhaps too busy season came in the Berlin semis and he was unable to live up to his medal Favourite’s tag.


Long Jump (Men) – From two medals in Beijing to no representative in the final 8, the long jump was arguably the most disappointing for the C.A.C. Region in Berlin. World and Olympic Champion Irvine Saladino of Panama was not expected to win given the form of American Dwight Phillps but a medal of lesser value was a distinct possibility.

However he took himself out of the equation with three fouls in the event.

 The Cubans Ibrahim Camejo (3rd in Beijing) and Wilfredo Martinez (fifth at the O.G.) failed to impress, with the latter not being selected and Camejo, whose season peaked at the end of June, failing to come close to the final in Berlin.


Triple Jump (Men) – As perhaps was to be expected a Cuban won a medal.

But the wrong Cuban? Alexis Copello was somewhat less highly regarded than teammates Yoandri Betanzos, who failed to qualify for the final and David Giralt (fifth). In fact Copello’s Bronze shunted the Bahamian Leevan Sands down one place from his Olympic third position.


Shot Put(Men) – An injury at the end of July closed the book on the 2009 season for Jamaican Dorian Scott. That left the Cuban Carlos Veliz as the region’s only representative. However, with a season’s best of under 20.50 metres the C.A.C. Champion was never likely to contend.


Javelin Throw (Men) – Cuba’s Guillermo Martinez a finalist in the Javelin throw in both the 2005 and 2007 World Championships did not compete at all in 2008. However he returned with a bang in 2009, capturing the C.A.C. title in Havana and then impressing with a heave of 86.41 metres to become the first time javelin thrower from the region to win a global medal, as his throw held up for second place in Berlin.



 Decathlon (Men) – It was known that Cuba had been on an upswing in the Men’s Mult-Events since 2005 when Yunior Diaz was a silver medalist at the Pan Am Juniors and Yordanis Garcia captured the World Youth title in the Octathlon. Leonel Suarez joined the party shortly thereafter finishing 4th at the Pan Am Games.

 In Berlin Suarez a Bronze medalist in Beijing and an athlete with no really weak event overcame a shaky start to finish second. Garcia still only 20 years old in Berlin repeated his Osaka 8th place finish, albeit with a score over 100 points higher. But the revelation was Diaz who finished 9th with 8,357 points exactly 300 points more than his pre-2009 best.


20Km Walk (Men) – Mexico’s Eder Sanchez was fourth at the 2007 Osaka World Championships and went one place better in Berlin. His country’s first podium finish in the event since 1999. His teammate Jesus Sanchez was eighth but Colombia’s Luis Lopez gave that nation its best-ever result by a male athlete when he ended the course in 5th place.


4×100 metres (Men) – Jamaica’s path to a repeat of its Beijing success was eased considerably by the disqualification in the heats of the strong United States quartet on a technical violation. Jamaica with Steve Mullings replacing Nesta Carter on the leadoff leg fell short of their World Record of 2008 but still were good enough to set a Championship record with a 37.31 seconds performance. Trinidad and Tobago made the Jamaicans work for their victory as they stopped the clock in 37.62 seconds making them the third-fastest nation ever.

Like Jamaica they make only one change from their Beijing silver-medal winning squad, bringing in Darrel Brown for Keston Beldman on leadoff.


4×400 meters (Men) – A series of unexpected developments resulted in the C.A.C. Region represented by only one team in the final at Berlin.

The Bahamians had seemingly qualified easily in their heat and were a definite medal threat, but were bounced for a zone violation. Cuba had won the C.A.C. Championships relay but nominated only four runners and withdrew. Jamaica, without two of their entries in the individual 400, was a long shot at best.

 The Dominicans with strong leadoff and anchor legs did fairly well to finish sixth, improving one position over their 2007 placing.


100 metres (Women) – Jamaica with a sweep of the medals in Beijing, might have harboured thoughts of a repeat in Berlin. After all their lineup included the Olympic Champion, Shelly-Ann Frazer, the defending World Champion Veronica Campbell-Brown, and Kerron Stewart, the 2009 World Leader.


In the Berlin final all three faced the starter along with the Bahamian veterans Debbie Ferguson McKenzie (33) and Chandra Sturrup (37) and perhaps surprisingly, Jamaica’s Aleen Bailey.


The diminutive Fraser proved that her Beijing victory was no fluke, getting off to a great start and holding off the furious charge of Stewart, crossing the line in 10.73 seconds, making her the third fastest woman ever. Campbell-Brown had to settle for fourth behind the USA’s Carmelita Jeter. The two Bahamians, Ferguson and Sturrup were 6th and 7th respectively in identical times of 11.05 with Bailey trailing.


200 metres (Women) – Beginning in 2004 Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown had alternated with Allyson Felix in winning Gold or Silver at Global Championships. The Jamaican had prevailed at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, with Felix taking the major honours at the 2005 and 2007 World Championships.


The trend continued in 2009 with the American romping to a comfortable victory. As predicted by most, the bronze went to the
Bahamian Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie. Surprisingly, the fifth and sixth positions went to a pair of Jamaicans who would not have figured in the equation at the beginning of the year, the former junior stars Anneisha McLaughlin and Simone Facey.


400 Metres (Women) – Four Jamaican born runners lined up for the start of the 400 metres final. The two who were representing the island nation acquitted themselves admirably. Shericka Williams, as in Beijing, finished strongly to grab silver while Novlene Williams-Mills in fourth, put to rest the bad memories of Beijing where she failed to make the final.

 The depth of talent in the region seems to have been elsewhere directed. Of those who did show up in Berlin only Cuba’s Indira Terrero and Guyana’s Aliann Pompey could have felt any satisfaction with their performances.


800 Metres (Women) – Seemingly an event that has leveled off. Kenia Sinclair of Jamaica and Cuba’s 2005 World Champion Zulia Calatayud are still capable of competing at the top level but both seemed underdone by lack of exposure. Colombia’s Rosibel Garcia and Grenada’s Neisha Bernard-Thomas did nothing to enhance their reputations and the Guyanese veteran Marian Burnett now more often appears as a pacemaker on the European circuit.


100 Metre Hurdles (Women) – The Jamaican veterans Brigitte Foster-Hylton (35) and Delloreen Ennis-London (34) came to Berlin, each having won one silver and one bronze medal at previous Championships. There was no ironclad favourite in this event, with as many as seven athletes being considered possible medalists, with the American Olympic Champion Dawn Harper and Canada’s Priscilla Lopes-Schliep being considered the most likely winners.


Foster-Hylton started strongly and held on to take gold in a very close finish that saw Ennis-London  capture bronze.

 Other C.A.C. Hurdlers with good showings were Cuba’s Anay Tejeda and another evergreen Jamaican, Lacena Golding – Clarke. Both got to the semi-finals, as did the young Trinidadian Aleesha Barber.


400 Metre Hurdles (Women) – An event in which Caribbean Athletes has a long history of success, the 400 metres Hurdles saw another C.A.C.

athlete rise to the top step of the podium.

 Jamaican Melaine Walker, winner at Beijing, had been somewhat overshadowed by the outstanding American Lashinda Demus, making a comeback after a year off. Walker ran the race of her life, finishing in a meet record 52.42 seconds, the second fastest of all-time. Demus in second held off the vastly improved Josanne Lucas of Trinidad and Tobago who lowered her national record to and impressive 53.20 seconds. Fourth went to former World Junior Champion Kaliese Spencer of Jamaica, also recording a personal best.

 The third Jamaican, Nickiesha Wilson, 4th in Osaka departed in the semi-finals.


High Jump (Women) – There were only 3 C.A.C. Competitors – Levern Spencer, a finalist in 2007 representing St. Lucia, Mexico’s Pan Am Games winner Romary Rifka and the Colombian C.A.C. Champion Caterina Ibarguien a multi-talented athlete, who had perhaps been busier of late in the Horizontal jumps.

 None came close to advancing to the final and the final eight finish in Paris (2003) by the Dominican Republic’s Juana Arrindell seems unlikely to be equaled soon.


Long Jump (Women) – The region’s standard bearer in the long jump did not come from a traditional power like Cuba, Jamaica or the Bahamas but rather from the tiny island of Anguilla one of the I.A.A.F’s smallest members. Shara Proctor, though was not without some pedigree. She had won the event at this year’s C.A.C. Championships after placing third in the previous edition. However, with the declining performance level of the region’s long jumpers, her qualification for the final was a surprise and her 6th place finish, with a creditable national best of 6.71 metres, inspiring.

 Other Caribbean jumpers were Jovanee Jarrett of Jamaica and Cuban Yariadmis, a former Pan Am high jump medalist more recently reinvented as a heptathlete good enough to win the last two C.A. C.


 Absent for the first time since her debut in 1991 was 3 time finalist Jackie Edwards of the Bahamas.


Triple Jump (Women) – Cuba’s Yargelis Savigne, the defending champion sought to atone for a 5th place finish in Beijing. Her gold medal in Berlin gave her an enviable record of two wins to go with silver in 2005 and a fourth place result in the long jump also in 2005.


Her teammate, Mabel Gay had been a World Champion as both a Youth and a Junior but had yet to surpass her Paris 2003 fifth place finish at the global level as a senior. In Berlin she capped a consistent season with a silver medal.


Trecia Smith Jamaica’s 2005 gold medalist as in Beijing had a rather skimpy record prior to the major meet of the year, but lifted her performance to finish fifth. Her young compatriot Kimberly Williams, the U.S. Collegiate Champion failed to make the cut but looked to be one for the future.


Colombian Johana Trivino, the South American Champion and a potential finalist failed to appear.


Shot Put (Women) – With the retirement of Cuba’s former Olympic Champion, her country woman Misleydis Gonzalez, the 2009 C.A.C.

Champion stood out as the Region’s best hope. However, she was unable to reproduce her 2008 form which saw her take fourth at both the World Indoors and the Olympic Games. Her eighth place finish in Berlin was one better than her teammate Malin Vargas who had been 10th in Beijing.


Trinidad and Tobago’s Cleopatra Borel-Brown, twice in the top eight at the World Indoors, failed once more to advance to a Global final.

Also missing out in her first venture at this level was Cuban Yaniuvis Lopez, C.A.C. silver medalist this year.


Discuss Throw (Women) – Cuba’s Yarelis Barrios has never failed to win a medal at a major international championship and counts among her successes consecutive World Championships and Olympic Silvers, as well as World Athletics Final Victories in 2008-09. All that is missing is a Global gold medal.


Newcomer Yarisley Collado of Cuba had a very successful early season but may have been overcome by the occasion in Berlin which was in fact her first Championship competition away from home. The third Cuban Yania Ferrales, continued her streak of poor performances on the big stage although her C.A.C. win might have promised something different.


Hammer Throw (Women) – In the absence of two time World Champion (injury) Cuba’s hopes rested on the shoulders of Osaka finalist Arasay Thondile, the 2009 C.A.C. winner unfortunately she was below her best and failed to reach the final.


It was good to see other regional countries represented in Berlin but National Record holders Johana Moreno of Colombia and Venezuela’s Rosa Rodriguez, are still short of the 70 metre mark needed to be competitive at this level.


Javelin Throw (Women) – Former World Champion and World Record holder Osleidys Menendez may have fallen from the lofty heights of the middle of the decade but was still good enough to place 7th in Berlin.


Her teammates Yanet Cruz, a former World Youth Medalist and National Champion Yainelis Ribeaux both threw well short of the qualifying mark.


Bahamian Laverne Eve, who had competed at all but one World Championship since her debut in 1987, failed to make the required standard for Berlin.


4×100 Metres (Women) – On paper, Jamaica with four 100 metre finalists and two others in the 200 metre were obvious favourties although no one would discount the chances of the USA with the world’s fastest time this year. As in Beijin
g, though, there would be no “Clash of the Titans” as the Americans failed to finish their heat.


Jamaica running without Veronica Campbell-Brown was never really headed although the Bahamians, led by their two super-vets, returned to a global podium after a ten-year absence.


Two other C.A.C teams reached the final although surprisingly C.A.C.

Champions St. Kitts and Nevis were not one of them. Instead Trinidad and Tobago with two runners from each island, finished seventh, one place ahead of the Colombian quartet. For the latter it was their third appearance in a final with Felipa Palacios also a member of the 1995 and 2005 teams.


4×400 metres (Women) – It might have been unrealistic to hope for victory with the American Team reinforced by Allyson Felix but both Jamaica and Russia had placed two runners in the 400m final. As it turned out the Americans started strongly and won by over three seconds over Jamaica, who were followed by a somewhat disappointing Russian quartet.


Cuba was also represented in the final, but a disastrous lead off leg saw them finish a distant last, nearly seven seconds behind France and 19 seconds adrift of the rampant Americans.