On your mark! Fiery JAAA vote runs off today

TODAY is decision day in the eagerly anticipated election for posts in the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA).

The historic ballot — the first time three candidates will be running for the top position of president — is expected to see the incumbent Dr Warren Blake facing strong challenges from Olympian Grace Jackson and lawyer Lincoln Eatmon.

The vote is set to take place at this evening’s annual general meeting slated to start at the National Arena at 5:00, while voting is due to start three hours later.

Approximately 377 voting members — from across the local athletics landscape including athletes — will decide who will lead the local body for the next four years.

Running on Blake’s ticket are Kingston College principal Dave Myrie for the post of first vice-president, athlete Michael Frater for second vice-president, and current general secretary Garth Gayle as well as Deon Hemmings-McCatty and Vilma Charlton.

Eatmon has on his slate Ian Forbes, Alfred Francis, Edward Hector, Bernie Panton, Julette Parkes and Barcelona Olympic Games double medallist Juliet Cuthbert.

Jackson, the 1988 Olympics silver medallist and the first female ever to run for the highest post in the local body, has on her team Dr Jon Jones for general secretary; Cathy Rattray-Samuel for assistant secretary; David Riley and Dr Paula Dawson as executive members; Dr Neil Gardner for fourth vice-president; Maurice Wignall for director of records, and Joseph Taffe for treasurer.

Jackson is hoping to draw candidates from the other two slates to fill her executive should she be victorious, while two other independent candidates — Olive McNaughton and Dwight Cunningham — are also running for positions on the executive body.

This has been one of the most contentious and potentially fractious election campaigns, which in one case threatened to blemish the reputation of one of Jamaica’s track and field icons Donald Quarrie over charges and counter-charges between himself and veteran coach Glen Mills.

It has called into question the selection of athletes for past Olympic Games and World Championships as well as the current deal the association has with sport gear manufacturers PUMA, while one candidate — Frater — is facing the possibility of expulsion by his training club (MVP Track and Field Club) should both he and Dr Blake win their respective seats.

While all three candidates have placed athletes’ welfare high on their lists of priorities, Eatmon has also promised greater transparency and sweeping changes to financial, administrative and coaching structures within the first six months of his term if elected.

“We are not just willing to talk… we can walk the walk,” he said.

Jackson is anticipating the full support of those who did not run alongside her should she be elected. She is, however, aware that her gender has perhaps played a role in her not being selected to run the association during last year’s emergency vote following the death of former president Howard Aris.

But this time around she believes her support base is stronger, and underlined her path with a five-point action plan unveiled on Tuesday under the theme: “On a Mission for Change.”

The five objectives are: To develop a comprehensive athletes’ support programme; structure the national junior championship programme to foster post-secondary school development; strengthen the existing organisational structure; develop a wide-ranging programme to certify coaches and officials, and develop an effective innovative and comprehensive marketing and rebranding campaign for increased sponsorship.

Dr Blake, who has had the benefit of being on the past Howard Aris administration since 2004, has taken credit for many of the collective achievements of the last eight years, including “improving the JAAA’s asset base from $18.9 million in 2004 to approximately $83.3 million at present”.

His own plans for the four years include floating an international bond to raise funds for the association and naming an international ambassador.

“We have to be united if we are to go forward,” said Blake.

Meanwhile, at least one local club — the MVP Track and Field Club, which boasts some of the country’s star athletes including Olympic gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Asafa Powell — has not indicated its selection for president, as it will be voting across all three slates.

“All three slates have some competent people,” MVP president Bruce James told the Jamaica Observer recently, adding that the club will be making its decision on the candidates most suitable for each post.

Powell has, however, categorically stated that he will be supporting his teammate Frater.

“He is going in it and he is going well. We need someone young and smart and someone who is in the game and has been through all the struggles. I think that’s what we were lacking. No one was there who knows the pain of the athletes. Michael… is someone who will support the athletes’ welfare,” Powell said.

JACKSON… on a mission for changeEATMON… we are not just willing to talk… we can walk the walkBLAKE… shares the credit of improving the JAAA’s asset base to $83 million

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