As Barbados’ elite athletes prepare to hit the track in two days to compete against the world’s best at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, experienced national coach Alwyn Babb believes this will be a great learning experience for the team.
Babb, an IAAF certified coach said that while the Barbados team is young as it relates to having extensive international experience, he noted this was the best the country had to offer and he was hoping they gave of their best.
“The team all in all represents the best of what we have at this time and we can support them. We are still young, the oldest being Shane [Brathwaite] and as you know international track and field calls for years of experience and most of them are young as it relates to international competition.
“We are hoping that they are prepared enough, that they have done their homework. COVID has affected athletics and preparation and being able to travel to meets. We are hoping for the best and that they put their best foot forward,” Babb told Barbados TODAY.
During the telephone interview, Babb, who has trained some of Barbados’ best, shared his views on the six athletes who have qualified and were chosen to represent Barbados in Tokyo.
They are Commonwealth Games gold medallist and 110m hurdler Shane Brathwaite, Tia-Adana Belle in the 400m hurdles, quarter milers Jonathan Jones and Sada Williams along with sprinters Mario Burke and Tristan Evelyn.
“The hurdles have always been our strength and Shane with his experience of the World Championship and other Olympics and Commonwealth Games would know what he has to do to ensure that he moves through the rounds.
“We have Mario in the sprint, he has had a rough year in terms of his overall fitness but he has the experience of the college system behind him and hopefully has had some time to work on any problems or issues he has been having that will see him advancing past the quarter-final.
“We have the ever-improving Jonathan Jones who right at the beginning of his college career he broke the Barbados national record. We have not seen him in this year return to that form but we are hoping that he has been prepared, that his final preparation for competition would see him approach his national record performance. Based on what we are seeing in the 400m, it would take that kind of performance to move past the first round,” Babb explained.
He added: “On the ladies side we have the first-timer Tristan Evelyn who from primary school, all the way through the secondary school system right into CARIFTA, has shown the promise of international representation. She would have the baptism of fire with these ladies and we are now hearing that the experienced sprinters are the ones who get to the final and secure the medals. But we are hoping that this is part of the learning curve and the mere fact that she has met the qualifying standard, this is the start of an international career.
“Lady sprinters tend to stay a bit longer than the men. So, this is going to be part of her learning curve in international competitions. Based on what we are seeing, I think this is the time where she waits her turn, learns from the Olympic experience and takes it as part of what she has to do to secure international success.
“Sada Williams is a very talented athlete. She would have started the year pretty good in the first set of meets that we saw her in Jamaica. I believe that based on the Sada I saw at Qatar at the last world championship, she is a competitor. And if she is fit enough, we can see Sada doing the country well.
“Tia-Adana Belle will be going up against ladies who have approached the world championships or even broken the world record. So, the 400m hurdles will not be easy but we are hoping that she is fit enough to advance into the first round. Once you get that advancement you can always plan your strategy as it relates to going into the final.
“But those events are going to be tough on the ladies. They are going to have to dig deep and call on experience. This is not the first time she (Tia-Adana) has been to a world championship or a big meet, so she will have to call on that experience to reap a level of success.”
As it relates to preparation for the Olympics and even possibly qualifying, Babb noted it was not an easy task for any athlete.
“Over the years we are seeing the demands in terms of qualifying standards being increased or decreased. The performance that you are asking to produce in some cases would have won medals at previous competitions. But it is not easy, it is not an easy thing to make the Olympic qualifying standard. To achieve the standard, you and your coach must have a plan and then once you have achieved that standard, you have to move into medal contention.
“What we have seen from our athletes is that they have achieved the standard but are those times and distances competitive and once we have analysed their performances before the qualification, then we would not come away having unrealistic expectations.
“For instance, Jonathan Jones’ 45-plus seconds, is it medal contention? But he has qualified, so that is the type of analysis we are looking at and having those expectations, they must be realistic based on the current form of the athlete,” Babb stressed.