Khalifa St Fort & coach Ato Boldon

Khalifa St Fort & coach Ato Boldon

by Noel ‘Bravo’ Francis/DyeStatFL

KINGSTON, Jamaica, March 10, 2016 – The CARIFTA Games is the Caribbean’s biggest junior track and field event featuring the best athletes from all the islands vying for glory over the long Easter Weekend.

At the recent CARIFTA trials held in Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) respectively on the weekend of March 5th & 6th, 2016, two of Florida’s biggest names in High School track and field made the headlines.

Khalifa St. Fort (T&T) and Damion Thomas (Jamaica) showcased their talent with impressive wins in their respective disciplines. St. Fort won the Girls’ Under-20 sprint double – 100m (11.39 +2.2 m/s) and 200m (23.64 +1.7 m/s). Thomas captured the Boys’ under-18 title in the 110m hurdles in 13.73 seconds.

A number of famous and outstanding athletes started their track careers at the CARIFTA Games. This list includes Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Kim Collins, Shaunae Miller, Kirani James, Obadele Thompson, Kelly-Ann Baptiste, Jehue Gordon and Keshorn Walcott.

St. Fort and Thomas will now join that elite list and perhaps emulate the achievements of the greats in the near future. Both athletes will be making their first appearance at the 45th edition of the games which will be held in the beautiful island of Grenada. St. Fort has been having a tremendous year dating back to her 100m silver medal at the World Youth Championship in Cali, Colombia and winning the Pan Am Junior 100m crown in Edmonton, Canada. However, her proudest moment would have been at the Beijing World Championship where she became the youngest ever sprint medalist at a World Championship.

St. Fort has a personal best time of 11.19 over 100m and 23.55 over 200m. She seems to be approaching the height of her powers and was in a league of her own at the Trinidad & Tobago CARIFTA trials. She won both her events by wide margins and the closest her competitors got was when everyone was standing behind their blocks. The usually confident St. Fort displayed her textbook technique and gave her competitors and adoring fans a sprinting exhibition. St. Fort is coached by World Champion Ato Boldon and is set to be T&T’s next rising sprint star.

Another Florida based athlete, Sarah Wollaston from Somerset Academy, finished runner-up to St. Fort in the 100m (12.04) and has booked her ticket to the Games as well.

Over in Jamaica, the sprint capital of the world, Northeast High standout Damion Thomas won the hearts of an appreciative and knowledgeable crowd with an awesome display of technical hurdling. Thomas who recently gained his Jamaican citizenship set tongues wagging earlier in the day running out of lane one with a commanding performance winning his heat in 13.73 seconds the fastest qualifying time.

He returned a few hours later as the clear crowd favorite and duly put on another hurdling clinic winning in an identical time as his opening heat. It was mission accomplished for Thomas and his support group who had been planning this moment for a while.

At the end of the final Thomas was immediately surrounded by several photographers, local journalists and would be recruiters. He also did a fantastic radio interview on KLAS ESPN FM 89 a station with the largest sports listeners in the entire country. It was a surreal moment for the 16-year-old who instantly realized that he was now accepted as a son of the soil.’s correspondent in Jamaica Noel ‘Bravo’ Francis caught up with the high-flying Thomas after his memorable achievement.

Q: Was it an easy or difficult decision for you to try out for the Jamaican team at CARIFTA Trials?

A: “It took some years to figure out whether it is USA or Jamaica but I think finally we got the right solution so it worked out.”

Q: Is this your first time in Jamaica?

A: “Oh no I’ve visited many times before this, it’s just my first time running in Jamaica.”

Q: What are your connections to Jamaica?

A: “Both my parents were born and raised in Jamaica. My mom was a jumper for St. Jago High School.”

Q: How did you find the competition here in Jamaica?

A: “It’s a lot more serious. Everybody has serious faces and there wasn’t a lot of playing around. It was a good atmosphere.”

Q: How nervous were you in the final?

A: “I wasn’t really nervous. I was just focusing on getting out of the blocks properly; once I knew I got out of the blocks properly the race would come.”

Q: What are your thoughts on the Jamaican track?

A: “It feels very fast and it’s very light.”

Q: You normally compete at a higher height in the states 39 inches and out here it is at 36 inches. Was it difficult adjusting to the lower height?

A: “I would say it was a bit difficult. In the final because I was running all out I felt kind of high over some of the hurdles but I think with more races I’ll be able to go lower down to the height.”

Q: How excited are you to make the Jamaican team?

A: “I’m very excited, GOD gave me a gift and I showed that gift and now I get to run in the Jamaican colors. I’m just waiting to get my uniform now.”

Both Khalifa St. Fort and Damion Thomas should be returning to the Caribbean in two weeks time seeking further glory for their countries when the 45th CARIFTA Games gets underway at the National Athletic Stadium in St. Georges, Grenada from March 26-28, 2016. Grenada is known as the ‘Spice Island’ in the Caribbean and St. Fort and Thomas will definitely be bringing their own flavor to the Championship. The IAAF President Sebastian Coe is expected to be in attendance.


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