Four years ago Odane Skeen was Jamaica’s only medallist across all sports, winning gold in the men’s 100m. But their star-studded track and field team for the Nanjing 2014 Games is aiming higher.
Two of Jamaica’s 400m medallists from the 2013 IAAF World Youth Championships are hoping to repeat the feat at the Youth Olympic Games.
Martin Manley won gold in the men’s 400m, while Tiffany James picked up bronze in the women’s 400m.
Manley is coached by Donald Hawthorne, the former mentor of Jamaica’s three-time Olympic medallist Yohan Blake.
The 17-year-old has struggled for form in 2014 but says he is ready to bounce back in Nanjing and will draw inspiration from his Olympic surroundings.
Martin Manley (right, with teammate Jaheel Hyde) is among the 400m favourites
“It has been a pretty rough season so far but you have to lose before you can win again - that’s what I’m learning this year,” said Manley.
“Most people don’t have the opportunity to go to the World Youth Championships and then come back the following year to go to the Youth Olympic Games, so it’s great.
“Everyone wants to be at the Olympics and, when these Games are over, I can say that I was a Youth Olympian.”
James agrees that competing in an Olympic environment encourages young athletes to strive for better performances.
Sprinter Tiffany James, with coach Ian Forbes, is feeling inspired in Nanjing
I think Nanjing is beautiful, the set-up is great and I feel confident in myself and my team. It’s motivating to see everybody coming together and that motivates others to do their best,” says James.
While Manley admits expectations are high in Jamaica, he says supporters will back their Youth Olympians regardless of results.
“Every time we leave the country, Jamaica expects us to do well, but our best is good enough for them,” he said. “It’s just a love affair, even if we lose, even if we win.”
Manley and James will take to the track for the first time in the 400m heats on 20 August.