‘Matthews is an untapped gem’
Rohaan Simons, the Bermuda high jump coach, is confident Kaiya Matthews can leap even higher after watching the Berkeley Institute student for the first time in the Carifta Games trial at the National Stadium last weekend.
Simons identified the “untapped gem” after watching the 17-year-old clear the bar at 1.80 metres while jumping in a pair of high-top sneakers.
The first task is to replace those with a pair of spikes and then introduce him to a training programme, Simons said.
“You saw him jumping in high-tops and he ‘disrespected' 1.80 in high-tops,” Simons said after the weekend meet in which four more athletes reached the qualifying standard for the Games.
“He started at 1.50 [metres], so it wasn't like he knew he could pass. I would have had him starting at 1.70 so he would have been a lot more strong coming around to 1.80, 1.85 and 1.90.
“Wearing high-tops you can't run your turn as well as in spikes, there's no grip. You can't stop abruptly and get that nice spring.
“He's one of those untapped gems that we have all round the island. We just need these PE teachers to be more proactive. There's no way that you can tell me three years ago that guy couldn't jump.
“I could have had him qualify for Carifta before in the under-17s! When I got there I hadn't even seen him before and immediately he put his trust in me. After I talked to him in his last three jumps, he made the 1.80.
“Even when I was talking to him, he had full concentration on what I was saying. Then he was replaying the things I was saying in his mind and made the adjustments.”
Simons has also heard of another promising jumper, 16-year-old Gabriella Medeiros of Saltus Grammar School, who also competed in the Carifta trials, recording a best jump of 1.55, which just missed the qualifying mark of 1.60.
With the qualifying deadline being extended after the Carifta Games were postponed because of the worldwide Covid-19 virus outbreak, Simons is looking forward to working with both jumpers in the coming weeks.
“There is a girl, Gabriella, who jumped 1.55 today [Sunday] and doesn't train. She's a dancer but she could qualify for Carifta.
“She's got power, spring, and is coachable because I went to Saltus and coached her after their sports day. I make myself available to give those who want it the opportunity to advance.”
The postponement of the Carifta Games could be a blessing in disguise for Matthews, Simons feels. “We're going to get him some spikes ASAP and go from there.”