Donna Raynor encouraged by successful Carifta qualifying meet
Donna Raynor was left encouraged after the successful hosting of the first qualifying meet for the rescheduled Carifta Games.
Late last month, Raynor, the president of the Bermuda National Athletics Association, spoke of her determination to give hopefuls every opportunity to qualify for the Games. The event was originally scheduled for April 2 to 5, but has been delayed to July 2 to 4.
That ambition was put into practice at the weekend with a meet held at the National Stadium where a reduced number of athletes — in accordance with present government restrictions — competed in the 100, 400 and 1,500 metres as well as javelin.
Raynor hailed the success of the meet, which proved such events can be staged safely despite the island still being in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It was really pleasing to be able to hold our first Carifta meet for some time,” she said. “Most importantly it is really encouraging for our athletes because they can now see further opportunities to compete and try and qualify, which is huge for them.
“We had to work within the youth and sport department’s Return to Play guidelines and, as a non-contact sport, we put a proposal together and stuck to the guidelines.
“Obviously we can’t have all of our athletes compete together, so it is a case of having a few events at a time and splitting them over meets.
“For me the first meet was a success and it shows that we can do it moving forward. Obviously it’s a challenge to only be able to have 25 people at a time but thankfully we were able to stage different events in different areas.
“Another pleasing aspect to come out of the first meet is that we know we can easily replicate what we did and host more meets in the coming months, which was always my main ambition.”
While no previously unqualified athletes hit the required Carifta standard, Raynor was delighted with a number of performances, including that of Ellie Richmond, who once again hit the qualifying distance in javelin.
Raynor also spoke of the importance of giving athletes the chance to be tested in a competitive environment, having been restricted to individual training for much of last year.
“It was really pleasing to be able to see some of our athletes come out and compete in their first meet for a while,” she added. “It was also great to be able to see where they are at in terms of their performance levels.
“Obviously, our athletes have been able to continue their training alone during the pandemic, but it is important to be able to test yourself in a more competitive environment.
“You can do all the training you want, and that is important, but you can’t replicate that competitive environment and scenario.
“There some really promising performances and it was great to see that they have maintained some good levels.
“For us, it is all about being able to give our athletes some actual competition ahead of the Games; that’s vitally important.”
With the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association previously agreeing to move the Games from April to July, Raynor is desperate to take advantage of the extra time.
That includes creating more opportunities for athletes to book their place, with a new qualifying deadline set for three weeks before the championships, as well as handing previously qualified athletes the chance to be fully prepared.
“Knowing we have until July has taken the pressure off of us massively,” she said.
“If we were having to get ready for April, we’d all be stressed, but we have the best chance now to give our athletes more chances to qualify and also others to be fully ready for when Carifta takes place.”