The Carifta Games, which had its inauguration in Barbados in 1972 has exceeded the expectations of the founders.
A group led by Barbadian banker and president of the Amateur Athletic Association of Barbados got together with the idea of hosting a track and field competition bringing school children of the region together and as a result enhancing relations throughout the Caribbean.
This was when the decision was made at the seventh Commonwealth Caribbean meeting was held to replace the Caribbean Free Trade Association and establish a Caribbean Community. CARIFTA is an acronym for the Caribbean Free Trade Association.
The treaty to establish the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was signed in Trinidad & Tobago on July 4th, 1973, just six days before the Bahamas gained Independence. The second Carifta Games had been held that Easter in Trinidad & Tobago.
Dutch and French speaking countries were included.
Carifta is an annual competition for the youth of the region and it is usually held over the Easter weekend.
It is under the jurisdiction of the North American, Central American, and Caribbean Athletic Association of the International Association of Athletic Associations (IAAF).
The meet is now in its forty-second edition and will be held in Nassau, The Bahamas over the Easter weekend, March 29th-April 1st in the brand new Thomas A Robinson National stadium.
Between the founding and now Carifta has reached an unexpected status and has been called “the best junior competition in the world” by the President of the world governing body of Track and Field, Lamine Diack after attending his first Carifta Games in The Bahamas in 2002.
World Record Holders, Olympic and World Champions
From these Games has come several world record holders and Olympic and World Champions like Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Pauline Davis-Thompson, Tonique Williams-Darling, Troy Kemp, Veronica Campbell Brown, Kim Collins, Darrell Brown, Kirani James, Keshorn Walcott, the Olympic Javelin champion from Trinidad & Tobago, who also captured the Carifta, Jr. CAC, and World Junior title last year, Fredrick Dacres, from Jamaica who captured the Carifta, Jr. CAC, World Youth and Junior Discus championship , and Anthonique Strachan Bahamian double World Junior sprint champion.
During the 2004 Carifta Games in Bermuda Usain Bolt smashed the World Junior record in the 200m in Bermuda in a time of 19.93sec. This was the only World Junior record ever established at the Games.
The competition is staged for Under-20 and Under-17 athletes, which means that they cannot attain the age of twenty or seventeen in the year of competition.
For girls the running events go up to the 3000m and for the boys to the 5000m.
The 3000m steeplechase is included for the boys Under-20 and the pentathlon for the girls Under-20 and heptathlon for the boys Under-20.
The field events exclude the hammer throw.
Each division has both 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay.
Starting off with 23 events in Barbados in 1972 it quickly moved to 39 events in 1976 when the Games were first hosted in The Bahamas. The Games now have a total of sixty-six events.
Of the forty-one Games held seven were hosted by Barbados and seven by Jamaica.
The Bahamas and Trinidad & Tobago have hosted six each with Martinique and Bermuda hosting three, The Cayman Islands and Guadeloupe hosting two each, and Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis, and The Turks & Caicos hosting one.
The Bahamas hosted the Games in 1976, 1978, 1981, 1984, 1992, and 2002.
In 1976 The Bahamas introduced the Carifta logo, flag, and Opening Ceremonies.
Winston Cooper was the President of the BAAA when the Games were held in 1976 and Dr. Bernard Nottage the Chairman of the Local Organizing Committee.
Jamaica has dominated the competition, winning thirty-six of the forty-one championships. They have not lost since 1984.
The Bahamas has won four championships, Bermuda 1980, The Bahamas 1981, Martinique 1983, and The Bahamas 1984.
Bermuda won the championships when it was held there in 1975.
Austin Sealy Awards
Five Bahamians, all women have captured the Most Outstanding Athlete Award, named the Austin Sealy Award after the recognized founder of the Games, Austin Sealy.
MaryAnn Higgs-Clarke 1978 Nassau
Lavern Eve 1982 Kingston and 1983 Martinique
Pauline Davis-Thompson 1984 Nassau
Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie 1995 Cayman Islands
Anthonique Strachan- 2011 Montego Bay and 2012 Bermuda
Bahamian Record Holders
Bahamian athletes have set or tied several records in Games history.
The oldest record held by a Bahamian is the Under-17 Boys Triple Jump by Lyndon Sands in 1980 in Bermuda. That performance was 15.03m (49’4”).
Other Bahamians who presently hold Carifta records are:
High Jump- Raymond Higgs- 2.21m (7’3-1/4”) St. Lucia 2009
Triple Jump- Lathario Collie-Minns 16.35m (53’7-3/4”) Bermuda 2012
100m - Tamica Clarke 11.03sec Heat Trinidad & Tobago 1998
Tied with Aileen Bailey also in heat 1998
200m - Anthonique Strachan 22.85sec Bermuda 2012
Long Jump- Daphne Saunders 6.39m ( 20’11-3/4”) Barbados 1989
100m Hurdles- Aaron Wilmore 12.88sec St. Kitts & Nevis 2008
400m Hurdles- Stephen Newbold 52.75sec Cayman Islands 2010
High Jump- Raymond Higgs 2.13m (6’11-3/4”) Turks & Caicos 2007
400m- Shaunae Miller 53.36sec Cayman Islands 2010
Long Jump Jackie Edwards 6.14m (20’2”) Trinidad &Tobago 1987
It is anticipated that when “the dust is settled” on the evening of Easter Monday, April 1st, several new records will have been established and al new Austin Sealy Award winner proclaimed.