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Last updated: 31 March, 2009 - Published 16:30 GMT
 
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Usain Bolt 2012?
 

 
 
Usain Bolt
Olympic champaion Usain Bolt got his start at this event
The world will catch a glimpse of who could be Jamaica’s future Olympic champions this week at the island’s annual high school Boys’ and Girls’ Athletic Championships at the National Stadium.

The Championships highlights the culmination of a season beginning in January with at least one 'developmental' meet a week in the three months before the meet, usually held the week before Easter.

Some of Jamaica’s most prolific athletes rose to prominence here. The names Herb McKenley, Donald Quarrie, and Merlene Ottey spring to mind.

The high school meet, has in the last 30 of its 90-plus year existence, earned the reputation of being the biggest in the English-speaking Caribbean.

There is added excitement this year following Jamaica’s 11-medal haul at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Champions springboard

All four individual gold medallists, including the 100m and 200m world record holder Usain Bolt, got their start at this event.

Two-time 200m winner Veronica Campbell-Brown, 100m gold medallist Shelly Ann Fraser and 400m hurdles winner Melaine Walker are the others who got their first taste of track and field stardom at the Championships.

Dexter Lee
100m World Junior champion Dexter Lee hoping to make a future mark in the adult league

The island is expecting an influx of international media, sports agents, and representatives from athletics’ world governing body IAAF.

British former two-time world champion and 110m hurdles world record holder Colin Jackson is among the noted athletes who will also watch the meet from Wednesday to Saturday as part of a delegation from sportswear manufacturers Puma, which also sponsors the country’s athletics association.

Former Olympic 100m champion Donovan Bailey and 2004 Olympics 400m hurdles gold medallist Felix Sanchez have been spotted among the massive crowds at past Championships.

"We have been getting strong requests and all indications are that as soon tickets go on sale on Wednesday morning (April 1) they will be completely sold out," Organising Committee chairman, Clement Radcliffe, told BBC Caribbean.

The National Stadium seats approximately 25,000.

"Indeed, we have to be refusing because we have been getting requests daily and we have no space to accommodate them," Radcliffe added.

Making a champ

Over 1000 athletes will be vying for titles in 30-plus events over the four days with a points system determining the champion school.

Among those to be on show are the reigning 100m World Junior champion Dexter Lee and 200m World Youth champion Ramone McKenzie.

2007 World Youth and 2008 World Junior Championships medallist Nickel Ashmeade suffered an unfortunate accident, breaking his elbow several weeks ago, and is doubtful to be ready in time to compete.

The rivalry among schools, especially the boy’s, during the four days of action, is palpable - the atmosphere, electric.

The National Stadium is expected to be at capacity late Saturday when the curtain comes down on the event.

Only two schools can crowned king and queen, but from a Jamaican perspective, there can be no losers.

 
 
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