AARON Antoine, the boys Under-20 high jump champion at the recent Carifta Track and Field Championships in Kingston, Jamaica, was impressed by the standard of the competition he faced.
Eighteen-year-old Antoine, as well as Keeran Sriskandarajah (boys Under-17 1,500m), were the TT gold medallists at the meet, which took place from Saturday until Monday. TT returned home with 23 medals, inclusive of 11 silver and ten bronze.
Upon the team's return to TT on Tuesday night, at the Piarco International Airport, Antoine said, "I think (the competition) was pretty high because I had (personal bests) three times. It made me go to heights I've never gone to before."
Antoine copped gold with a best effort of 2.16 metres. "It felt amazing. I felt completely relaxed on the field. So, to bring back gold, it was everything I prayed for."
The Presentation College, San Fernando student, who stands at six-foot-11, is also a basketballer with Spartans TT, and he was part of the NBA Elite Development team at a training camp at the NBA Academy Latin America, in Mexico, in late March.
"What I did up there, kind of helped in terms of my vertical leap," he said. "I did a lot of power work up there so it went a big way in my competition on Saturday."
As far as his 2022 schedule is concerned, Antoine is eyeing the Pan Am Junior Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the World Junior Champs in Cali, Colombia.
Reflecting on the atmosphere at the 2022 Carifta Games, the dual athlete said, "(Salute) to the Jamaica crowd because they were pretty welcoming and accepting of the other islanders. They didn't boo us. We went out there and they cheered us. The environment there was extremely lively."
Sprinter Shaniqua Bascombe, 18, returned home with three medals in the girls' Under-20 category - 200-metre silver, 100m bronze and 4x100m relay bronze (along with Kayla Caesar, Karissa Kirton and Kyah La Fortune).
She said, "This is my final Carifta Games but I was expecting to make a (time of) 11.3 (seconds) in the 100 but I made 11.50, which is a new (personal best). In the 200, I was looking forward to making 23.6, somewhere around there. It didn't happen.
"I'm not disappointed, I'm not vex or anything like that, but I'm still happy that I went out there and represent the country."
With regards to the standard of the competition, Bascombe said, "It was kind of tough, knowing that I wasn't training as hard as I was supposed to, to make the times and that I was the 2019 200m champion. Everything has its time."
Looking ahead, she said, "I'm targeting the Pan Am (Juniors) and hopefully (I can go) to the Commonwealth Games (in Birmingham, England) because I'm looking forward to a senior team this year."
Team manager Durly Lucas was pleased with the overall performance of the team in Jamaica.
"I am not surprised," he said. "Before we left here, my position was for the athletes to enjoy the Carifta, to have fun. We tried to put less pressure on them, to allow them to compete to the best of their ability."
Concerning the team's preparations ahead of the three-day meet, Lucas pointed out, "I would say that considering the conditions that we had to deal with, we dealt with it admirably.
"It's not only on the track that we prepared, we had the anti-doping seminar, we had the media seminars, we also had one session dealing with the mental state of the athletes, which are programmes that we intend to continue leading up to Pan Am Juniors, and also to the World Juniors in August."
Lucas ended, "I want to (state) my sincerest thanks and congratulations to the support staff who would have worked tremendously well (as well as) the male and female captains who would have had a significant input in dealing with, particularly the first-timers in the Carifta this year, Shakeem McKay and Bascombe."