Express - May 04, 2001
By Raffique Shah
TRINIDAD and Tobago's teenage sprint sensation Darrel Brown has made history by being the youngest sprinter to be listed among the top performers in the 100-metre event for the 2001 outdoor track and field season. Brown, who will be 17 on October 11, posted a time of 10.24 to earn him 17th place among a group of elite international athletes, all of whom are years older than him. More than that, for the first time in over eight years Brown and another national sprinter, Jacey Harper (10.25 and 22nd place), have been ranked above Ato Boldon (10.3-33rd).
The El Dorado student recently teamed up with schoolmates Keiron Timothy, Marc Burns and Kevin Straker to win the 4 by 100m event at the Penn relays in 40.99. But he is unlikely to represent this country in the individual 100m at the World Championships due to be held in Edmonton, Canada, in September. Both coach Nestor Brown and Darrel's dad, who have guided his astonishing career ever since his super-sprinting talent was unearthed, said they will allow him to be part of a relay team, but not an entrant in the individual event.
Explaining, Darrel's dad said that he will continue to resist efforts to "pitch Darrel against the likes of Maurice Greene, Ato Boldon, Dwain Chambers and other top stars". "It could do him more harm than good," Brown senior said. "That's why we kept him away from Sydney (Olympics), but allowed him to race in the World Junior Championships in Chile." Brown Snr said he was trying to raise funds to send Darrel to Hungary for the World Youth Championships (under-18), where he expects him to bring home gold in his pet event.
"The ticket alone costs $12,800, and the NAAA is in no position to help," he said. "In fact, for the Carifta Games, Darrel received only a running tights from the NAAA, nothing more. How can you treat your most talented young sprinter this way? How do you think we get him track shoes and other gear? What about medical attention? We have to pay for all this. We are now seeking corporate sponsorship in order to get him to Hungary for the July meet."
And Brown Snr has reason to be both proud and disappointed. His son's ranking means that he will attract attention from numerous high schools and universities in the USA who are "scouting for talent". "We have already received more than 15 such offers, but we have turned them down. We want Darrel to complete his education at El Dorado first, then we'll look at the offers."
Darrel's stunning achievements make him not just the youngest athlete to be ranked in the open category by the IAAF, but puts him ahead of many big names in the game. Interestingly, only one athlete has run a sub-10 100m for the year-Kim Collins of St Kitts. But that was wind-assisted, so it does not count. Leader in the rankings up to Friday last was Bernard Williams of the USA (10.08), with Australian Matthew Shirington (Australia-10.11) and Mark Lewis-Francis (Britain-10.12) in the other top spots. Harper, Boldon, Johannn Jack (45th-10.35), Niconnor Alexander (47th-10.37) and Peter Fredericks (10.39) are the "Trinis" in the top rankings in the 100m.
In the 200m, as well, although Boldon holds the 2nd spot in all-time rankings, he has had a bad run of form this year. His best to date was 20.76, which put him in 39th position in that event. Leader for the year is Dutchman Patrick van Balkan, with a 20.36 to his credit. Harper (20.71) is ranked 39th, above Boldon. Among women athletes, no national of this country made the list in the 100m and 200m. But Jamaica's Veronica Campbell, who is two years older than Darrel, is ranked at the top in the 100m (11.13) and 6th in the 200m (22.92). Campbell won the double in Chile last year at the Junior Championships, and seems set to fill the breach in the sprints when the legendary Merlene Ottey bows out of the sport. Antiguan Sonia Williams (11.51) made the list, while Aleen Bailey of Jamaica held the top position in the 200m (22.59).
Brown still has another three years in which he will race as a junior (under-20), but his development has been so rapid, he is likely to become the country's premier sprinter before that. Compared with Boldon, his times are much faster. For example, Boldon's fastest at age 16 were 10.83 in the 100m and 21.44 in the 200m. And by 17, he had cut his times to 10.49 and 20.97 respectively. Brown has surpassed these times with ease. "It's why we are handling him with care," said coach Nestor Brown of Phoenix athletics club. "He has the potential to be the number one sprinter in the world, but we cannot allow him to over-train or race to the extent that injuries damage his career."
Copyright © Raffique Shah