Grace Jackson in action

JAMAICAN OLYMPIC silver medallist Grace Jackson, recently elected to the IAAF Women’s Committee, has already set her sights on helping to increase the involvement of women in sport.

Though she has not yet met with her committee, Jackson, who was born in the ‘Garden’ parish of St. Ann in 1961, said she has begun putting ideas together in terms of what to recommend to her fellow council members.

These recommendations, she said, were put together based on the understanding of the vision of the world plan for the IAAF and the role of women within the feature of the IAAF.

The manager of Student Services for Sports at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jackson said that while the committee’s main responsibility was to broaden the scope of women in the sport, both on and off the track, she wants to ask “how do we get more women involved?”.

“As you can see now, the council led from the top and has more women - four up from two, but is that really enough?” she asked. “We have equal athletes on the track but we do not have equality at the council level.”

Jackson, the first vice president of the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association (JAAA), said the input of women is also needed at the national and Area levels.

where it all starts

“It doe not start with the council. It starts with what happens at the national federations and that extends to what happen in the Areas,” she said.

"What are the role of women in the Areas? Where are the women coaches? The athletes are crying out for them," she said. “I am not disregarding the male coaches in any way, but we would like to have more women as well,” she added, while saying that women athletes feel more comfortable talking to women about women issues.

While admitting it would take some work and time to change the current state ofaffairs, she also asked: “Are we going to be able to change these things? It’s a long road but in areas in which we can have prominent women, we surely want to be able to nurture that …”

Jackson, who was in Osaka, Japan, for the 11th IAAF World Championships, where she was assistant manager of the Jamaica team, also discussed that role with ‘Sunday Chat’.

While taking little credit for Jamaica’s record 10-medal haul, Jackson said the presence of former athletes helped a lot.
“I think, not just myself, but those of us who have been Jamaican representatives at the Olympic and World Championships level have a natural role to play in ensuring that the athletes here are motivated to perform at their best,” the statuesque former sprint star said.


“I think that it is important when we are called upon, and even when we are not called upon, to encourage the athletes because at the end of the day, all of us have a responsibility to ensure that the athletes are ready and can perform at their best.”

Winner of two 200m World Indoor Championships medals, silver in 1987 and bronze in 1989, Jackson said she tried to spend as much time as possible with the women in particular by talking about races and helping with pre-race nerves.

“On this particular trip, I had a number of female athletes come and ask me a lot of questions, and I even assisted in preparing them for races … I am very happy and excited to do that.”

She also praised Davian Clarke who, last Saturday, was elected to serve a four-year term on the IAAF Athletes’ Commission for his assistance with the men.

Olympic Games 200m gold medallist Donald Quarrie was the technical leader of the team while Cathy Rattray-Williams, also an Olympian, was the press officer.

After all is said and done, Jackson said in order for athletes to perform after months of preparation, they first must understand that they are ‘ready’.

Jackson, who was awarded Order of Distinction by the Jamaica Government for her contribution to sports, also spoke abouther personal experience on the track.

Her biggest achievement came at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games when she finished second in the 200m behind American Florence Griffith-Joyner, who ran a world record 21.34, beating the previous mark of 21.71.
“Seoul was my best year,” Jackson, a two-time Jamaican Sportswoman of the Year (1986 and 1988), said. “I think it was my best year in athletics.”

positive approach

“I had run my best 100m,” she said of her personal best of 11.08 done at the National Stadium. However, according to her, she will always remember when Quarrie, her coach at the time, said “the semi-final will be your hardest race”, the same words she said she passed on to athletes in Osaka.

She continued of 1988: “I had a very positive approach, I worked very, very hard and smart that year, so I was very strong. I was physically ready but so were all the other people.”

However, she said what made the difference was that “I needed to be better than them by being mentally strong and I think I had that gift”.

Jackson, a former Queens High student, had also set herself a target which was to break the world record. [b]The world record at the time was 21.71 seconds.

“I had that on my wall because I wanted to visualise it, to become a part of me.”[/b]
In the final, she said, "I was on the outside lane and as I came off the curve I noticed five people were on my inside, so I said I cannot get a medal if I am in fifth, so I made my move.

"I had the capacity to make the move. I was physically ready and I made that move all the way down to the finish line. But, of course, the most rewarding part of all of that was when the English reporter shouted to me, and asked, ‘do you know what time you ran’ … and I said no, and he said 21.72, and I said ‘yes’ … simply because my goal was really to see if I would run a world record."
22 seconds

"It was the first time Jackson broke 22 seconds and she was happy, not only for the time, but for the medal.

“I got a silver medal to someone who had run 21.3, which I don’t know if I ever had the capacity to be able to do. So I was very satisfied with that, with 21.72 and by extension my silver medal.”

Like many others, she too has bad memories, particularly after she missed the 1987 trials and was not selected to represent Jamaica at the second IAAF World Championships in 1987.

“It was a frustrating year for me because I had not attended trials,” she said.

“I had been in the States running, I had run 21.7 hand timed at their National Championships (United States) and I was to come home but did not and I was not selected to be a member of the team. That cost me my top 10 ranking because not making the team meant I did not go to a major championships.”

She said it also affected her running in Europe “because I was devastated”.

“It was the first time in my 10 years that I was not in the top 10 in the world, which affected me financially, losing my contract … not having those were low moments for me,” she said.

Not bad enough though to keep her from the sport she loves and continues to want to a make a mark in - particularly for women.