Jamaica Observer / TAMPERE, Finland — Julian Robinson, coach of newly minted IAAF World Under-20 discus throw champion Kai Chang, was as surprised as anyone that his charge took the gold medal in the final at Tampere Stadium in Finland yesterday. Chang threw a personal best 62.36m to win Jamaica’s second gold in the event, after his training partner Fedric Dacres became the first in 2012 in Barcelona, Spain, and helped Jamaica to a record fourth gold medal at the championships and 12th overall, their best output ever.
Robinson has helped to put Jamaica’s throwers on the map, having now produced three medallists at the IAAF age group level. Traves Smikle was the first Jamaican to win a throwing medal in a global championships when he took the bronze in the IAAF World Youth (Under-18) Championships in Italy in 2009.
Two years later Dacres won the gold at the World Youth Championships in Lille, France, then followed it up with a gold at the Under-20 Championships a year later in Barcelona, Spain.
Smikle was an Olympian in 2012 in London and since then Dacres has become a bona fine world star, breaking the Commonwealth Games record in March and is the current World leader.
In an interview with Robinson, who was in London at the IAAF World Cup of Athletics where Dacres won gold on Saturday, the coach said while he eventually came to the realisation that his quick- learning student could get a medal, he never thought of gold.
“I never thought he would win the World Under-20 gold,” Robinson admitted. “I was just trying to get him to catch up with the other top throwers such as Roje Stona and Phillipe Barnett, who were ahead of him.”
Chang was the only thrower named in the team to Tampere as Barnett, who was second at the JAAA National Junior Trials, did not make the trip due to issues with his travel documents, while an attempt to replace him with Stona, who was third in Kingston, fell through, as by then the entries for the IAAF event had already closed.
Yesterday Robinson told the Jamaica Observer : “My plans for Chang at the start of the season was, if he can get to 57.00m I would be happy,” as the thrower, he said, needed some fine-tuning, having transferred from Titchfield High to Calabar High last year.
They started training early, Robinson said, explaining “technical things are learned when you are not under pressure and we have time, so I tried to maximise time and we started after exams were over.”
Robinson said he first saw the hulking, 6-foot, 6-inch thrower, who now wears size 14 shoes, two years ago when he was in Class Two throwing for Titchfield High at Champs and approached him, but felt the athlete rebuffed his approach.
“I don’t usually do this but when I saw him I approached him and told him that after he had completed his external exams, if he had any plans to leave Titchfield maybe he should consider Calabar,” but Robinson said Chang ignored him and walked away.
“I did not pursue him, though I thought he could be outstanding. And last year his coach Julian Ivey came to me at Champs, told me he was leaving Titchfield and wanted to know if we could take a few of his throwers at Calabar. And I said sure, as long as they could matriculate,” said Robinson, who added that later he got news that the thrower had decided to go to another school in Kingston.
The story took yet another twist as, according to Robinson, “Several weeks later the Calabar track and field team manager called to say Kai was trying to reach me, so we linked up and he said he wanted to come to Calabar, and I reminded him of our first meeting.”
Given what he saw Robinson said his eyes were on the points race at the ISSA Boys’ Champs, and he was hoping to get Chang into a position to get close to the top throwers, but said they needed to get to work immediately.
“I never had World Under-20 in mind,” the coach said, “but as the season progressed and [I] saw how fast he was progressing, I thought maybe we can qualify for the IAAF event,” he said.
Chang turned out to be a quick learner, faster than Robinson anticipated. “As things went on and he was assimilating the information and continued to develop, my mind shifted to thinking he could be a candidate for a top eight spot, but after he threw the senior weight over 57.00m I knew he had a chance to possibly medal — not any gold just a medal. And we started to prepare him and over the last two to three months we knew he had a chance. I never thought about a colour, but I knew he could win a medal.”
— Paul Reid