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UTech, Jamaica 60th Anniversary Lecture Highlights Link between Pioneer, Dennis Johnson and the Jamaican ‘Sprint Factory’

University of Technology | 2019-03-14 11:20:00

Professor Colin Gyles, Deputy President, University of Technology, Jamaica has contended that the UTech, Jamaica strategy of developing some of the world’s greatest talent  in track and field such as the likes of  Asafa Powell,  Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce,  Sherone Simpson,  Michael Frater, Brigitte Foster-Hylton,  Shericka Williams and a host of other stars, can be replicated, as a basis for sustainability of Jamaica’s international dominance in athletics.

Professor Gyles was delivering the University of Technology, Jamaica 60th Anniversary Distinguished Public Lecture   titled, “Dennis Johnson, UTech, Jamaica and the Jamaican Sprint Factory” on Thursday, March 7, 2019 at the University’s Papine Campus.

A video clip of Jamaica’s 36.85 seconds world record victory in the men’s 4 x 100M with the quartet of Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt at the 2012 London Olympics, provided a nostalgic adrenaline rush and backdrop for the lecture, which sought to present the inextricable link between Jamaica’s sprint dominance since the decades of the 2000s and the legendary Dennis Johnson, renowned coach and Olympian who has pioneered the successful development of the sports programme at the University of Technology, Jamaica.

Dennis Johnson was a star sprinter who represented Calabar High School in the 1950s and later the Bakersfield College and then San Jose State University, USA, where at one time he was the fastest man in the world – undefeated at age 21 in the 100 yards in 1961.

Professor Gyles’ lecture pointed to Johnson’s experiences at San Jose State University, where he was trained by the legendary Lloyd C. “Bud” Winter in the “rocket sprint start” sprinting technique which Johnson later transferred to UTech, Jamaica and subsequently to the enhancement of the Jamaican sporting landscape. “Dennis Johnson’s philosophy was that people could be taught to sprint,” Professor Gyles explained, adding that “he did not go for the stars from Champs; he went for those who had a passion but had not quite made it, because he felt that they would be most open to learn.”

Johnson served Jamaica as national coach on multiple occasions including National Coach for the World University Games (1981 – 1999); for the Olympic Games (1980-2004); for the Pan-American Games (1991) and for the Commonwealth Games (1990 and 1998).  He was Head Coach for the World Indoor Championships (1991); Technical Leader for the Jamaica Athletic Team (2001) and was Head Coach for UTech, Jamaica from 1980 to 2005.

Pointing out that up to 1970, the then College of Arts Science and Technology (CAST), later University of Technology, Jamaica didn’t feature prominently in sports, Professor Gyles noted that “today, UTech, Jamaica is the most successful university in track and field in the world, having produced more medallists at the Olympic and World Championships than any other university in the world.”

Professor Gyles posited that the reasons behind this success have been multi-dimensional.  He argued that in addition to the pioneering work of Coach Dennis Johnson, Jamaica’s success in sprinting is  also linked to ancestry and genetics, as well as to the fact that more athletes are studying and training at home.  He also pointed to a  nurturing local programme with many opportunities to compete from the primary to tertiary level as a contributing factor.

The Deputy President outlined the various dimensions of the UTech, Jamaica strategy which the institution has been undertaking to ensure the sustainability of sports for national development.  These include partnership with the UTech, Jamaica based MVP Track and Field Club, demonstrating the viability of local-based training; the establishment of the Faculty of Science and Sport in 2009 with degree programmes specializing in sport sciences; the integration of sports into the curriculum with 14 different sporting disciplines available to students as electives; and a strong institutional/academic framework which supports athletes’ development both physically and mentally.

National Sport Museum Advanced

Greetings were brought by Mrs. Florette Blackwood, Consultant, Sport Policy Development and Innovation in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, on behalf of the Minister, Honourable Olivia Grange. The Minister’s message commended UTech, Jamaica on the celebration of its 60th Anniversary, noting that the university as one of Jamaica’s premier institutions, “has become a world leader in technology education” and a “trail blazer in sport sciences.”  The minister asserted that UTech, Jamaica’s “academic achievement, sporting prowess, excellence and distinction are all embodied in Dennis Johnson who is recognised internationally for his contribution to the development of athletics.”

Mrs Blackwood also advised on behalf of Minister Grange, that the National Sport Museum which she noted will “proudly display and acknowledge this great son of Jamaica,” is in an advanced stage of being established.

The Lecture was chaired by Professor Stephen Vasciannie, President, University of Technology, Jamaica. The President thanked Professor Gyles for accepting the invitation to deliver the 60th Anniversary Distinguished Lecture highlighting the pivotal role played by Dennis Johnson in establishing the University as a centre of excellence in sports. The President also noted that Professor Gyles as a multidisciplinary scientist, has lent his passion for the application of science to the development of coaching courses in various sports, including, football, netball and cricket in collaboration with their respective national umbrella organizations. Professor Gyles was also instrumental in the establishment of the Faculty of Science and Sport at UTech, Jamaica in 2009 and served as the Faculty’s first Dean.

Dennis Johnson who arrived to welcoming applause from the large gathering of members of faculty, staff, students and members of the sports fraternity, was on hand to respond to questions and recommendations which ensued in a robust question and answer session following the lecture.

Posted By :Michelle Beckford

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