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Gambian Athletes Dreaming Big at Dakar’s High Performance Training Center

Gambian athletes at Dakar's HPTC

At Dakar’s High Performance Training Centre (HPTC) in neighbouring Senegal, young Gambian athletes are undergoing grueling training schedules in preparation for international athletics competitions.

The athletes, between the ages of 21 and 26, practice eight times a week to improve their strength, agility, speed, endurance and other skills. Most of them draw inspiration from global stars like Jamaica’s Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt.

Assan Faye, a 200m sprinter hopes that with hard work and perseverance, Gambians will soon be able to compete with topmost athletes around the world. He’s one of the athletes training at the HPTC. “Everything about this centre is good. It has impacted positively on my career and I just can’t wait to compete.”

Assan Faye speaking to The Chronicle

The Centre was created in 2017 by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) to prepare athletes for competitions.

“Here at the Centre, we give out training programs for the athletes that suits them best and guide them on the right nutrition for peak performances,” Smail Alain, the athletic coach of the center tells The Chronicle. “We also teach them to have a greater awareness of their strengths and how to develop them fully and also how to manage them psychologically and emotionally.”

The French coach commends the Gambian athletes for their discipline and determination. “I must say I’m happy training The Gambian team. They are so flexible and are ready to learn all the time,” he says.  

Coach Smail Alain with Gambian athletes

Gambian sprinter Adama Jammeh is hoping to meet the minimum A qualification time at the 12th African Games in Morocco in August in order to compete at the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo.

The 26-year-old 200m and 400m runner, who has been training at the High-Performance Centre in Dakar since 2015, says qualification for the global event is top of his priorities.

In 2016, Adama became the first Gambian 200m male runner to get an Olympic qualifier standard when he clocked 20.45 seconds at the African Senior Athletics Championship in Durban, South Africa. He won a Silver medal for The Gambia. He also finished 5th position at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio in the 200m with timing of 20.55 seconds.

“I have been training hard and my target is to make the mark even though I know it will be tough because I will be competing with top class athletes. Most of them are African champions but that is the beauty about it. This helps me to improve my time,” Adama tells The Chronicle.

Adama is the first male Gambian track and field athlete to train at the prestigious HPTC in Dakar and is keen on replicating his form at the African Games in Morocco. “I have a host of events ahead before the games in Tokyo, but this one in Morocco is key because it determines my timing for the games in Tokyo’’.  

Adama Jammeh

The Gambian sprinter is the captain of HPTC, representing 17 athletes from nine different countries in the centre. Among the trainings he and his colleagues undergo regularly are flexibility, muscular strength, aerobic capacity, reaction time, power and strength.

Meanwhile, the qualifying system for Tokyo 2020 saw some changes from the previous Olympics. While the qualification from Rio 2016 and other previous editions relied on qualifying times, Tokyo 2020 is primarily based on world ranking.

The IAAF world rankings are based on the average of the best five results for the athlete over the qualifying period. The results are also weighed by the importance of the meet.  

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