It is the year 2014, yet woefully, people still cling to the notion of traditional sports. Unfortunately, a man such as Mike Fennell, acclaimed to be well versed in all the sporting endeavors of Jamaica’s athletes was oblivious to the existence of the Jamaica Taekwondo Association (JTA) and its affiliation with the world governing body, the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). Very recently, Wolmeriane alumni pursuing their tertiary education at the University of the West Indies (UWI), emerged victors in several chess games over their Yale and Arizona State University counterparts. After the fore mentioned international chess tournament, the Jamaican Chess team ranked as the second best team which took part. Moreover, even though many Jamaicans are unaware, we do possess a wealth of successful chess players and even a few grandmasters. I say this to say that no extraordinary importance should be placed on any single sport simply because of its popularity or our ability to excel at it. As sports they all need to be acknowledged as inspiring, uplifting and unifying; thus raising the bar of our overall competitive edge.
In the year 1988, Jamaica made its bobsledding debut at the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Being a tropical island paradise and having sunshine all year round, yet being able to compete in any edition of the Winter Olympic Games points to the limitless sporting possibilities and potentials of this great nation. Obviously, the contingent sent to represent a tropical nation participating in winter sports would be automatically seen as underdogs. Nevertheless, since her appearance in 1988, Jamaica has been able to send teams to the Winter Olympics for the subsequent editions of 1992 and 1994 and several worldwide and regional championships. They had very little practice going down a bobsled track, and a lack of optimal equipment resulted in them having to borrow spare sleds from other countries to compete. In a show of worldly brotherhood, other bobsledders were quickly willing to lend their guidance and support. The 1988 Jamaican team did not officially finish after losing control of the sled and crashing during one of their four runs. However, they showed significant improvement throughout the games and impressed observers with unusually fast and record-breaking starts. So inspiring was the story of four stereotypically defying Jamaicans that it resulted in the production of the major motion picture Cool Runnings.
Jamaica has been internationally represented in a wide array of sporting disciplines. Some of these sports include; rugby, squash, swimming, water polo, synchronized swimming, volleyball, badminton, ice and field hockey, beach football, netball, boxing, basketball, baseball, motor cycling, cycling, rally car racing, taekwondo, equestrian, lawn and table tennis. Having reviewed this list one will notice a few popular sports missing; which is another indication of our versatility as world-class performers on the international stage. Each one of these sporting programmes should be allocated adequate funding to develop at the grassroots level and sustain competitors while having rehabilitative capabilities for injured and recovering athletes. Apart from the Paralympics itself, Jamaica has been able to consecutively send constantly growing delegations of Paralympic athletes to several international championships. Not only have they sent teams of Paralympic athletes, but these athletes, like their more able-bodied counterparts have also proven their prowess, putting behind all doubt of our ability to ‘rise to the occasion’ and have cemented their own places in the Paralympic record books. Initially, Jamaican Olympic teams would consist of no more than 5 members, now that figure has increased to a minimum of 50 members (25 men & 25 women). Since the turn of the 21st century, Jamaica has become a household name in the world of sprinting. Coming from such a small team, it is now almost unimaginable to have an Olympic Games without the Jamaican sprint powerhouses, namely Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and living sprint legend, Usain Bolt.
Tessanne Chin has put in years of work. She has notched unmatched levels of performance experience with the likes of international reggae icons, Shaggy and Jimmy Cliff, to name a few. Regardless, it was not until she made a last-ditch effort (according to her) to audition for TheVoice™, an American high-calibre singing competition and was fittingly awarded the top spot, that we began to attribute the recognition her talent truly deserves. Why is it that we lazily await international recognition before accrediting our own? They never did love poor Marcus. So, in the famous words of the revered singing legend Burning Spear, Where is your love Jamaica?