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Jamaica’s ‘White rider’

Diane Abbott

Sunday, July 22, 2012    

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WE are days away from the opening of the Olympic Games here in London. There is huge interest in Usain Bolt. But another Jamaican competitor has caught the eye of the British media, and that is equestrian Samantha Albert.

As one British newspaper pointed out (somewhat ungallantly), she is 10 years later than the rest of the team and will be the only white Jamaican taking part in the games.

Albert has a British father, was born in Canada and has been based in Britain for over 20 years. But, because her mother is Jamaican, she is entitled to compete for Jamaica. She has taken up the opportunity enthusiastically. No doubt because there is not much competition to make the national squad in Jamaica as an equestrian.

But Albert speaks kindly of Jamaica. Her mother still lives there and Albert describes how, on her visits to the island, she is recognised by ordinary people as the “White rider”. She also says how the rest of the Jamaican squad make her feel perfectly welcome.

And she has sacrificed a lot to compete internationally for Jamaica. She rode for Jamaica at the Beijing Olympics and it cost her over £70,000. No wonder her mother does her best to raise funds for her in Jamaica.

Albert almost did not get to the Olympics. She had hoped to qualify at the Pan American Games in Mexico last year, but she is based in Britain, and the European Union slapped a ban on horses travelling to Mexico because of an outbreak of equine disease in South America.

The ban was lifted and for a while it looked as if she would be able to travel, but then her own horse fell ill and she had to abandon her plans. However, in March this year, she qualified at a competition in Ireland.

Her aspirations are modest. Apart from all her other challenges, her own horse has not proved ready for this Olympics so she is having to ride on a horse that she has leased and has only known for a few months. She would obviously like to get a medal, but more realistically she hopes that she can finish in the top 25. Most of us could never dream of representing our country at the Olympics. Samantha has got to do it twice.

It is difficult to imagine a footwear company making millions out of Samantha’s image, as Puma has with Usain Bolt. Nor can you imagine her boasting about preparing for competition by eating plenty of Trelawny yam. But in her determination she is a very typical Jamaican type. And her very presence in Jamaica’s Olympic squad reflects the national motto “Out of many one people”.

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