A good year for sports

Saturday, December 29, 2012

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Like most other sectors of the society, Jamaica's sporting arena struggled this year to cope in the extremely harsh economic climate that has afflicted the nation.

But dissimilar to some sectors, our sporting heroes and heroines dug deep into their reserves and produced the goods more often than not, especially when it really mattered.

Our collective nationalistic pride soared, and for that we are eternally grateful. For indeed, our athletes seemed to have used the hardships like the proverbial 'wind' against which they soared to greater heights.

Of course, leading the way was the outstandingly gifted Mr Usain Bolt, who wowed not just his beloved Jamaica in the midst of celebrating its 50th year of political Independence, but the entire world with his unprecedented feat of retaining the sprint double (100 and 200 metres), as well as the 4 x 100m relays at the London Summer Olympics.

All our athletes — including Mrs Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who also retained her 100 metres sprint crown from the Beijing Games four years earlier — our coaches and support staff deserve the highest accolades for an outstanding job.

A few weeks later, at the same venue, the wheelchair-ridden Mr Alphanso Cunningham extended the hype with a superb, personal and regional best performance of 21.84 metres to land gold in the Men's F52/53 javelin at the 14th Paralympics, even as three of his colleagues were denied the right to participate because of a recently introduced quota system employed by the International Paralympics Council.

On the pitch, our cricketers were also in record-breaking form, capturing their fifth consecutive West Indies Cricket Board regional four-day title. Then later in the year a number of Jamaicans, including Messrs Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, helped propel the West Indies to the Twenty20 World Cup throne — the regional side's first world title since the Limited Overs World Cup triumph of 1979.

Football enjoyed a roller-coaster year in which all age-group teams advanced further on the road to World Cup qualification, including the senior Reggae Boyz, who inflicted a first-ever defeat on the mighty USA at that level.

However, they ended the year in a lull after losing their Caribbean Football Union crown, thus failing to qualify for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the USA in the summer.

Many other sporting disciplines held their own and made the country proud without reaching the dizzying heights of our track and field stars, but no better culmination could have been reached other than one of the most inspirational stories of the year.

In the early morning of Sunday, December 9, Mr Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters became the first Jamaican to win a world title fight on home soil when he defeated Colombian opponent Mr Daulis Prescott to lift the World Boxing Association Featherweight belt inside the National Indoor Sports Centre.

Mr Walters struggled with adversity to reach the top of the world, from his days training with his father Mr Job Walters on the streets of Roehampton Lawson district in St James.

In those days, his parents said, they were unable to purchase a pair of boxing gloves for their son, therefore they substituted with two orange juice boxes.

From the roadside to the top of the world! That, we maintain, is the stuff of which champions are made. As we approach the new year, we urge our sports administrators to continue to provide the astute leadership necessary, despite the challenges they are bound to face. Their victories are worth much more than triumphing on the field of play.




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