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Australian sprinter finds his Jamaican roots

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 18, 2013    

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AUSTRALIAN-BORN Jordan Williams Caldow had always dreamt of visiting Jamaica, not only to enjoy the white, sandy beaches and experience the unique culture, but to fulfil a childhood wish of meeting the family of his Jamaican father.

The perfect opportunity presented itself when the 19-year-old was among a group of athletes invited by Hayden Knowles of the athlete training/management and events group — Competitive Edge — to participate in a three-week training programme at the GC Foster College in St Catherine.

The team is visiting the island under a unique partnership between Australia and Jamaica involving president of The Business of Sport - JAMAICA, Carole Beckford, and Knowles of the Sydney-based Competitive Edge, which selects track and field groups to tour the island.

But less than 24 hours after arriving in the island, Caldow — who is Australia's fastest beach sprinter — made contact with his Jamaican grandparents and cousins after making known his wish to meet them during a television interview with the team.

"They saw me on the news and one of my cousins looked me up on Facebook and sent me a message," he said, explaining that he will be journeying to Montego Bay on Sunday to meet with them for the first time.

Caldow said as the only black person in his community in South Australia, he would readily inform everyone of his Jamaican connection and hoped for the day when he would be able to have a first-hand experience of the culture and with the people.

This, he said, as it was important for him to be able to identify with his heritage, especially since community members sometimes thought he was adopted by his white family.

"I am very excited that I am finally going to meet the other side of me," he told the Jamaica Observer, adding that he intends to keep in touch with them, despite the thousands of miles between the two countries.

Although his father Chad Williams still lives somewhere in Australia, Caldow said he was never involved in his life. Caldow said when he was younger, he met a brother of his father and later learnt that his grandparents were still living in Jamaica. As a result of his father not being around, Caldow was given his mother's surname as well as that of his father.

As such, Caldow said he made a promise that when he was older he would travel to Jamaica to find them.

However, he didn't know it would be so soon and was only too happy to accept the invitation to travel to the island.

"Even if I didn't have the chance to locate them, it would have been good to be exposed to the Jamaican culture and have this first-hand experience of my other side," he said.

For Caldow, it is almost like a homecoming as the teen said he has been made to feel like he is the half-Jamaican that he is.

"It is hard not to fit in here in Jamaica because everyone has been so welcoming," he said.

Meanwhile, Knowles — who is managing director of Competitive Edge — explained that Caldow was discovered during a nationwide search for top athletes.

A member of the Athletic All Stars, Knowles said Caldow was taken to Jamaica to be trained to sprint on the track by track and field guru Maurice Wilson.

"He is half-Jamaican and he is so big and strong and so we thought we would teach him to run on the track," said Knowles, adding that training under Wilson has been a life-changing experience for the Australian athletes, who are visiting the homeland of "the world's best athletes".

"This college (GC Foster) has treated us better than we could have ever imagined; the staff, the coaches, the athletes themselves," Knowles said, adding "I can assure you we will be back very soon."

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