Thu | Aug 17, 2017

What else could we be good at?

Published:Tuesday | December 9, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Patria-Kaye Aarons

A photographer captured the look on Alia's face in the pool when she realised that not only had she won the race, but she had equalled the 100m breaststroke world record. The look of sheer surprise warmed my heart.

Sure, you believe in your abilities, but nothing beats that moment when you have outdone your wildest expectations, and you have floated to the top and the world acknowledges that you are the best. Alia Atkinson had been putting in the work. And all the hard work has continually made her, her family and her country proud.

As an island nation, one would think that swimming would come second nature to Jamaicans. Not so. It's actually estimated that the number of Jamaicans who cannot swim far outnumbers the number of those who can. Those who have considered swimming competitively are a drop in the bucket.

For so long, Alia has been that quiet, steady voice in the pool advocating for others to join her.

Her journey has often been lonely. Only a year ago did she get her first corporate endorsement in GraceKennedy Money Services, and her success has come at great personal sacrifice of time and money.

As a country, we've been a little myopic. Our efforts (and finances) have been placed behind four sports: athletics, football, cricket, and, to a lesser extent, netball. These are the sports we are exposed to in secondary school and these are the sports with structured national programmes, so it stands to reason that these are the sports we excel in. All to the detriment of and exclusion of other potential Jamaican successes.

I swell with pride upon seeing the international press start their stories: 'Jamaican swimmer Ali Atkinson'. Is there anything we aren't good at? Thinking about Alia's success in the pool and other unlikely Jamaican sporting success - bobsleigh, equestrian, tennis, etc. - I visited the official Olympic site to identify low-hanging fruit - sports Jamaicans could consider participating in at the next Olympic games.

Here are my suggestions ... and my rationale for choosing them.

Gymnastics: Have you ever seen those girls in the dancehall? The acrobatics required to do today's dance moves surely are the same stuff that make for a great gymnast.

Beach volleyball: We're a shoo-in for that. We at least have home-court advantage since we can practise on the sands that surround our island.

Boxing: If Axeman is any indicator, we might really shine in this sport. Besides, it would probably be healthy to channel the aggression of some of our youth in this direction and rediscover the glory of yesteryear.

Shooting: I'll just put that there. Enough said.

Trampoline: Serious, you can win an Olympic trampoline medal. I saw a man raid my lychee tree and scale a 10-foot wall unaided. Imagine what he could do with a trampoline?

Weightlifting: Every male Jamaican dancehall act can enter this. A mandatory inclusion in all stage shows is the artiste lifting 'fatty'. Weightlifting wouldn't be a far stretch for them.

Some of these, I say in jest, but in honesty, I believe that there are real opportunities for Jamaicans to excel in far more diverse sports. Sports have been an outlet for so many - both in Jamaica and around the world - and there is some latent talent that can be awakened and can spell benefit for Jamaica and Jamaicans.

Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.