Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Record for Rio - Largest ever Olympic team named for 2016 Games

Published:Tuesday | July 12, 2016 | 7:00 AMAndre Lowe
Gymnast Toni-Ann Williams (left), a member of the Jamaican Olympic team to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, speaks with Diana Jorge Valle, deputy head of mission at the Brazillian Embassy in Jamaica, during yesterday's announcement of the team at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
Christopher Samuda (left), secretary general of the Jamaica Olympic Association, with President Mike Fennell during yesterday's announcement of the make-up of the Olympic Team to Rio.
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Forty-four first-time Olympians were named in Jamaica's 63-member contingent that was yesterday announced for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) outlined the country's largest ever delegation to the Olympics.

This year's team eclipses the 50 athletes who represented the island at both the 2008 and 2012 instalments.

It was a point of great pride for JOA President Mike Fennell, who also used yesterday's press conference at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston as an opportunity to underline the wide range of representation on the team.

Track and field will, as usual, account for the largest number of athletes on the squad with 59 entries - 41 of whom will be travelling to their first Olympic Games.

Jamaica will also be represented in gymnastics following the historic qualification of Toni-Ann Williams, who will become the country's first Olympic gymnast.

Yona Knight-Wisdom is set to compete in the 3m springboard diving event, while the experienced Alia Atkinson, who is travelling to her fourth Olympic Games, and Timothy Wynter, will carry the Jamaican effort in swimming.

"We do have good breadth, and the young people coming on shows that there is a fantastic succession in place," said Fennell.

"If you look at the track-and-field group, one of the interesting features also is the breadth of events we have qualifiers for. We are not just a sprint factory, we are represented in other things - field events, jumps and hurdles and I think this augurs well that we are broadening the base and not just focusing on the sprints," Fennell added.

As expected, sprint king Usain Bolt, listed for the 100m and 200m, is among the 27 male track-and-field athletes despite being forced to withdraw from the Olympic trials last month because of injury. London 2012 sprint hurdles bronze medal winner Hansle Parchment, who also missed the trials and, like Bolt, had received a medical exemption, is among four 110m hurdles representatives on the team.

Only a maximum of three athletes can compete in an event with that determination expected to be made on August 10 during the Olympic Games technical meeting in Rio.

Thirty-two women, including medical exemption recipients Janieve Russell (400m hurdles) and Elaine Thompson, who won the national 100m title but missed the 200m final due to injury, are also listed in their respective events.

For the first time in 44 years, Jamaica will be represented in the men's triple jump with Clive Pullen set to become only the third Jamaican in history to compete in the event at the Olympic Games.

Three women - Tarasue Barnett, Shadae Lawrence and Kellion Knibb - will feature in the women's discus; Daina Levy will compete in the hammer throw in another historic feat; and two men, Damar Forbes and Aubrey Smith, booked their spots in the men's long jump.

President of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, Dr Warren Blake, highlighted the improvements made in so-called "non-traditional" events and said he was expecting the youngsters to make a good impression at the Games.

"This speaks well to the future of track and field in Jamaica. We will continue to grow the sport and I'm sure the young ones who are coming up will represent us well," said Blake.

"We are confident that we will give a good showing. If you look at the women, those numbers outweigh the men, because we have more women qualifiers in the field events this time around, but the men are also well represented in the field events. We have two long jumpers - the first time that has happened in a while," Blake continued.

"We are broadening our perspective in the events that we are represented in."

He said: "We have a strong management team and they will be putting together the best team. It's a mix of youth and experience. These first-timers are also used to competition, it's just that it's their first time at an Olympic Games, but they have represented us well at other levels and will continue to do well."

Experienced administrator and first vice-president of the JOA, Vishwanauth Tolan, has been assigned chef de mission, with Martin Lyn (deputy chef de mission), Judith Ewart (team manager - female) and Grace-Marie Collymore (administration) completing the delegation's management team.

They will be supported by a four-member medical team headed by Dr Praimanand Singh, with Drs Carl Bruce, Kevin Jones and Michael Douglas all signed up.

Everald Edwards, Gavin James, Matthew Parchment, Collin Turner, Okeile Stewart and Pier-Ann Brown are the assigned physiotherapists and masseurs.

The track-and-field contingent will be managed by a nine-man team led by Ludlow Watts (team leader) and comprising Warren Blake (team official), Gregory Hamilton (team official), Maurice Wilson (technical leader), along with coaches Michael Clarke, Fitz Coleman, Julian Robinson, Glen Mills and Paul Francis.

Three Jamaicans have been selected to officiate at the Games. They are Conrad Jenkins (tae kwon do), Alan Beckford (triathalon) and Joseph Clarke (badminton).

andre.lowe@gleanerjm.com