Jamaica ‘team to beat’ – Grange
Minister of Sport Olivia 'Babsy' Grange has labelled Jamaica's athletes to the upcoming summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil not just ambassadors, but the "team to beat" while lauding local sponsors for investing in the upcoming National Senior Championships, which will ready them for Rio.
The JAAA/Supreme Ventures National Senior and Junior Championships launched yesterday at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston. The senior championships, slated for June 30-July 3, will host 15 track and 14 field events. All seniors must compete for spots in Rio except top-three ranked or those with medical exemptions.
National junior trials, slated for June 18-19, will be used to select teams to the upcoming under-20 World Championships and NACAC Championships, also this year. Five hundred athletes are expected to compete.
Grange said, high levels of performance will be expected not only in track and field, but also in swimming, diving, and gymnastics.
"Jamaica's sterling performance at the international level, whether Diamond League, Commonwealth Games, World Games, and the Olympics, has placed us in the centrestage in all eyes, not only on our athletes, but on our country as well," she outlined.
"Jamaica is seen as the team to beat despite the relatively small population and limited resources," she continued, lauding the work put in by coaches and the investment from sponsors.
"I want to use the opportunity to say thanks to all the sponsors for putting their money where their mouth is," Grange stressed.
Jamaica has some of the biggest sprint names, including Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Veronica Campbell-Brown.
According to JAAA treasurer/ chairman of the organising committee Ludlow Watts, it will cost $23 million to stage.
"The fact that Jamaica enjoys a supreme position in the world of track and field allows us to venture into this year's championships with unlimited pride and confidence, especially at this in an Olympic year," noted Watts.
"I can confidently say that from what I have been able to glean from my vantage position at the JAAA, our athletes and their coaches remain cognisant of the fact that given the high level of competitiveness that exists, they cannot afford to be complacent. Fierce competition can be expected whenever and wherever our athletes line up, and that includes these national championships," Watts explained.
JAAA president, Dr Warren Blake, was not present at yesterday's launch due to "unavoidable business engagements overseas" but delivered a video message.
Watts lauded longstanding sponsors Supreme Ventures for their 13-year-consecutive partnership. Other main sponsors FLOW and RJR Communications Group were lauded.
Brian George, president of Supreme Ventures, said: "Our sponsorship now amounts to $16 million, which brings our total sponsorship 1over the past 13 years to well over $125 million. Not to be forgotten also is our contribution to CHASE Fund of over $13 billion to date, of which 40 percent or $5.2 billion is allocated to sports development."
He added that his organisation has also funded the Jamaica Olympic Association in excess of over $20 million.