Mon | Jun 24, 2019

Dalton Myers | 2018 - Year of women in sport

Published:Saturday | December 22, 2018 | 12:48 AMDalton Myers
Members of the Reggae Girlz squad ride atop a truck during a motorcade last weekend to celebrate their qualification for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France.
Alia Atkinson
Jamaica's Caitlin Chang with her silver medal, the island's first ever medal in fencing at the Central American and Caribbean Games.
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This year, several Jamaica sportswomen excelled in their respective disciplines. While 1975 was dubbed the United Nations International Women’s Year, maybe we can dub 2018 – the Year of Women in Sport in Jamaica. There were several excellent performances on and off the field of play; and some admirable displays of sporting achievement by our women both locally and internationally.

 

We saw probably one of the crowning moments for national recorder holder Alia Atkinson. Atkinson has been great for Jamaica and may long be declared the greatest swimmer of colour, but this year she proved to the world that she is up there with the world’s greats. In 2018 she added to her national and world records by claiming three medals (two gold, one bronze) at the 2018 FINA Short Course World Swimming Championships. Additionally, she won eight individual titles and finished sixth overall in the FINA World Cup series. When you add the Commonwealth Games silver medal as well as medals won at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games, Atkinson could easily be considered Jamaica’s best sport performer for 2018.

Earlier this year, Caitlin Chang won a silver medal in fencing at the CAC Games, becoming the first Jamaican to win a medal in that discipline at a multi-sport event. Chang’s achievement is important especially in a sport that is just developing in Jamaica. Along with Chang, Triathlete Lori Sharpe continues to be our main performer at respective regional and international events. The teenager has consistently done well, and in a few years could become the next No. 1.

 

I must also mention Dahlia Palmer, our national cyclist who has qualified for the 2019 Pan Am Games in Peru. Palmer, earlier this year, medalled in all three of her events at the Caribbean Cycling Championships. This week, she competed in the UCI World Cup in London, placing fourth in her opening heat and fourth in the repechage. While she didn’t make the final, she gained valuable points in her attempt to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Other individual performances included cricketer Stafanie Taylor in ODIs and T20s; while in athletics, Natoya Goule finishing the year third overall in the 800m behind Caster Semanya, breaking the national record, and also claiming bronze at the Commonwealth Games ranks highly. Aisha Praught-Leer’s gold in the Commonwealth Games 3,000m steeplechase was historic while Danielle Thomas-Dodd defeating the throws queen Valerie Adams to claim gold with a national record of 19.36m in the shot put is still one of the top performances of the year.

 

In horse racing while Georgina Surgeon makes her comeback, we saw the arrival of three new female apprentice jockeys Abigail Able, Samantha Fletcher and Tamicka Lawrence who are all looking to make a significant impact in 2019.

In team sports our female basketballers became the first such Jamaican unit to qualify for the Commonwealth Games, and also made it through the qualifying rounds of the event. The Sunshine Girls remain our highest-ranked international sports team, closing the year as the third best team in the world. They defeated the Silver Ferns for the first time in New Zealand then again in the Gold Coast to get bronze. Later, they thrashed Trinidad and Tobago as well as England in the Sunshine Series and went on to take silver at the World Fast5 Championship. There have also been some notable individual performers with Jhaniele Fowler and Shamera Sterling leading the pack.

The recent Reggae Girlz celebration at home shows how far we have come as a nation. The Girlz deserve this and more as their historic qualification to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup is not an easy feat. The Girlz have done something we have been struggling to do for a while with very little support and limited opportunities to play football locally. Let me also add the historic contribution of female assistant referees Jamaicans Stephanie-Dale Yee Sing and Princess Brown to the mix of football achievements.

 

I have often noted that the involvement of girls and women in sport is crucial for our development. Many of our women are doing amazing work in sport, and my hope is that 2019 will be the year when we remove some of the roadblocks and support our girls and women in sport much more.

 

- Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to daltonsmyers@gmail.com or tweet @daltonsmyers