Sun | Jan 19, 2020

Tanya Lee | Jamaica’s 10-sport plan for Tokyo 2020

Published:Friday | February 15, 2019 | 12:14 AM
Cyclist Dahlia Palmer
Ryan Foster

Earlier this week, I attended the Jamaica Olympic Association’s (JOA) partner’s breakfast forum where they outlined plans for the 2019 Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru, and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

In a room that included the media, member associations, and sponsor partners, the association outlined, among other things, their 10 in 20 campaign.

The 10 in 20 campaign is the JOA’s mission of having representation for Jamaica in 10 or more disciplines at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The Olympics will host athletes from 33 disciplines from July 24 to August 9.

In Rio 2016, Jamaica had representation in four disciplines as we sent athletes in gymnastics, diving, swimming, and athletics. Jamaica’s most diverse representation came all the way back in Munich 1972 when our delegation included athletes across cycling, yachting, swimming, diving, athletics, and boxing.

Competing in 10 disciplines at Tokyo 2020 is quite an ambitious, yet achievable, undertaking. The JOA and its member associations are working to make the vision a reality. This includes reaching out to prospects both locally and across the diaspora to galvanise support and participation in qualifying events while providing funding support to various athletes and associations to aid in their bid and general sporting development.

Currently, the JOA’s support spans across various projects, some of which include providing support for the coaching of athletes, the training of coaches, the provision of equipment, and ­facilitating participation in ­qualification bids, which varies for each discipline. At present, eleven athletes are accessing, through the JOA, the IOC’s Olympic Solidarity scholarship, which provides funding for their sporting development.

JOA’s chief executive officer, Ryan Foster, believes it is essential for Jamaica to diversify its ­participation across broader disciplines,

“The JOA is keen on showing that we have a diversely talented people, and through coaching and infrastructure, we can create more opportunities for our athletes to earn outside of the Games. The Olympics provides the best platform to showcase the sporting talents of Jamaicans, and there are opportunities for them to earn beyond the games across some of the broader disciplines,” Foster said.

With just 16 months to go before the Olympics, qualification is still possible across a number of disciplines. Alton Brown is seeking to make it in karate. Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games silver medallist Caitlin Chang, who won Jamaica’s first ever medal in fencing last July, is hopeful. Twenty-year-old Britain-based Lydia Heywood is hoping to gallop her way into the equestrian event. Teen sensation Lori Sharpe created history last April when she became the first Jamaican to complete a triathlon event at the Commonwealth Games. She hopes to do the same in Tokyo 2020.

Cyclist Dahlia Palmer is hoping for a Tokyo 2020 berth, and she already has the backing of David Weller, OD, who won a bronze medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. That remains the only non-track and field medal ever won by a Jamaican athlete at the Olympics.

Jamaica’s skateboarding duo of Tafari Whitter and Mario Notice are chasing the Olympic dream and have already created history as the first to participate in an Olympic qualifier at the World Championship Global Open in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in January.

We also have qualification events to go in a number of other disciplines, including judo, tae kwon do, badminton, rugby, and boxing.

While Jamaica has historically done well on the track, there is a wealth of other talent emerging in the field events. The hope is that we will finally have a breakthrough for a historic first gold medal off the track as we have strong contenders such as the discus trio of Fedrick Dacres, Travis Smikle, and junior sensation Kai Chang. For the females, Jamaica could very well find ourselves with podium finishes as well via shot-putter Danniel Thomas-Dodd or triple jumper Kimberley Williams and Shanika Ricketts.

Let’s continue to support our various sportsmen and women as they work towards making the Olympic dream a reality while also hoping to increase their earning potential in some of the more lucrative sporting endeavours outside of track and field. Jamaica has much more to offer.

One love.