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Aiming for that perfect 10

Published:Saturday | February 20, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Kwesi Mugisa, Staff Reporter

It is a sport which, perhaps above all others, demands perfection, focus and near-flawless technique, the price of which is often bruises and hours of rigorous training. Yet, as Collete Barham, president of the Jamaica Amateur Gymnastic Association (JAGA) will tell you, there can be few achievements more rewarding than scoring that perfect 10.

Fairly young in terms of its organisation, having been around for only some nine years, the sport of gymnastics is yet to take firm root in the island, but once it does, Barham is confident that, like many others, it can become another source of mining gold medals on the international stage.

In fact, while a plan that is under way to get a group of boys up to the required skill level for the 2012 Olympic Games is a long shot, the JAGA president is confident that with the organisation's current rate of progress, Jamaica should have a representative in the sport by the 2016 Olympics, but that will be no easy task.

"To produce an athlete at that level, because of the intensity of the sport, technique and skill required, it can take at least eight hours of training per day at the very top level.

"It is one of the hardest sports and it takes years to become proficient. To get to that elite level takes a lot of resources, but there is no doubting the talent here. Once that is developed, we could be the very best."

In order for that to be achieved, the JAGA has attempted to widen the sports talent base, and part of that project currently sees them involved in 25 primary schools across the island.

Training local coaches

The organisation has also invested heavily in the training of local coaches, and with the assistance of the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) and an exchange programme between the country and Japan, Barham believes that although there is a long way to go yet, the sport has come on by leaps and bounds in the last few years.

However, in order to achieve the dream of having a world-class athlete by 2016, Barham pointed to a need for support, to not only develop local coaches and athletes, but also in order to improve facilities. Currently, the island has two private gyms, Ishimoto and Nishida, but the association is looking to establish a home of their own.

"We are looking to set up our own facilities to subsidise some of the cost. One of the major drawbacks with the sport is that it can be quite expensive. We have received a lot of help from the SDF but we are constantly looking for partners to help us develop the sport," Barham said.