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Track stars lead the field

Published:Thursday | December 15, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Mike Fennell (left), chairman of the selection committee, looks over a document with Gary Allen, managing director of the RJR Communications Group, during the launch of the RJR's Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston yesterday. - Ian Allen/Photographer

André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter

The 2011 RJR Sports Foundation National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards - the event's 51st staging - sees some familiar themes and some not-so-familiar ones as track and field once again dominates the nominations, while the Chairman's Award returns after a one-year hiatus.

International sprinting superstars Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Veronica Campbell-Brown head seven track and field on the 12-person list, which features the nation's most successful sporting performers over the past year.

The event, which is scheduled for January, 20, 2012 at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, will see the return of the Chairman's Award, after its one-year hiatus to facilitate the 50th anniversary special Lifetime Achievement Awards, which were last year presented to the legendary track icon Merlene Ottey and outstanding boxer Mike McCallum.

Another feature of the upcoming event will be the newly created Iconic Award, which will pay homage to an outstanding sporting personality at the administrative or performance level.

Bolt, the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Athletics 200m champion and Male Athlete of the Year, like he did in Monaco at the IAAF Grand Gala, will be challenged for top honours by training partner Blake, who claimed the World 100m title in Daegu, South Korea, before registering the second-fastest 200m in history (19.26).

Blake was also recently named the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) Male Athlete of the Year.

Bolt is gunning for his third Sportsman of the Year Award after he walked away with top honours in 2008 and 2009.

The pair are joined among the nominees by fellow fastmen Asafa Powell, 100m IAAF Diamond League champion, and Lerone Clarke, Pan American Games 100m gold medallist.

Powell won the award for three consecutive years from 2005 to 2007.

Cricketer Marlon Samuels, whohelped Jamaica to their fourth successive WICB regional first-class title after scoring over 600 runs in the tournament, and who was also named the Player of the One-Day International Series against Bangladesh, along with boxing star Nicholas Walters, who successfully defended his World Boxing Association Fedelatin title this year, are the other two male nominees.

Among the females, last year's victor Campbell-Brown, who won her first IAAF World Championships in Athletics 200m title in Daegu after helping herself to a 100m silver medal at the same Championships, is the overwhelming favourite to once again claim top honours this year.

Campbell-Brown, a four-time winner of the award (2004, 2007, 2008, 2010), will have 2008 winner and World 400m hurdles silver medallist Melaine Walker, as well as IAAF Diamond League 400m hurdles champion Kaliese Spencer, for company.

Also nominated are World Boxing Council junior featherweight champion Alicia Ashley (boxing), Pan American Games 200m individual medley silver medallist Alia Atkinson (swimming), and International Cricket Council Woman Cricketer of the Year and number one-ranked one-day all-rounder, number two-ranked batter Stafanie Taylor.

Satisfy the global interest

Gary Allen, chairman of the RJR Sports Foundation, announced that the organisers will be expanding the coverage of the event this year as they look to satisfy the global interest of Jamaican sporting excellence.

"We are expanding our live coverage of the event and so it will not only be seen live on television in Jamaica, but it will be seen in 21 other Caribbean countries, as well as in the Tri-State area in the United States," said Allen. "Also, we are continuing negotiations for the transmitting of the event in the United Kingdom."

There will also be the presentation of the People's Choice Award, which will be determined by votes from members of the public.

The nominees are the world record-breaking men's 4x100m relay team at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics; Blake for his 19.26 200m run in Brussels; Powell for his 100m victory at the JAAA/Supreme Ventures National Senior Championships; Ricardo Smith for winning the popular The Contender Wray and Nephew boxing series; Melaine Walker for her silver medal run in the 400m hurdles at the World Championships; and Portmore United footballer Andrew Vanzie for his opening-day Premier League goal against Sporting Central Academy.

Jamaica-born 1984 Olympic Games and three-time Common-wealth Games javelin champion, Theresa 'Tessa' Sanderson, who competed for Britain, will be the guest speaker at the event.