André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
For many Jamaican athletes, pursuing the Olympic dream seems more like a nightmare at times.
While the country has produced a galaxy of stars who shine brightly over the world, a demanding public wants nothing less than gold, and the struggles our athletes endure to bring us glory are often ignored.
In rain, in cold, through sickness and good health the athletes push on without a whimper, and lost in the euphoria caused by those who emerge victorious, the struggles of others are sometimes brushed aside.The truth is, it's a real struggle for those, who in the absence of multimillion-dollar corporate backing and very little general support, are left to fend for themselves, dip in their own pockets for basic needs and try to juggle work with training.
It's a horror story really and a battle that is as often lost as it is won, as Jamaican long jumper Jovanee Jarrett and first-time Olympic discus competitor Jason Morgan well know.
"Sometimes when I'm out on the track I'd just start crying because I'd be so tired, but I still always try to give my all; and that's what hurt so much because I know I trained the hardest this year, especially since I have to balance work and training, and end up not even qualifying for the Olympics," Jarrett shared in a heart-pulling exclusive with The Sunday Gleaner recently.
"I lost my sponsorship last year, and that was the main reason for me having to find a job to be able to cover my bills and try to take care of myself - get massages, chiropractors, supplements and stuff like that. These all cost a lot and I have to take care of them myself," added Jarrett.
She recently lost her contract with a popular sports goods manufacturer and was left with a tough decision - work, train and compete or call time on her athletic career and focus on paying the bills.
With a monthly training expense of around US$800 (approx. J$70,000) and no form of income outside of her recently secured job at a juvenile facility, it seemed an easy decision to walk away, but, for her, competing and representing her country means way too much.
"There are days when I just think I am going to give it up, but I cannot walk away just like that. I have been struggling and fighting through all my setbacks and trials and there is no sense in just giving up now," Jarrett shared.
It has been a real uphill battle for her, however, and it showed after her sluggish performance at the Jamaican Olympic trials in June, where she finished a surprising fourth and missed a chance to compete at the London Games.
Jarrett is not alone, and despite their struggles being the same, for national discus record holder Jason Morgan there is a reason to smile.
Morgan, who works as a receiving and purchasing clerk at a medical centre in Louisiana, has managed to defy the odds, having the season of his life and qualifying for the "big show" despite his struggles.
The bulky thrower, who has been coaching himself since going pro in 2007 because he simply cannot afford to hire a coach, only gets to train for one hour per day because of his 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. day job.
"When I travel, I don't get to go to the big-money meets," Morgan told The Sunday Gleaner.
"I have been contacting meet directors myself and competing against University athletes. I leave from work to go straight to meets, so I compete tired most of the time. Sometimes I have to drive eight to nine hours to compete and that requires gas, hotel and entry fee, funds that all come out of my pocket.
"I have only been to one meet that I got money this year, and that was the Kansas Relays. The rest of the meets that I competed at this year, breaking several meet and facility records, all of that was just to make a mark and qualify for London," he added.
"I would use my cellphone and ask strangers to record two or three of my throws and then go home in the night and watch the videos on my phone and try to correct my technique," said Morgan.
"Just having to be there by myself has been a real challenge and struggle, but, today, I can say it was worth it."
The price of glory is never as cheap as it seems.
So as the nation toasts the winners and the
medalists, the other athletes want Jamaicans to spare a thought for
those who compete against the odds in an effort to bring glory to
"Jamaica, land we
Jamaican equestrian Samantha Albert is still prepared to fight despite a difficult start in the individual competition at Greenwich Park yesterday.
"I hope I can still make it up. There is everything to go for now, there is nothing to lose. I'm just going to go there and do our best," said Albert who is riding Carraig Dubh at the Games.