André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller underscored the Government's commitment to the development of sports, pointing to the $396 million state spend towards sports over the last fiscal year, during Thursday's Courtney Walsh Award for Excellence in Sports ceremony at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel.
Sprinting superstar Veronica Campbell-Brown, who was selected ahead of other nominees Nesta Carter and Stafanie Taylor for her successes over the years and her commitment to community development, particularly with her work with challenged young women, won the award, which was in its eight staging.
Campbell-Brown became the fifth track and field athlete after Deon Hemmings-McCatty (2006), Brigitte Foster-Hylton (2009), Aleen Bailey (2010) and Dr Neil Gardner (2011) to receive the prestigious accolade, with Jimmy Adams (cricketer - 2005), Elaine Davis (netballer - 2007) and Nehemiah Perry (cricketer - 2008) being the other recipients.
Campbell-Brown was not on hand to receive her award from Simpson Miller, as she unavoidably had to be off the island, but her big sister Beverley Smith collected the crystal trophy and $500,000 cash prize on her behalf.
The prime minister, however, in her address, used the opportunity to emphasise the importance of sport towards nation growth and pointed out that despite the need for greater assistance, the Government remains committed to playing its part.
"If sporting examples of character and courage can be emulated in other aspects of our national lives, Jamaica, on a whole, can achieve its highest aspirations," said Simpson Miller.
"This is, of course, a difficult and speculative thesis and makes it difficult to draw conclusion; less difficult is the nurture element reflected in the investments we have made in developing sports in Jamaica.
"Despite falling far short of what we need, we have made some investments in the human and physical infrastructure to support our sporting talent," Simpson Miller added.
"In the 2011-2012 financial year in particular, the SDF spent $178 million on physical infrastructure. It is important also to note that $163 million was spent in contribution to national sporting associations and in support of agencies such as Independence Park Limited and the Institute of Sports, as well as some $55 million in support of some athletes and special programmes," said Simpson Miller.
"The expenditure by the SDF and sum taken directly from the budget is not enough to do all that we should. The reality is that the Government is severely limited in how and what it can spend as it grapples to restore the economy to viability."
Walsh, a former West Indian cricket legend, after whom the award is named, encouraged the nominees and invited student athletes in the audience to remain committed to hard work in pursuit of their ambitions.
"I urge my sporting colleagues here who have been nominated to use their influence to reach out and support the budding talent in their communities," said Walsh. "I offer my sincere congratulations to the recipients of this award. I know that on the road to success through triumphs and trials, you will undoubtedly agree that excellence and hard work pays off."