'Very top performers' - Bolt, Fraser-Pryce head RJR Sportsman, Sportswoman of the Year nominees
Robert Bailey, Gleaner Writer
Triple Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt, and Olympic 100 metres women's champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce head the list of seven men and six women who have been nominated for the annual RJR National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards.
The event, which will take place on January 11, will see Bolt, who captured the award last year, going up against fellow sprinters and training partners, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir, along with sprinter Nickel Ashmeade, hurdler Hansle Parchment and West Indies cricketers Christopher Gayle and Marlon Samuels.
Fraser-Pryce will have as her rivals fellow track and field athletes Veronica Campbell-Brown, last year's winner, and Kaliese Spencer; along with boxer Alicia Ashley, swimmer Alia Atkinson and West Indies women's cricketer Stafanie Taylor.
"They are all very top performers that have been nominated for this year's award," said chairman of the RJR Sports Foundation's selection committee, Mike Fennell, at the event's official launch at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston yesterday.
"This being an Olympic year the performances are there and so you don't have to second-guess, and so the difficulty now is just fine-tuning that to make the final choice," he said.
Fennell added: "Quite often the public at large is more aware of domestic events, but the domestic events would be ranked the lowest in terms of consideration."
The foundation's selection committee also includes Grace Jackson, Dr Walton Small, Courtney Sergeant, Michael Hall and Tony Becca.
In addition to the main prizes, there will also be the Junior Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year award.
Gary Allen, chairman of the RJR Foundation and managing director of the RJR Communications Group, said he has asked the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) to submit a shortlist of nominees from across all sporting disciplines for this year's junior awards. The winner will be selected by the RJR Sports Foundation.
"We thought that it was fitting," said Allen. "We thought that the time has come because many people sometimes see icons and conclude that these are people that just got up into the limelight.
"If you were tracking them before you would see the career paths that they have had and so we think that it is important to recognise them," Allen added. "We think that it encourages people to also aspire to greater things and so it is a good example for youngsters to aspire to and so we thought that it was fitting to do."
The awards, which have been around since 1961 when boxer George 'Bunny' Grant and table tennis player Joy Foster copped the first titles, will also feature, for the second year running, the popular People's Choice Award, which is geared towards getting the public involved in the event via text-message voting.
The nominees for this award are swimmer Alia Atkinson, cricketers Marlon Samuels and André Russell, footballer Jermaine Hue and track athlete Tiffany James.
In the meantime, captain Horace Burrell, president of Jamaica Football Federation, Glen Mills, president of the Racers Track Club, and Kay Wilson of the Jamaica Hockey Federation have all been nominated for the Sagicor Iconic Award. Sagicor will be donating $200,000 to the charity chosen by winner of the award.
Other presentations that will be made on the night include certificates of merit category awards and team awards.
Legendary West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding will be the guest speaker at this year's event.