Tony Becca, ON THE BOUNDARY
In 1930, a Jamaican, George Headley, shot to cricketing prominence with a century, 176 in his first Test against England, 114 and 112 in the third Test, and 223 in the fourth to become the youngest batsman, at the time, to score four centuries before his 21st birthday in Test cricket.
Since then, many Jamaicans have flirted with and have achieved greatness in many sorts, including Alfred Valentine, Lawrence Rowe, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh and Christopher Gayle, Lindy Delapenha, Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint, George Rhoden and Don Quarrie, Michael McCallum, Merlene Ottey, Deon Hemmings, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and the incomparable Usain Bolt.
And from the look of things, there are many, many more to come.
There is, however, something strange happening in sports today, something which Jamaica should look at if one sport, a sport which for years was one of Jamaica's top five, is to be nursed back to life, and quickly at that.
Cricket, football, track and field and boxing have always been around in Jamaican sports. In fact, for many years they were the Jamaican sports, plus one.
That other one, the number five sport, was ping-pong, or to be more modern, table tennis.
In those days, in the 1940s, in the 1950s, in 1958 when the West Indies Championship was first played and leading into the 1960s and 1970s, table tennis was one of the sports to play.
In those days, boys were seen walking the streets with a racquet in their back pockets and looking for a place to play, for other boys to challenge, and to beat.
In those days, names like Arthur Joseph, Noel Murray, Danny O'Connor, Bunny McLean and Willie Estwick, Fuarnado Roberts, Leo Davis, Glen Mitchell, Jasper Adams, Jeff "Butterfly" Lewis and Ken McLachlan, Maurice Foster, Dave Foster, Sammy Wright, Ronnie Wills, Cupidon Murray and Orville Haslam, Madge East-Bond, Pat Loi, Myrth Hall, Joy Foster, Monica DeSouza and Anita Belnavis were household names.
In the years from 1958 onwards, Jamaica dominated the Caribbean region.
In those days, the men were unbeatable, winning in the early days 9-0 almost every time and the women won much more often than they lost, especially in the glorious days of Joy Foster and DeSouza, when they too dominated play.
Those were the days, the days when Roberts won the Caribbean men's singles three times, Mitchell one time, Davis one time, Haslam five times and, up until the 1980s, Stephen Hylton won it two times and Carl Morgan and Garfield Jones won it one time each.
women were not as dominant
The women were not as dominant, but three women left their mark. Foster won the women singles three times, DeSouza five times and Belnavis one time.
And after that, Jamaica, though not winning nearly as much, were good, with players like Richard Stephenson and Michael Tenn, Roberto Byles, Colin McNeish, David Marshalleck and Courtney Wilson, Nadine Senn-Yenn, Ingrid Mangatal and Sandra Riettie, Sharon Becca and Sophia Virgo.
Gradually, however, from 1990 onwards, the sport has been going downhill and now, but for the efforts of a desperate few, the sport is almost dead and waiting for the last rites.
Whereas once upon a time there was a flourishing league and regular tournaments, including a national tournament, whereas there was a Lovebird International tournament which brought to Jamaica players like world champions Istvan Joyner and Stellan Bengtsson, top-rated players like Kjell Johansson, Dragutin Surbek, Anton Stipancic and Jacques Secretin, and the Chinese themselves, and whereas tournaments were played at the National Arena, today these are things of the blessed past.
This year, the Nationals was played at the National Arena for the first time in a long, long while, but that was the only thing which approached times gone by.
This year, for example, the runner-up to the national men's singles champion was a former president of the association, and a former champion of a long time ago, and while that may be good for the player, it certainly does not augur well for the growth of the game.
This year Jamaica's table tennis dropped to a new low. For the first time, Jamaica did not participate in the Cadet Tournament in Guyana, nor did they turn up for the Caribbean Championships in St. Lucia a month or so ago, and that, for many reasons, was disappointing.
As the biggest of the English-speaking countries, as the country behind the formation of the tournament in 1958 and as the once-dominant country in the region, that was also embarrassing.
One of the reasons for the country's non appearance at both tournaments was the lack of money, and whether that was justifiable or not, it shows a lack of thought in what the association does or does not do, where it goes and does not go.
better to miss out
The Jamaica men's team, for example, went to the World Table Tennis Championships this year, and while it is true that the team may have been subsidised, it might have been better to miss out on that to go to the regional championships.
Even if one cannot win, it must be better to go to the regional championships for the sake of participation and development than to go to international championships where one has no chance of winning anything, even before a ball has been served.
Jamaica's presence at the World Table Tennis Championships, at least for now, is only to make up numbers, or to satisfy someone's ego.
The game that was once one of Jamaica's favourites is dying fast. Probably, it is also dying in the rest of the Caribbean, where Dexter St Louis of Trinidad and Tobago, of long ago fame and who has been playing in the championships for at least 30 or so years now, won the men's singles title easily in St. Lucia.
Players like national champions Shane Watson and Yvonne Foster and young Simon Tomlinson, must be wondering what is happening to the sport they love, to the one to which they have devoted their time and to the one at which they are good, very good.