Maurice Bishop's granddaughter to represent Jamaica
Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
WHEN Jamaica's female volleyball team lines up against Canada in the World Cham-pionships this coming Friday, the Caribbean girls will most likely have a Canadian on their side as well.
Tahleia Bishop, 19, was born and raised in Whitby, Ontario, about an hour away from where the qualifiers will be held in Mississauga. It is where Jamaica will battle the home team, Mexico, and the US Virgin Islands at the Hershey Centre for a spot in the World Championships in Italy in September.
Bishop, who played basketball in high school and club volleyball for the Toronto Diamonds, has deep Caribbean roots. Her mother, Sophia, a businesswoman, is from St Mary, while her father, John Bishop, a Grenadian, is an engineer. And just in case you were wondering, the six-foot tall outside hitter is the granddaughter of the late Grenadian Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, who was assassinated in 1983.
With such strong ties to Grenada, why did Bishop choose to represent Jamaica?
"I've been begging my mom to take me here for years, but she hasn't been able to find the time. So (Jamaica Volleyball Association president) Steve (Brown) called me; Reed hooked me up with Steve, and he asked if I wanted the chance to play here, and I said 'yes'," she told The Gleaner after the team's final training session yesterday, before departing for Canada today.
"I mean, it's a great experience. I mean, you get to play with the national team. It's not something everyone gets to do. I want to take advantage of it."
The 'Reed' to whom she refers is Reed Sunahara, who is preparing the national team for the qualifiers, and who is also the volleyball coach at the State University of New York, Buffalo, where Bishop is a political science major.
Sunahara has worked with Jamaica's youth programme and was a member of the coaching staff and consultant as Jamaica qualified for this final round of matches. His presence has made Bishop's transition easier.
"It's been fun," she said of the experience training with women she first met a couple days prior to their departure. "I've trained with Reed before. He is my coach at Buffalo, so I am used to his way. I think it has been a good experience mixing with the girls from different cultures. It's very similar to the training styles I do at Buffalo. This team is supposed to be very good, so I am happy to be a part of bringing this programme to another level."
Since the last round of qualifiers in May 2013, Jamaica drafted a number of new players who should make the team stronger than that which competed in the last round. Players like outside hitter Simone Asque, who plays professionally in Denmark, and her sister, Gillian, whom Bishop played against at the collegiate level, and other skilled newcomers should make Jamaica much more competitive.
The task, however, is getting the individual talents to function as a unit in the short time they had together before competition.
Bishop, who had 173 kills in her freshman season, and has recorded more than 20 kills in seven of her games this season, thinks Jamaica could spring a few surprises.
"Steve has been telling me that Canada will probably be our highest level of competition. It's my hometown, so I am definitely looking forward to that game. But we have a great group of girls here. We have a long way to go still, but the base is there. If anything, it's not going to be from a lack of hustle. We just need a little more time that everyone else had, and you'd better watch out."