Atkinson, Walters to top them
André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
Tonight's 54th staging of the National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards is expected to buck a few trends, with two of the island's biggest stars - in two less-fancied sports, highly touted to walk away with the top honours. at tonight's gala presentation at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel.
It's awards season and after the record breaking and history-making year that swimmer Alia Atkinson and hard-talking boxer Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters both enjoyed, it would be nothing short of a miracle if they don't spend tonight celebrating their first hold on the coveted award.
Of note, this is the RJR Sports Foundation's 10th year staging the island's top sporting awards ceremony which begins at 8:30.
Interestingly, Atkinson, has spent the last two years as bridesmaid to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce for the Sportswoman of the Year award, but even with another track star - Kaliese Spencer breathing down her neck as a strong contender, this time around, the swimming star is widely expected to become only the third swimmer to win the award.
It's been 37 years since a non-track and field athlete won this award, but Atkinson, who just yesterday received a Gleaner Honour Award for her success in 2014, must be liking her chances of ending this stranglehold after equalling the world record (1:02.36) and winning gold in the 100m breaststroke at the FINA World Short Course Championships.
Atkinson also won silver (50m breaststroke) and bronze (100m breaststroke) at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and was third overall on points in the FINA World Cup Short Course series.
The last swimmer to win the award was Belinda Phillip in 1974.
Walters - also a Gleaner Honour Awards recipient, is likely to become the fourth boxer and first since Michael McCallum's last of seven in 1990 to be named as Jamaica's top sports man.
The colourful fighter introduced one of the world's best to the canvas in defending his WBA World Featherweight title before raising his stock with a relentless beat-down of another.
Undefeated in his 25 professional fights, Walters first knocked out Armenian Vic Darchinyan in the fifth-round in their fight in China in May, before shocking the international boxing world with a sixth-round technical knockout of the highly touted Nonito Donaire to win the WBA Super World Featherweight title in October.
Hard to see those two losing out, but as far as the sportswoman award is concerned, Spencer may also feel very good about her chances, after an impressive year on the track.
Commonwealth Games and Continental Cup gold medallist (400m) Stephanie-Ann McPherson, cricketer Stafanie Taylor, Commonwealth Games triple jump champion Kimberly Williams, World Indoor champion over 60m Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Commonwealth Games 100m silver medalist and Diamond winner Veronica Campbell-Brown, and 400m Diamond Race winner and Commonwealth Games silver medallist Novlene Williams-Mills are also nominated to the Sportswoman of the Year award.
Walters is being challenged by Commonwealth Games champions Kemar Bailey-Cole (100m), Rasheed Dwyer (200m), O'Dayne Richards (shot put) - who also set a Games and National Record 21.61m; and Andrew Riley (110m hurdles).
The People's Choice Awards for Performance of the Year will be determined between Atkinson, Walters, Jaheel Hyde, Kemar Lawrence and André Russell.