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'It was my idea' - O'Hara claims 'extraordinary' act was his own

Published:Monday | March 30, 2015 | 12:00 AMShayne Fairman
From left: The Reverend Karl Johnson, chairman of Calabar; Albert Corcho, the school's principal; Calabar High School captain and star performer, Michael O’Hara; and Carlo Redwood, vice-president of marketing at LIME, celebrate the school's fourth straight hold on the Mortimer Geddes trophy at its Red Hills Road, St Andrew campus, after winning the Boys' Championships on Saturday.

"I am an extraordinary person," Calabar track star Michael O'Hara has declared in response to the controversy surrounding his unveiling of telecommunications firm Digicel's tag line on Saturday.

O'Hara's move made public his affiliation with that organisation at the expense of ISSA-GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships sponsors LIME.

The controversial unveiling by the Calabar High School star was done after he sped to the third of four big wins last Saturday in the 200m boys Class One final.

But O'Hara remains unperturbed amid the criticisms, labeling the concerns "all the wrong impression and wrong idea", while speaking with The Gleaner at Calabar's Boys Champs victory celebration yesterday.

"There's no controversy. My chairman (the Reverend Karl Johnson) and I had a talk a week before (Champs) saying that ordinary people do extraordinary things every day," O'Hara said.

"And I said to myself that I'm an extraordinary person, so I just lifted my shirt and showed the crowd that O'Hara is extraordinary," he underlined.

The four-time gold medallist's stock have no doubt risen, and he is now a Digicel brand ambassador.

"I am a brand ambassador of Digicel, that's true. But it was my idea to do it (unveil the tag line)," he assured. "My chairman and I talked about it, so I figured everything was good."

"I'm an extraordinary person and so is Calabar High School," the sixth-former reiterated with a smile.

He maintains, however, that the choice was his, and disagrees with the ensuing controversy.

"People get the wrong impression and wrong idea, but that's Jamaicans on a whole.

"They always think things their own way, so I can't argue with them. I just have to be me," he reasoned.

He added that he remains focused on developing his track-and-field career, while doing his best academically.

In the meantime, O'Hara's youthful exuberance did not escape the watchful eye of principal Albert Corcho.

"We looked at it (the incident). We launched an investigation to get to the bottom of it," Corcho told The Gleaner.

"I've been talking to members of the management team, coaching staff and they, too, were surprised. So we will be doing investigations with the young man and calling in some of the persons close to him, and we have to get to the bottom of this," he warned.

Corcho added that the incident should have never happened, and wants stakeholders to prevent any recurrence.

"At ISSA, we bank so much on our sponsors; this should have never have happened," he stressed.

"Going forward, the same enthusiasm that we have in terms of drug testing from the JAAA perspective must now be used to educate our athletes to say that there are certain things that should never happen," Corcho stressed.

Carlo Redwood, LIME's vice-president of marketing, also weighed in on the "guerrilla marketing" issue yesterday.

"Champs is about your (athletes') school and representing schools.

"Certainly, our (LIME's) perspective is the celebrations, and everything about it, should remain about the school's themselves and not about brands," he pointed out.

Redwood said that removing of a school shirt to display a personal sponsor's brand should not happen.

"That was a big disappointment for us (Champs sponsors LIME).

"The competition (telecoms rivalry) will continue and will play itself out over time," he continued, while commending corporate support.

"All of this support from corporate Jamaica is only the best for the sport and can develop them (athletes) to world-class level, so we are happy with that aspect, having Jaheel (Hyde) and Michael with our competitor (Digicel)."