Kudos for Sanya Richards-Ross, writes Laurie Foster
Foster's Fairplay is fiercely protective of Jamaica's world-standard track and field talent. When it seeks exposure under a foreign flag, there is frustration, coupled with anger.
This columnist was at the 1999 Seville World Championships. Talking to Jamaica's team boss, Winston Ulett, mention was made of a 13-year-old Sanya Richards, who was 'kicking up rumpus' on the US circuit. She was doing some sprint times that boggled the mind.
The response was, "No big thing, Americans are noted for that".
The later-to-be-disgraced, self-confessed drug user, Marion Jones' feats as a 15-year-old, sprung to mind.
Ulett said a whole lot more. He is, in his own right, a man of high track and field pedigree. Kingston College groundings speak to no less. Also, he is the spouse of a highly celebrated educator, who boasts bloodlines to match. He added the real stunner. He mentioned that he had lost the battle to keep little Sanya at Vaz Preparatory in the country of her birth. It was like a body blow. Exit another prized asset.
During the 2002 Kingston-staged International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Junior Championships, this columnist, doing radio commentary, displayed unprofessional bias. The sentiment was for a Jamaican to get the better of a then 17-year-old Miss Richards (USA) - tagged 'the deserter' - in every event in which she participated.
There was utter disappointment in the 400m, accompanying Sheryl Morgan's third-place behind SR. It was transformed the following day, to openly expressed joy, when Anneisha McLaughlin sped to 200m silver ahead of SR.
At the pre-competition press conference, disgust was made known, as choice of country to represent was raised. The label of 'traitor' on this journalist could have stuck. This as work environment at the nation's gateway, albeit over 20 years hitherto, was happily shared with Sanya's Auntie Claire and mom, Sharon, national airlines employees, and two sisters (any interpretation will do) of inner, but not concealed, beauty.
It is now 13 years after Kingston, 2002. Unreserved apologies are extended. Foster's Fairplay commends Mrs Sanya Richards-Ross for her unswerving support of her prep school, where the talent was first spotted. It remains the platform from which an outstanding career had been launched.
What does it matter that it has been to the everlasting benefit of an adopted country?
Sheer brilliance on the world scene, despite a plethora of setbacks, which must have unsettled, serves to show that she is made of stern stuff. Triumphs over adversity have enhanced an image which shows inner strength. She has overcome challenges that athletes face on the path to realising their dreams.
Beverly Boggis-Ulett (a former schoolmate of this columnist) and her staff at Dunoon Road-located Vaz Preparatory School, can stand tall and proud.
The institution of primary education sits on a solid base of, arguably, the best learning curve that the country can boast. The school is an offshoot of the equally prestigious Morris-Knibb Prep, with Mavisville also part of the august family.
It was constructed on land on which previously stood the house where the world cricketing icon, George Headley, lived. Like the Master, it has done Jamaica real proud.
Named after a former senior female teacher at Morris-Knibb, Hazel Vaz, it has gifted Jamaica and the world with an outstanding individual in Sanya Richards-Ross.
Her dad, Archie, whom I met for the first time at the World Relays in Nassau last May, is Fortis-branded. It is difficult to comprehend how he managed to escape the gaze of this eagle-eyed journalist, a most ardent follower of Bishop Gibson's institution of learning, despite being herded with rich kids several miles adrift.
If ever Foster's Fairplay, so vigorously at the time, in opposition to Sanya's move to compete for the USA, is asked why the change of heart?
Her words at a function, recalling her early schooling, give the full story, giving back.
"It was always one of my greatest pleasures to go back to my alma mater and speak to the kids. Vaz Prep gave me such a great foundation, and they are still instilling the most important values to our youth. Keep reaching for the stars. The sky is the limit."
Gwaan, Sanya, is you large.
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