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Jamaican skier celebrated in Canada

Published:Friday | March 26, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Joy Walcott-Francis, Contributor

A small but representative contingent of Jamaicans descended on Riddim & Spice, a local Jamaican restaurant on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, recently to meet and congratulate Jamaica's sole freestyle skier in the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver, Canada.

The 23-year-old Errol Kerr, who was born to a Jamaican father, now deceased, and an American mother, Catherine Kerr, finished an admirable ninth overall (of 32 qualified athletes) in the 2010 Winter Olympics - and to think that this was the first time that ski cross was held in the Olympics, has made it even more impressive.

Kerr, with an air of composed confidence and with the eyes of the world on him, shot his way down the slopes of Cypress Mountain, British Columbia, during the qualifying rounds, placing first in the 1/8 finals and third in the quarter-finals.

The event, which was organised by the Jamaican Canadian Association of British Columbia, in conjunction with the Canadian Jamaican Medical Assistance Society based in British Columbia, provided members of the Jamaican community who were unable to make it to the slopes with an excellent opportunity to get to know the athlete in a more intimate setting. Like his mom, Errol is as modest as he is good natured; always a welcoming smile - traits which make it impossible to not be immediately drawn to him. He spoke of his passion for the sport and the burning desire he had of wanting to represent his father's homeland and to be part of the large family of love - the true legacy that his father left him. By choosing to ski for Jamaica and not the United States (he was nominated to be a member of Team USA), Kerr said it gave him a feeling (an analogy he has used before) of stepping off a cruise ship into a little dinghy but when he stepped on to that dinghy, he had stepped into a room of love, one in which he could feel the love of the people pushing him along.

The love and support of the Jamaican people, he said, made him a winner and though he placed ninth, he knew that on Sunday February 21, he was a winner.

Love for country

The point that he drove home, however, was that funding was not everything but that the passion for what one does, the drive to succeed and the love and support of family, friends and fans were also of critical importance. Reiterating her son's love for the people of a country that she came to know through her husband, Catherine spoke of the incredible feeling of all around love that she felt emanating from the people of Williamsfield, Jamaica, who showed so much compassion by willingly helping to care for her sick and dying mother-in-law. She was only thankful, she says, that her son was given the opportunity to be embraced by such love; and to the Jamaican people all across the globe for accepting him though he still has so much ahead of him.

Also present at the event was another passionate and determined athlete, Rindy Loucks, a skeleton competitor, who proudly dons the black, gold and green in honour of her Jamaican, Clarendon to be exact, heritage. A 2010 hopeful, Rindy lives in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia, but unfortunately missed qualifying for the Winter Olympics by a few spots. She is, however, ranked 44th in the world - an awesome achievement for an athlete on whom the onus was to engage in fund-raisers for herself because she was completely unfunded by her federation. A graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in visual arts and English as well as a BEd from Simon Fraser University, Rindy works primarily as a 'teacher on call' just so she might be able to train and compete. It was obvious in talking with her that it is her passion for the sport and her love of physical challenges that keep her going. And like many others, Rindy is also looking forward to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

Joy Walcott-Francis is a PhD student in the Department of Women's Studies, Simon Fraser University.