Great Speed, Big Heart

 

Demographically, Jamaica is a dot on the world map. Its population of just under 2.9 million ranks the island nation 133rd in size. By contrast, Jamaica is a giant in athletics. Remarkably, the black-green-and-gold dot has garnered 56 Olympic medals in track and field, with 13 gold medals leading the way. Blessed with speed and an indomitable spirit, Jamaica punches above its weight in a sport contested by over 200 nations.

Inaugurated in 1983, the World Championships have served to vault Jamaica into further prominence. In 12 stagings of this event, Jamaicans have won 80 medals, with 14 of them golden. These results compare favourably with those of many continental powers whose resource base is far superior.

Analysts the world over know the names of our champions, names like Arthur Wint, George Rhoden, Donald Quarrie, Deon Hemmings, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Melaine Walker, Merlene Ottey, Bert Cameron, Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Frazer-Pryce and Brigitte Foster-Hylton. Still they wonder how this little nation has consistently produced stars on the track.

The answer isn’t as simple as 1-2-2, the medal finish for Jamaica in the 100 metres at the 2008 Olympics. Some of the success is owed to genetics. The large body of Jamaicans are the descendants of Africans from a region blessed with fast twitch muscle fibres. Research has shown that these Jamaicans dine often on foods, including yams, which fuel these muscles to create speed.

History shows that many Jamaicans fled to the hills during slavery and emerged stronger for their sojourn in the mountains with their legs primed for sprinting.

Built in those genetic and historical foundations, Jamaica has a system for finding and nurturing good prospects. With physical education entrenched in the school system, youngsters are funnelled through school and college competitions at every stage. One of them, the world famous Boys and Girls Championships, has been described as a ‘Mini-Olympics’.

A final sweetener has been added to the mix in the last 15 years. For decades, Jamaican athletes followed the footsteps of McKenley to the US college for tertiary education and athletic development. More recently, many blue-chip prospects have stayed home at government institutions like the University of Technology and the GC Foster College for Sports.

Now the country is enjoying a golden era. At the 2009 World Championships, Jamaica won 13 medals with 7 gold, its best results ever at this level.  That followed an 11 medal performance at the 2008 Olympics.

This may well be on account of the power of positive role models. The early successes inspired others and those who stay home are proof positive to others aspirants that success can be obtained.

Still, the analysts seek answers. Perhaps we will all learn more as Jamaica approaches the 2012 Olympics.

By Hubert Lawrence

Thousands Celebrate With the Maroons

Thousands of Jamaicans and visitors gathered in Accompong, St. Elizabeth, on January 6 to celebrate the 274th anniversary of the Peace Treaty, which was signed between the Maroons and the British Government. The annual event attracted even more attention this year, as it is one of the official events of Jamaica 50, to mark the country's 50th anniversary of independence.

There were cultural presentations and traditional observations throughout the day, with activities running from daybreak until late in the night.

Addressing the official opening, Principal Director of Culture in the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Sydney Bartley, pointed out that had it not been for that peace treaty signed in 1738, many other subsequent treaties would not have been signed.

"If it had not been for the continuous struggle of people like Cudjo, and Nanny (of the Maroons) and so many others, we would not (be celebrating) today. We would be expected to be somewhere cutting cane," he said.

Mr. Bartley argued that the independence movement for Jamaica did not begin in 1962, but instead with the resistance staged by all Africans at the point of their capture in their homeland. He insisted that as we celebrate Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence, it is important for the people to remember the struggles.

"We need to ritualise the important elements of our lives. Too many Jamaicans are moving around today, not even stopping to think that this is an important day in our calendar. Without this day, many other days might not have happened," he emphasised.

In his message, read by Custos of St. Elizabeth, Hon. Wilfred Nembhard, Governor General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, described the Maroons as an integral part of the rich history of Jamaica.

He argued that when people have a strong sense of self identity through culture, they are more likely to interact peacefully with other cultures, with respect for the diversity of value systems and religious beliefs.

"This fluid nature of culture can be positive, leading to stronger societal structures and values. Respect, appreciation, tolerance and a basic understanding of fundamental human rights, are tenets that have aided in the maintenance and preservation of the culture of the Maroons,” the Governor General said.

Thousands of Jamaicans and visitors gathered in Accompong, St. Elizabeth, on January 6 to celebrate the 274th anniversary of the Peace Treaty, which was signed between the Maroons and the British Government. The annual event attracted even more attention this year, as it is one of the official events of Jamaica 50, to mark the country's 50th anniversary of independence.

There were cultural presentations and traditional observations throughout the day, with activities running from daybreak until late in the night.

Addressing the official opening, Principal Director of Culture in the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Sydney Bartley, pointed out that had it not been for that peace treaty signed in 1738, many other subsequent treaties would not have been signed.

"If it had not been for the continuous struggle of people like Cudjo, and Nanny (of the Maroons) and so many others, we would not (be celebrating) today. We would be expected to be somewhere cutting cane," he said.

Colonel of the Accompong Maroons, Ferron Williams (left), having a quiet conversation with council member of the Charles Town Maroons, Frank Lumbsden, during the celebrations January 6.

Mr. Bartley argued that the independence movement for Jamaica did not begin in 1962, but instead with the resistance staged by all Africans at the point of their capture in their homeland. He insisted that as we celebrate Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence, it is important for the people to remember the struggles.

"We need to ritualise the important elements of our lives. Too many Jamaicans are moving around today, not even stopping to think that this is an important day in our calendar. Without this day, many other days might not have happened," he emphasised.

In his message, read by Custos of St. Elizabeth, Hon. Wilfred Nembhard, Governor General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, described the Maroons as an integral part of the rich history of Jamaica.

He argued that when people have a strong sense of self identity through culture, they are more likely to interact peacefully with other cultures, with respect for the diversity of value systems and religious beliefs.

"This fluid nature of culture can be positive, leading to stronger societal structures and values. Respect, appreciation, tolerance and a basic understanding of fundamental human rights, are tenets that have aided in the maintenance and preservation of the culture of the Maroons,” the Governor General said.