Jamaica is renowned for its many outstanding achievements in sports, particularly in athletics. We have racked up 66 track and field Olympic medals since our debut at the 1948 Games in London; rank fifth in the overall for most medals won at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics with 110 (that’s actually two more than fourth-placed Germany, but they have two more gold), and our junior athletes always do well at international meets.
Although most of Jamaica’s success has come from one particular area of sport, we also qualified a team to the FIFA World Cup in 1998, so we are definitely no one-trick pony. Our Olympic team this year includes a diver, two swimmers and a gymnast, and over the years, we have also ventured into other lesser known or less popular sports. In fact, we earned an Olympic medal in a ‘non-traditional’ sport in 1980 in Moscow, Russia. Can you guess which of the sports below is responsible?
In this the first part of a two article series, check out seven of thirteen ‘non-traditional sports’ Jamaica has competed at the Olympic level:
- Badminton – Nigella Saunders competed in the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece. She went down 4–11, 1–11 to Mia Audina of the Netherlands in the round of 32 and didn’t advance any further.
- Boxing – Jamaican men has participated in this event since 1948, when Ray Edwards competed in the lightweight division. In 1964, Johnny Elliot (light-middleweight) and Ronald Holmes (light-heavyweight) competed. Kenneth Campbell, Errol West and Oliver Wright competed in the 1968 Games in the bantamweight, featherweight and middleweight classes, respectively. Wright moved up to the light-middleweight class in 1972. Mike ‘The Bodysnatcher’ McCallum (1976 – Montreal, Canada), competing as a welterweight, has had the most success, winning his first two fights before losing to West Germany’s Reinhard Skricek. The deceased Trevor Berbick, aka the last man to fight (and defeat) the late Muhammad Ali, competed as a heavyweight in those games, as did featherweight Clarence Robinson. Other boxers include Anthony Rose (light-welterweight), Dwight Frazer (welterweight) and Alex Stewart (heavyweight) in the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Mark Kennedy (lightweight), Richard Hamilton (welterweight), Gary Smikle (light-middleweight) and Terry Dixon (light-heavyweight) represented in the 1988 Seoul Games. St Aubyn Hines (light flyweight) and Delroy Leslie (lightweight) competed in the 1992 Barcelona Games. Tyson Gray (featherweight), Sean Black (light middleweight) and Rowan Donaldson (middleweight) competed for Jamaica at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
- Cycling – Seventeen Jamaicans have represented the country in this sport. They are Kenneth Farnum (1952); Honson Chin, Howard Fenton, Maurice Hugh-Sam, Michael Lecky, Radcliffe Lawrence (1972); Xavier Mirander (1972, 1976); Errol Walters (1976); Peter Aldridge (1980, 1984, 1988); Lorenzo Murdock, Ian Stanley (1984); Arthur Tenn (1984, 1988, 1992); Raymond Thomas (1988); Michael McKay, Andrew Myers (1992); Ricardo Lynch (2008), and David Weller – our sole non-athletics Olympic medallist, with a bronze in the 1,000 metres time trial event in 1980. He finished 6th four years later at the Los Angeles Games.
- Decathlon – The decathlon does consist of 10 track and field events, but it is not usually something our athletes focus on outside of ISSA Boys and Girls Champs. We have had two representatives in this gruelling sport, Maurice Smith and Claston Bernard. Smith, a World Championships silver medallist, finished 14th and 9th in 2004 (Athens) and 2008 (Beijing, China), respectively. Bernard, the first Jamaican to win a gold medal in the event at the Commonwealth Games (2002 – Manchester, England), finished ahead of Smith (9th) in Athens.
- Diving – Yona Knight-Wisdom is gearing up to make a splash in the Men’s 3m springboard event on August 15, but a few decades ago, Betsy Sullivan was the first Jamaican diver to compete at the Olympics. She scored 210.39 points for 29th place at the 1972 Games in Munich, West Germany.
- Equestrian – Canadian-born Samantha Albert represented Jamaica in the individual mixed three-day equestrian event in 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London). In 2008, she placed 52nd in dressage, 42nd in cross-country and didn’t finish in jumping. In 2012, she placed 51st overall.
- Table tennis – Garfield Jones represented Jamaica in the Men’s Singles at the 1988 Games. Four years later, it was Michael Hyatt donning the national colours for the Men’s Singles at the 1992 Games. He was joined in 1996 (Atlanta) by Stephen Hylton. Both men competed in the singles event and later teamed up for the doubles.
Look out for part two of this feature tomorrow.
Tracey-Ann Wisdom is a freelance writer and editor based in Kingston, Jamaica. You can find her online at www.writtenbytracey.com.