A Brief History Of The RJR Sportsman And Sportswoman Of The Year Awards

Some of the non-athletics winners of the RJR Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Award
Some of the non-athletics winners of the RJR Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Award

The RJR Sports Foundation is gearing up for the 55th staging of its annual Sportsman And Sportswoman Of The Year Awards, to be held on Friday, January 15. The awards honour outstanding achievements in sport by Jamaican athletes, by nominating a maximum of 10 persons of each gender for consideration. This year, there are five male and eight female nominees, with five persons up for the People’s Choice Performance of the Year award. Take a look at the selection criteria here.

Over the years, the RJR Sportsman And Sportswoman Of The Year Awards has been dominated by winners from athletics, followed by cricketers. Here are some more interesting facts from the history of the awards:

  • The first winners (1961) were boxer George ‘Bunny’ Grant and table tennis prodigy Joy Foster, who had three national titles and a world record as the the world’s youngest champion under her belt by her eighth birthday. She remains the youngest winner of either gender, receiving the award at age 11.
  • Sprinter Una Morris became the first repeat winner of either gender, claiming the Sportswoman of the Year title in 1964 and 1965.
  • In 1967, Octavius Morgan became the first Paralympian to win the award. In later years, paraplegic competitors only became eligible for special awards.
  • In 1973, cricketer Maurice Foster – oldest brother of the Joy, won the Sportsman of the Year title. They remain the only siblings to win the awards.
  • David Weller is the only cyclist to win the Sportsman of the Year award twice (1979 and 1980). He is also the first – and so far only – Jamaican to win an Olympic medal in a non-track and field event, with a bronze in the n 1000 metres time trial at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, Russia.
  • Legendary sprinter Donald Quarrie was the first person to win the award three times in a row (1975-1977). He had previously won back-to-back in 1970 and 1971.
  • Vivalyn Latty-Scott is the first and only female cricketer to win Sportswoman of the Year. She did so in 1976.
  • Merlene Ottey was the first person to win the award four times in a row (1982-1985). She is also the winningest person of either gender, with 13 Sportswoman of the Year titles.
  • Boxer Michael ‘The Bodysnatcher’ McCallum is next in line, with seven Sportsman of the Year titles.
  • Deon Burton (1997) is the first and only footballer of either gender to win the award. He is also the only winner not born in Jamaica.
  • The Sportswoman of the Year Award has been shared on two occasions. Deon Hemmings and Lorraine Graham shared the honour in 2000 and Veronica-Campbell-Brown and Melaine Walker did the same in 2008.

Read more historical highlights here.