It is common knowledge that the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) is fulfilling one its primary mandates of expanding and deepening Jamaica’s vault in competitive sport while enriching what some describe as “smaller sports” a term which does not exist in the developmental vocabulary of Jamaica’s apex body in sport.
Jerone Ennis, the 2022 American Light Heavyweight Boxing Confederation/Caribbean gold medalist and Commonwealth Youth Welterweight Bronze medalist is on board: “I am a proud representative of the Jamaica Boxing Board of Control and my goal is to represent Jamaica at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games and thanks to the JOA which made it possible for me to represent Jamaica at the international level and for developing the ‘smaller’ sporting syndicates.”
Olympian Ricardo Brown, the 2019 Pan American bronze medalist in the men’s super heavyweight (91+kg) class who in 2021 turned professional, puts it in the context of transitioning to the big stage which all athletes envision. “Attending the Tokyo Olympic Games is a memory and an experience for a lifetime and the JOA was supportive in starting me in the right direction which has expanded more opportunities for me in my professional career.”
While Brown articulates the dream of athletes, JOA Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer, Ryan Foster, gives the perspective of his colleague Directors. “For the JOA family two is not better than too many; and while success in sport development is understandably qualitative, there is a numerical component that materially defines progress and validates the principle “sport for all, all for sport” which is our theme for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.”
Foster’s comment strikes a chord with Weightlifting Federation President, Dr. Mark Broomfield whose sport has been creating history. “There is a parallel between educational professions and sporting disciplines. For years many thought that to have a meaningful career one had to be either a Lawyer or a Doctor, no other profession was respected or encouraged until reality proved otherwise. The same is true for sport in the Jamaican landscape. Many only saw football, cricket, track and field and netball, the female sport, as the only sport worth developing and promoting but “out of many one people” is a platform that promotes diversity and the belief that Jamaicans can represent their country in other sporting disciplines outside of the chosen three or four. Pioneers are known for their ability to pave new path ways and it’s time for new pioneers in sports.”
Fencing Federation President, James McBean, is also on the same page regarding the JOA’s “no sport being left behind” policy as he says “this really speaks to the effort that the JOA is making in terms of encouraging, honing and in many ways revolutionizing the sporting landscape of Jamaica and what’s also quite poignant is the way in which JOA seems to be going about this is very much in line with the spirit of the IOC in that all these new so called ‘smaller sports’ or new ‘family members’ to the sporting family are treated equally, given a voice, and being encouraged. Nurturing the so-called ‘smaller sports’ is so important because this is a wise investment in Jamaica’s sport and a brilliant use of resources and time.”
Many Olympic sports are now coming into their own and international representation across the board continues to be a driving force of the JOA. “Any governing body in sport or otherwise knows that the playing field must be level at all times for governance of members’ aspirations cannot be for some a valley and others a mountain-top experience. Enshrined in the Olympic Charter is the equal right of all to self-actualisation and to transition to the Olympic stage” JOA President, Christopher Samuda, said.
Olympian and the 2022 Commonwealth Games sliver medalist in the Women 70kg weight category, Ebony knows the immense potential of her sport. “I want to get to another Olympics and, with that, help Jamaica to improve the awareness of judo as a sport and get more persons to participate. Judo has given so much to my life and I want other people to experience the same – especially the youth. Ultimately, the Jamaica Judo Association is really helping to build the interest in the country as we have a great potential for international success at every age group.”
2023 will witness two major games – the El Salvador Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games and the Santiago Pan American Games – the predecessors of which in 2019 were historic for the JOA in terms of the most sports represented, the most medal haul and the largest contingent. “Our goal is clearly to surpass those milestones and our commitment to those sports who they call minor, is not only major but is mature” Samuda emphasised.
At the heart of sport development and success in sport and central to KPIs of any growth strategy is an understanding that is akin to the thought process that goes into any viable investment and revenue strategy: “Diversify, pluralise, economise and then monetise and don’t allow your eggs to be placed in one basket. The same applies to sport” Foster said.
In the last decade there has been, noticeably, an emergence of new Olympic sports with well-defined technical cohorts, fan bases and financial backers who are taking some icing and slices from the sporting cake which must necessarily and creatively be enlarged and enriched to accommodate new tastes and a widening diet of diverse ambitions.