Jamaica’s junior karate team will make their international debut when they compete at the 31st Under-21 Pan American Karate Championships set to take place in Mexico City, August 22 to 28.
Jamaica Karate Federation (JKF) said they hope to reap long-term benefits from this event as the three-member team of Amelia Stephenson, Shafan Leslie and Rasandre Evans will also take part in an international 10-day training camp in the same city following the championships.
“This competition and training camp align with our long-term strategic goal to expose our youth athletes to more international tournaments and training as we aim to improve competition readiness for key qualification events preceding the 2026 Youth Olympic Games and the 2028 Olympic Games. The Jamaica Karate Federation is working in unison toward a vision aiming to put Jamaican karate on the world map,” the federation said.
The juniors will be supported by coaches and senior national team members Khalil Gordon and Valentyna Zolotarova.
Zolotarova said while this competition will expose the team and test their preparation against their opponents, the main aim is to learn as much as possible from the camp.
“Their exposure to high-level competition and more importantly the training camp will help them develop fundamental technical, tactical and mental skills required to move to the next stage of development. They will certainly return to Jamaica with more skills which will benefit their training partners at home and the local clubs,” she said.
The camp – a first of its kind, organised by Panam Sports and the Pan American Karate Federation, will be at the Mexican Olympic Training Centre and will feature internationally renowned coach Salah Mesnaoui of Belgium and some of the best international athletes in the team’s weight and age categories.
JKF’s president Tony Robinson said building the youth programme is an important objective for the federation.
“We hope that our youth, after having the camp experience, will take that knowledge back to others because what we have to do is build our youth programme going forward , so that’s the main objective – to assist the young ones in karate in Jamaica,” Robinson said. “When you’re young you are more receptive and you absorb things earlier … and when you are younger you don’t really object to hard training.”
In addition to the youth karate debut, vice-president of JKF, Keith Edwards, will also make history as the first local judge to attend a Pan American Championship on behalf of the JKF.
The JKF wished their delegates all the best and thanked their sponsors for investing in karate.
“This initial step would not have been possible without the generous support of the Jamaican Olympic Association, the Sport Development Foundation, McKay Security and CEO Jason McKay,” the federation said.