Jamaica Observer / At least three presidents of local sporting associations are confident that Jamaica will return from the CAC Games in Barranquilla, Colombia, with a large cache of medals. Christopher Samuda, president of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), President of the Jamaica Football Federation Michael Ricketts and President of the Jamaica Badminton Association Nichole Case have all expressed confidence in the nation’s ability to gain medals.
“I am looking for exceptional performances to encourage that movement that we have started to ensure that we have the non-traditional sports onboard and earning medals as the traditional sports,” Samuda said at the launch of the Games earlier this week.
Under his leadership, which began last year, the JOA has moved to increase the participation and involvement of non-traditional sports at more games, as was seen at the Commonwealth Games in April. Samuda is hoping that the regionally held Games will also grow in popularity and prestige.
“What we are hoping, also, is that the CAC Games in and of itself will become the Olympiad of the region. Too often we have dismissed games as development games, the CAC and Pan Am Games; they are not.
“They are Games that have their value, that have their status and certainly from a JOA perspective we are encouraging that status at the CAC Games. We have some of our elite athletes who will be performing at the CAC Games, we are encouraging them to come on board… it is no longer a development meet, the CAC Games is the Olympiad for the region,” he stated.
Samuda was also very encouraged by the move of Olympic track and field bronze medallist Warren Weir to switch over to Rugby Sevens.
“I am playing too,” he joked before saying seriously, “I think it’s an excellent move.”
“We have always encouraged at the JOA for athletes to be multifaceted. We can’t be too tunnel-visioned in terms of our athletic development and certainly if there is talent in one, two, three sports, then we should encourage it, once it doesn’t compromise the level of efficiency as well as the performance of the athlete.
“So Warren Weir having decided that he wants to come on board with rugby is very good and we have always said try and do two sports. Yes, the training programme for one may interfere with the other, but if you have the talent for both, then at least give it a try,” he encouraged.
Like many other Jamaicans, Samuda is hoping that participating in rugby at the CAC Games doesn’t signal the end of the track and field career for Weir.
“I am hoping that Warren will still continue his athletic career because he has the talent where that is concerned and he is part of history now: the first athlete to attend the CAC Games who may very well be doubling in capacity, rugby as well as track and field,” he noted.
Meanwhile, badminton has been racking up the medals in regional tournaments recently, which has given rise to confidence within the badminton community.
“We are looking to get a medal at the CAC Games. We know that the competition is quite stiff… we have gotten the gold against our Caribbean counterparts and we expect to do the same. I must say that it’s going to be very challenging (because) Cuba is a very big contender for us and a number of the Central American teams are very strong and dominant in the Pan Am region, but our guys can compete,” said Case.
She is banking on the indomitable Jamaican spirit to propel the athletes to podium finishes in Colombia.
“We have that Jamaican spirit, they have been training, they are fit, they are ready and they are big smashers, so we expect, if nothing else, to have awesome games presented by Jamaica and we definitely want to come home with a medal for badminton,” Case noted.
Ricketts boldly declared that the Women’s team would win a medal at the Games which would certainly be historic for the country.
“We have a good women’s team and we have had decent preparation and this (CAC Games) is part of our preparation leading to the World Cup qualifiers.
“We do have a pretty decent mixture of youth and senior players and we are hoping that we will have positive results at the CAC Games,” said the football boss.
Meanwhile, Shaun Barnes, who was named one of the team captains, was delighted at the opportunity to represent the country in shooting at the Games, a first for Jamaica.
“This is a big opportunity; it is our first time participating in a CAC Games, so I am going out there hoping to gain as much exposure and experience, gather as much information as I possibly can so that I can come back and further aid in the development of our sport,” he said.
Shooting is one of the sports that has seen dramatic growth over the last few years and Barnes is hoping that he can impact the growth even further.
“The sport of shooting in Jamaica has really grown dramatically over the past few years and this appointment shows that we are getting some recognition as a sport and through this opportunity I hope to help grow the sport, even further, bring it to heights that it has never seen before and blaze a trail for persons who intend to follow me,” said Barnes
Being named team captain is more than the National champion could have hoped for.
“This is an honour, it is something that all the other athletes of Jamaica who I look up to have been standing in shoes like these and to be able to say that I am amongst these people is indeed an honour.
“It is an honour to represent the country, it is an honour to represent the sport but it is even a greater honour to know that our sport is getting the recognition to be able to stand amongst and rub shoulders with these great athletes,” Barnes said.
Jamaica will be participating in 17 sporting disciplines at the CAC Games, the largest ever in the country’s history of the Games.