Sport

Paralympians get $2M boost ahead of Games

BY HOWARD WALKER Observer Senior Reporter walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, July 27, 2012    

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JAMAICA'S Paralympians has got a tremendous sponsor boost for the London Olympics from Newport Fersan Jamaica Limited, who donated $2.1 million.

The six-member team which will leave on August 9 for a training camp in Bedfordshire was yesterday greeted by Dennis Valdez, managing director of Newport, and Natalie Neita-Headley, Minister without portfolio with responsibility for Sports, at the John Golding Rehabilitation Centre in St Andrew.

"This morning I am a very proud man, yet very humble because Newport has been given the privilege of being main sponsor for Jamaica's team to the London Paralympics Games," said Valdez.

'I am proud because when I look at the rich history of the Paralympics movement and our great performances over the years and we stand as a sponsor in the company of great men and women who made personal sacrifices for the glory of Jamaica, land we love," said Valdez.

"I am humbled because Newport Jamaica is playing its part, a small part, but with a big heart in strengthening the Jamaican spirit and realising the dreams of champions," he noted.

"We are looking forward to being in London with our athletes, not as tourists, but as part of the camp. I will be there to see medals won and personal successes. I will be there to share the love of friendship, the anxious moment of competition and the pride of the Jamaican flag flying high," he added.

The Paralympics Games will start on August 29 and end September 9, and the Jamaicans will be in camp at Bedfordshire from August 9-22 before leaving for the Olympic Village.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Jamaica won one bronze medal, courtesy of Tanto Campbell in the discus event, and he will be there once again, along with Sylvia Grant (F-57 Javelin); Alphonso Cunningham (F 53 discus and javelin); Jevaughn Campbell (T-46 100m & 200m); Shane Hudson (T-46 200m & 400m) and Toni Greaves (F-54 javelin).

Christopher Samuda, president of Jamaica Paralympics Association, is expecting a lot more medals this year.

"We know we will be absolutely successful. We have a very committed team of athletes and coaches and I have no doubt that 2012 will be another medal haul," Samuda declared.

"To our athletes, the challenges have been there, but they have overcome time and time again and we will overcome in London 2012.

"We are not only going to do our country proud, but also set an example for those on the world stage to follow by virtue of our performance and spit of competition and by virtue of our professionalism," said Samuda.

"I am humbled to be president of an organisation that embodies the spirit of Jamaica in a real way, a special way, in a victorious way," he added.

Neita-Headley became the first "champion" of the Jamaican Paralympics Games held after the press conference by heaving the javelin 8.10m to cop "gold" ahead of Sylvia Grant and Toni Greaves, who both conveniently shortened their throws.

Nevertheless, the Minister collected her medal and although she didn't give a Usain Bolt pose, she did give an encouraging speech to the athletes.

"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that our paralympians have done us proud over the years, garnering over 76 gold -- 49 silver and 36 bronze medals -- at international championships," she pointed out.

"This is an enviable accomplishment... I wish to congratulate you and to say to you, you are excellent ambassadors for the country because you embody the spirit of triumph over physical challenges, victory over perceived adversities and the inspiration and pride of a nation," said Neita-Headley.

She added: "I encourage you to continue this glorious tradition when we perform on the world stage in London and continue to realise dreams which once seemed far away, but are within your grasp."

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