OLYMPIAN Traves Smikle, West Indies Under-19 cricketer Donovan Nelson, Sunshine Girl Dhanyel Johnson and former Kingston College standout Stefan Fennell are among 33 student-athletes who have received sport scholarships to attend the University of the West Indies (UWI) for the academic year 2012-2013.
Smikle, who qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games discus competition but failed to make it past the qualifying round, chose to stay home at UWI above an offer he received from the University of Georgia.
He will continue to work with his coach Julian Robinson who has been conditioning him since high school at Calabar. Smikle told the Jamaica Observer about the motivation behind the choice.
"Educationally I was qualified; UWI offered me a scholarship and I was saying if I was offered a scholarship I would stay; I would want to stay with my coach to continue progressing as a senior athlete. All of these options and these thoughts led me to stay," he explained.
Smikle, who sat out a year after leaving high school before selecting a tertiary option, said he will not be going professional, but is focusing on getting a degree in Political Science while garnering experience at overseas meets.
"The good thing about here is that in the coming season I will be travelling in competitions overseas... you have some good throwers at GC Foster and some developing throwers at UTech, so I should get some competition," he said.
Netball player Johnson, who spent a year at St Andrew High School's sixth form before being approached by the university, said the choice was a 'no-brainer'.
"UWI made the right choice to take me before anyone else could get the opportunity and I agreed and I came to UWI. Seeing that I am a part of the national programme and netball is my first love, I decided to stay here to better my skills in netball and to see what I could offer to the university and to the country," she said.
UWI is on a high currently after the success stories of Olympic 110m hurdles bronze medallist Hansle Parchment who, under coach Fitz Coleman, also won a gold medal at the World University Games in 2011.
Fennell, 18, told the Observer that was one of his main motivations in choosing a local school despite having previously committed to the University of Arkansas.
"I think being local is much better for our athletes because a lot of our local athletes are doing better. Mr Coleman trained me a few weeks before World Juniors and I felt in good shape and because he is such a good coach I decided to stay here."
He added: "I signed with Arkansas... but when it came to World Juniors I decided going abroad is not going to help me. Also, I heard that NCAA works you out tirelessly because they want to win points; they don't care about you as an athlete."
UWI's director of sports Dalton Myers was pleased with the cadre of student-athletes joining the institution, which will bring the number of new and returning scholarship students to over 70.
"We recognise that there are quite a number of talented athletes out there. They... have the academic requisites and we wanted to find the best pool to bring in at this time, especially after all we have done as a nation in sports," he told the Observer.
The scholarships will take the form of grants towards tuition/accommodation. The other recipients in track and field include former Vere Tech star Rushell Clayton, Vanessa Crooks, Marzel Miller, Bernardo Brady, Jamilee Gordon, Alecia Higgins, Shanique Thompson, Kimberley Williamson, Danecia Mitchell, Jovan Williams, Danielle Richards, Renea Ambersley, Sanjay Powell, Tovea Jenkins and Andre Headley.
Ladonna Larmonth, Tristina Harwood and Vanessa Walker received netball scholarships; Rovman Powell, Chrishna Graham, Horaine Linton, Johnathan Solomon and Javaughn Buchanan cricket awards; Jermaine James for table tennis and Adrian Graham for football.