History-maker Marie Tavares takes new JAAA role in stride

History-maker Marie Tavares takes new JAAA role in stride

Observer writer

Sunday, December 20, 2020

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MARIE Tavares made history when she was elected honorary secretary of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) last month, becoming the first female to hold the prestigious position at one of the country's most powerful sporting organisations.

Her husband Noel has been a tower of support through the recently concluded elections, during which she convincingly beat her challenger by over 180 votes.

Tavares had served in the position of assistant honorary treasurer to Garth Gayle since 2004 but stepped up to fill the role vacated him when he was elected president of the JAAA on the same day.

Her focus is now on fulfilling the mandate and vision of the new president of the association. Tavares said, “Our job now is to transform athletics, especially with the unique challenges we face through COVID-19.”

But even while many people are hailing Tavares for being the first female to be elevated to the position, the soft-spoken veteran sports administrator is taking it all in stride.

“I must tell you that even though I am the first female to be the honorary secretary of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, it's just another day in my life, for now. Maybe 10 years from now I might see it as something great but for right now, it's just another day. It's just a step forward from where I was before,” she said.

Tavares began her career as sports administrator at Institute of Sports before heading over to the JAAA where she has had a first-hand view of one of the most successful periods of Jamaica's track and field.

“I started with the Institute of Sports and then I came over to the JAAA to work. I was elected in 2004 as the assistant secretary to Garth Gayle, who was honorary secretary, and I worked with the federation since in that position.

“I have been working in track and field since 1990. My first stint was travelling with two junior athletes to Japan for 10 days; they were competing in a junior games and that's how I got started. Then I started travelling with the junior teams, then moved up to the senior level,” she noted as she retraced her steps on the way up.

The former student of The Queen's School is rarely seen in public, and she prefers it that way.

“I am not out front; I am a background person. I will do all the work in the background, quietly and that's me,” shared Tavares.

Next year will be the first time since 2008 that Usain Bolt will not be representing the island at an Olympic Games but Tavares has high hopes for the nation at the Games, nonetheless.

“I still think that we will do very well. We did well at the World Championships last year so I think we will continue in that vein. We will miss Usain but we will still do very well,” she opined.

And the honorary secretary already has a race that she is looking forward to seeing in Tokyo, Japan.

“Shelly-Ann Frser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah – I am looking forward to see how they will do. I think that that meeting between the two of them is going to be fantastic, and whoever comes out on top will be the queen.

“I think the women's 100m final at the Olympic Games is going to be a humdinger. I think they will both make the finals and I expect that it's going to be between the both of them. It will be a duel. I am looking forward to that race,” Tavares said.

Yohan Blake has already declared Tokyo as his last Olympic Games and Tavares is expecting something special from the 2011 World 100m Champion.

“I expect Yohan to do very well. What I have seen of him so far and what I am hearing, what I am reading, I expect him to do well and I am hoping he does well,” she noted.

Needless to say, she, like the rest of Jamaica, can't wait to see Asafa Powell make it to the elusive 100 sub-10's, regardless of where it happens.

“I am dying for him to do that, I would really love to see him do that. It doesn't matter where it happens as long as it happens,” Tavares stated.

So, less than a month into her new role, Tavares has vowed to remain the same hard-working, behind the scenes person, as she continues to steer the ship at the JAAA.

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