McLeod, Atkinson on top

Cop 2017 RJRGleaner National Sportsman, Sportswoman of the Year Awards

Sunday, January 21, 2018



Omar McLeod and Alia Atkinson both made history when they were crowned Sportsman and Sportswoman of the year, respectively, at the RJRGleaner National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards held at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Friday night.

McLeod became the first male sprint hurdler to win the coveted crown, while Atkinson became the first female swimmer to win the award twice. The male runner-up was none other than the iconic Usain Bolt, while the female runner-up was first-time nominee Ristananna Tracey.

McLeod was certainly deserving of his award after winning gold in the men's 110m hurdles at the World Championships in London last year. He was the only male to win an individual gold medal in a World Championships that Jamaica failed to sparkle as they had done at the last few championships.

An emotional McLeod told the audience that he had made a vow to himself and his parents seven years ago to win the most coveted of all sports awards in the country.

“Obviously I did something great to achieve this. About seven years ago me and my wonderful mother and my stepfather were sitting in the couch watching this same awards and I remember in that moment Shelly-Ann (Fraser-Pryce) and Usain (Bolt) had won and I remember the exact look on their faces... I immediately looked at my mother and said I want one of these.

“It took me being a World Indoor champion, an Olympic champion, a World champion... the first athlete in history to win all three for Jamaica, the first hurdler in history to run sub-10, (to win the award).”

Atkinson, who has been the leading female swimmer for Jamaica for over a decade, also had a stellar year in the pool once again, setting two world records in the process. She was first crowned Sportswoman of the year in 2014.

Atkinson was unable to make it to the ceremony but accepted her award via video message.

“It is history in the making that a swimmer has received this prestigious award twice. This award is the accumulation of 23 years of breaking down barriers and stereotypes and having the support of people who are fighters to the very end. I lament that I could not be there tonight, but I want to remind you all that Jamaican sports are on a rise,” she said.

Other notable winners of awards on the night were former Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) Vice-President Don Anderson, who won the Chairman's Award for his contribution to sports in Jamaica.

Cricketer Oshane Thomas won the People's Choice Performance of the Year Award for his six-wicket haul in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) for the Jamaican franchisee, the Jamaica Tallawahs.

The Gleaner Iconic Award went to the irrepressible Veronica Campbell-Brown for her stellar performances in track and field over the years in which she has won both World and Olympic gold medals for Jamaica.

Campbell-Brown singled out her 200m golden performance at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China in 2008 as one of the most memorable moments in her career.

“My Beijing 200m win was huge for me because I not only won the 200m, but I ran a PR (personal record) in the 200m and I am only one of two women who have won the 200m at the Olympics back-to-back, so it is one of the highlights of my career, but I am so grateful for all I have accomplished throughout my career.”

Aiko Jones of Wolmer's High School for Girls won the VMBS YOUTH Award. Jones, who is a track and field athlete as well as a netballer, became the youngest person to represent the country internationally in her preferred sport of volleyball at the Caribbean Championships last year.

Guest speaker at the Awards, Senator Don Wehby, Group Chief Executive Officer of GraceKennedy Limited, said that the money spent by his company in sports in Jamaica, especially at the youth level, was an investment.

“We consider our involvement in sport as an investment in our schools, an investment in our youth and an investment in our country, and it's money well spent. The return on that investment may not be evident immediately, but that return will be there for our country and GraceKennedy in the medium to long term.

“We did a brand recall survey... and Champs by far came out as the number one brand awareness for GraceKennedy, so it is money well spent. I see all our sportsmen and sportswomen as ambassadors for Jamaica.”

The well-attended gala event saw for the very first time, Usain Bolt being nominated for the Sportsman of the Year award but not winning the trophy.

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