Shimona Nelson shooting for the stars

Blossoming Sunshine Girl dreams of leading nation to netball glory

Observer staff reporter

Monday, May 29, 2017

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With the retirement of ace shooters Romelda Aiken and Jhaniele Fowler-Reid being inevitable, upcoming talent Shimona Nelson is presently heir to the shooting throne in the senior Sunshine Girls squad.Nelson, who broke into the squad for her debut during the recently concluded three-match series against the Barbados Gems, proved equal to the task despite being knocked around by the opponents' bustling defenders.

However, with the cuts and bruises came an experience that Nelson is sure to cherish for some time.

The series ended in a 1-1 stalemate, after both teams failed to separate themselves in the opening contest which ended in a 44-44 scoreline, followed by a 40-34 win for the Sunshine Girls in the second fixture.

But the number 12th-ranked Gems would not leave empty-handed and secured a stunning 43-41 victory in the final encounter — their first win over the number four-ranked Sunshine Girls at the senior level since 1984.

Nelson entered that final contest deep into the third quarter and netted 13 goals from 14 attempts in support of her more experienced teammate Thristina Harwood (19 goals from 22 attempts), who so rightly led from the front.

It was only a few years ago that the towering 18-year-old, who stands at 6ft 3in, got involved in the sport — and yes it was mainly due to her superior height.

Nelson was first identified by her coach at St Mary's College and has been making the rounds since then. She first transferred to Meadowbrook High and later earned a sixth form scholarship to Holy Childhood High.

From there she has honed her shooting skills, while representing Speg netball team — a club developed by students and a few adults to promote sports and education. For four years Nelson fell under the tutelage of Head Coach Tracy Griffiths.

“I'm overwhelming happy that I made the senior team; it has always been a part of me to reach that level… and I'm excited that I was able to make my debut in the recent series,” Nelson told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.

“The experience for me was great for the most part, and in some cases bad. It was great that I was able to help the team when they needed me, but I felt bad that I wasn't able to give my teammates an option in passing me the ball to shoot, because it was a bit difficult for me to hold my position strong enough in the goal circle,” she added.

From the invaluable experience, Nelson is confident that her shooting capability will be sharpened as she is expected to lead the Under-21 Sunshine Girls from the front at the World Youth Netball Championships in Botswana next month.

“This experience will surely enhance my skills, both mentally and psychically, for the Under-21 championships, and I will use this as a stepping stone to advance my positioning and learn how to shoot and play under pressure. I have learnt a lot as it relates to how to elevate strong and hold my position, and I'm hoping to bring these to the fore in Botswana,” the psychology major at The University of the West Indies (UWI) noted.

Nelson is obviously an astute student of the sport, as she is an avid follower of Jamaica's very own shooting stalwarts Aiken and Fowler-Reid, as well as South African-born New Zealand shooter Irene Van Dyk, who is one of the most capped international players of all time.

As such, Nelson is cognisant of the level of commitment and hard work required to cement her place in the senior ranks, and later arrive to that place of prominence as one of the world's best known netball players.

“I am ready to be a part of the shooting throne but I have at lot more work to do in order to get there. However, I'm willing to put in the extra hours of training, hard work, and dedication that is needed for me to be a part of that rank,” the confident player declared.

“I'm looking to build on the recent experience in terms of improving my strength and positioning, because I aspire to be a part of the ANZ netball league. So I know that if I am to achieve that goal then I have to be committed, dedicated and determined, and I am ready and prepared to make that bold step forward,” Nelson ended.

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