Kemba Nelson’s athletics prowess gives track dad first visit to National Stadium
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Parading his motor vehicle in honour of Kemba Nelson aka ‘Speedy’ to boast of his daughter’s prowess in track and field, Ricardo Nelson admitted that watching her at the Racers Grand Prix earlier this month was his first visit to the National Stadium.
Nelson told the OBSERVER ONLINE that his football career in the early 2000s was cut short. But his first official visit to the venue local football fans affectionately call ‘The Office’ was to witness his daughter chase her dreams.
“All my years of playing football, I never went there. Kemba called me and said she had a ticket for me and I went inside the stadium. When I looked on the field and saw her walking across, I’m telling you, it was like I’m the one who was going to run. When I saw her going into the blocks, it’s like I’m the one who’s running. Mi start sweat, mi nervous,” he said.
Admitting that he did not have a father-figure present while growing up, the entrepreneur, tour guide and zip line builder, said he lacked the necessary push he needed in his earlier years.
So, when his chance of pursuing a sporting career did not go as planned, he ensured that Kemba, the eldest of five children, would carry on the tradition for a passion for sports in the family.
“Yeah man, I always had football at the house, jerseys and those stuff. I never had a son and she is my first daughter, so I’m always trying to get her active. She always showed good potential in whatever she’s been doing since she was a baby,” Nelson said, adding that he played for several clubs in the Premier League and Western Confederation Super League.
It was this moment he knew that she had a gift.
“Well, we noticed she was gifted at primary school when she defeated the champion girl and it was just her first year in the sport. It was at Jarrett Park. Kemba defeated her in the 100m and in the relays and at that time, Kemba had like two or three more years left at Corinaldi Avenue Primary School,” he said.
But naming her Kemba from the Swahili origin meaning faithful, no one could prepare Nelson for the struggles they would endure during her childhood.
At just two-years-old, she struggled with navel complications.
“Mi a tell you the truth enuh, a lot of times it brings tears to my eyes man, because the journey wasn’t easy with her. When she was about one year and six months or two-years-old, her navel wasn’t getting better because it was like the doctor had cut her navel badly and she was always struggling. One of the times I had to say Jah know, I wonder when this is going to get better,” Nelson said.
The former Mount Alvernia High School and University of Technology alum is the first to attend and earn a Bachelor’s degree in her family. She has lifetime best of 10.88 seconds in the 100m and made her first senior national team to the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon in 2022. At the Championships, she advanced to the semi-finals of the 100m and won silver in the 4x100m.
Nelson said that watching Kemba’s progress in life and coming to “full perfection” oftentimes overwhelms him with ‘tears of joy’.
“…And when I see her now come to full perfection and chasing what she really loves, yeah man, it brings tears to my eyes a lot of times,” he said.
He added that he is overjoyed at witnessing her being an inspiration for her younger siblings.
“Right now, she is the one that motivated her sister who is in South Carolina at university. So, she played a good part in the whole development of her siblings, especially for me too, so that I can walk and be proud,” Nelson told the OBSERVER ONLINE.
Nelson said he will continue to teach his children about the beauty of receiving an education and fulfilling their dreams.
He plan was to spend Father’s Day being pampered by his five children and being showered with food and gifts.