Best of 2023: Observer Online’s top sports moments
Jamaican athletes continued to shine internationally in 2023, providing a proud nation with many celebratory moments.
Throughout the year, Jamaicans rejoiced in the advancing success of the country’s team sports, most notably the Reggae Girlz and Sunshine Girls who had historic runs, respectively, during the women’s football and netball world cups.
Additionally, several individuals surpassed expectations, contributing to an extra layer of pride that resonated among Jamaicans at home and abroad.
Here are Observer Online’s top 10 sports moments of the year:
Reggae Girlz’ historic World Cup campaign
Appearing in a second consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Reggae Girlz were arguably the toast of the tournament in Australia and New Zealand. Under the guidance of then head coach Lorne Donaldson, the Jamaicans secured their first-ever point at a World Cup with a 0-0 draw against football giants France, before becoming the first female team from the Caribbean to win a match at the global showpiece with a 1-0 victory over Panama. They then went on to secure another crucial 0-0 draw against South American champions Brazil to become the first Caribbean side – male or female – to qualify for the round of 16. The historic run came to an end with a 1-0 defeat to Colombia in the knockout stages, but the celebration of the feat will last a lifetime.
Shericka Jackson’s 200m masterclass
Since her switch to the sprint double just two years ago, Shericka Jackson has been on a tear and has already etched her name among the greats. This year it was evident that the former Vere Technical star’s goal was to demolish US legend Florence Griffith Joyner’s 35-year-old 200m record of 21.34. Despite coming up short, she clocked seven sub-22 seconds in the event this season, more than any woman in history. In the process, she lowered her personal best, championship, and national record of 21.45 to 21.41 seconds at the Budapest World Championships. She remains the fastest woman alive and the second fastest of all time in the event. Additionally, Jackson clocked a lifetime best of 10.65 seconds to win the 100m at the Jamaica National Championships in July, becoming the joint fifth fastest woman of all time; she won silver in the event at the World Championships; claimed the Diamond League sprint double titles, and was shortlisted for the IAAF World Athlete of the Year Award.
Jaydon Hibbert wins prestigious Bowerman Award
Jaydon Hibbert became the youngest and the first Jamaican athlete – male or female – to win the coveted Bowerman Award after a record-breaking freshman season. Hibbert, who currently attends the University of Arkansas, produced an unbeaten season, both indoor and outdoor, claiming the double triple jump titles in the process. While experiencing a mind-blowing season, the former Kingston College standout set World U20 record marks of 17.54 (indoor) and 17.87m (outdoor). After an astonishing first collegiate year, Hibbert entered the World Athletics Championship in Hungary with a world-leading mark and was considered the favourite to top the podium. However, he suffered a hamstring injury in the final of the event that denied him his first World Championship gold.
Sunshine Girls end 16-year medal drought at Netball World Cup
Jamaica’s 16-year medal drought came to an end at this year’s Netball World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa when they defeated New Zealand 52-45 to claim bronze in July. Jhaniele Fowler, who netted 43 goals from 44 attempts, and Shanice Beckford’s nine goals from 11 tries, helped seal the Jamaicans’ victory. Earlier in the month, the Sunshine Girls, which included five players who represented the country at the Netball World Cup, made history by winning the nation’s first-ever gold at the Central and Caribbean (CAC) Games against Caribbean rivals Trinidad and Tobago (50-36).
Thompson-Herah joins Fraser-Pryce at Elite Performance
Athletics fans were delivered a shocker in November with the announcement of Elaine Thompson-Herah’s move to Elite Performance, the same club of former MVP teammate and rival Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Prior to her move to Elite, Thompson-Herah was coached by Shanike Osbourne but had a very public falling out with the trainer due to a reported breakdown in compensation negotiations. Thompson-Herah will be seeking a third consecutive Olympic sprint double in Paris.
‘Whisper’ Richards signs for Chelsea FC
Jamaican sensation Dujuan “Whisper” Richards officially joined Chelsea FC earlier this month following his 18th birthday, after inking a contract with the English Premier League Club earlier this year. He joins Jamaican-born English forward Raheem Sterling at the storied London club. The former Kingston College star also got his first international call-up when the Reggae Boyz faced Trinidad and Tobago in a friendly before going on to represent the nation at the Concacaf Gold Cup and netting his first international goal, becoming the youngest Jamaican player to score in the competition’s history.
First it was Bert Cameron, then came Antonio Watson
Decades after Jamaica’s first gold in the men’s 400m, Antonio Watson was crowned champion in the event at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary. The Petersfield High alum clocked 44.22 seconds to claim the top spot, 40 years after Bert Cameron achieved the same feat at the inaugural staging of the championships in Helsinki, Finland in 1983. The Racers Track club athlete outclassed the likes of world record holder Wade Van Niekerk of South Africa, former world champion Kirani James of Grenada, who was disqualified for a lane infringement, and Matthew Hudson-Smith of Great Britain in the finals. He also left the championships with a personal best of 44.13 seconds which he produced during the semifinal round of the event.
Reggae Boyz stun Canada, book spot in Copa America
Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz stunned Canada with a come-from-behind 3-2 win in Toronto in the return leg of the Concacaf Nations League quarterfinals, to secure a third trip to the Conmebol Copa America and a first trip to the Nations League semifinals. It was also the Reggae Boyz’ first victory over the North American team in Canada. Jamaica have been drawn in Copa America Group B alongside fellow Concacaf side Mexico as well South American teams Ecuador and Venezuela. Meanwhile, the Boyz will face USA in the Nations League semifinals in March.
Danielle Williams wins 100m hurdles in Budapest
Just as she did at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, Danielle Williams stunned a world-class field to cop her second world title in the 100m hurdles at this year’s edition of the championships in Budapest, Hungary. Williams stormed to a season’s best 12.43 seconds to deny world record holder Tobi Amusan of Nigeria, former world record holder Kendra Harrison of the USA, Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho Quinn of Puerto Rico and her compatriot and rising star Ackera Nugent the top prize.
Nkrumie’s sub-10, Alana’s 10.92 at Champs
In arguably the two greatest 100m finals contested at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships, Kingston College’s Bouwahjgie Nkrumie and Hydel High’s Alana Reid reigned supreme. Nkrumie clocked 9.99 seconds to become the first schoolboy and the third junior in history to run sub-10 seconds. Meanwhile, Reid blazed to an impressive 10.92 seconds to obliterate Veronica Campbell Brown’s 22-year-old record (11.13). She is the fifth fastest junior of all-time and the 21st Jamaican woman to run a sub-11 clocking in the event. Reid helped the Ferry-based school lift its first girls’ title while Nkrumie aided the North Street boys in securing their 34th Champs title. After a rewarding season, both athletes have since gone pro, with Reid recently joining the same camp as world 100m champion Sha’Carri Richardson of America.
Parchment wins first Diamond League trophy in 110m hurdles
Following his silver medal win at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, behind America’s Grant Holloway, Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment gained sweet revenge on his rival to win his first Diamond League trophy in the men’s 110m hurdles. The 33-year-old Parchment clocked a personal best and world leading time of 12.93 seconds. Parchment, who is the reigning Olympic champion, will look to defend his title at next year’s staging in Paris.
Fraser McConnell continues to rep Jamaica in rallycross
Jamaican rallycross driver, Fraser McConnell continues to be the flagbearer for the nation in the sport, adding to his accolades throughout his quest to become one of the best globally. In September, McConnell and his X44 Vida Carbon Racing Team claimed the top spot in round eight of the Extreme E Championships in Sardinia, Italy. This was the team’s second victory of season three and first victory at an Island X Prix.
Roshawn Clarke smashes World U20 400m hurdles record
To qualify for his first senior final, Roshawn Clarke set a new personal best, national record, and World U20 record of 47.34 seconds to advance. He came fourth in the final of the event. Clarke had set a joint World U20 record after storming to 47.85 to win his first national title in July. He held the previous mark with Sean Bailey of America. In addition, his 47.34 is the 16th fastest time in history. After an outstanding season, the 19-year-old was listed for the IAAF Rising Stars of the Year Award.