Grange welcomes home history-making Sunshine Girls
(From left) Pavel Smith, marketing manager at J Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum, Minister of Sports Olivia Grange, Jamaica's netball Captain Jhaniele Fowler and Sasha Warner Campbell, brand manager at J Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum during a reception for the players at the VIP Lounge at Norman Manley International Airport on their return from the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England on Thursday, August 11, 2022. (Photo: Dwayne Richards)

MINISTER of Sport Olivia "Babsy" Grange was among a group of persons who welcomed home the Sunshine Girls from their unprecedented performance at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.

The Sunshine Girls finished second in the netball tournament at the games, their highest-ever placing as they became the fans' favourites in Birmingham.

Grange could not contain her happiness at the VIP Lounge at Norman Manley International Airport on Thursday night.

"You are truly the Sunshine Girls. You have brought sunshine to all of us and we are so happy to welcome you back home. I am very happy as your minister," she said.

"You said you would do it and you have done it in our 60th anniversary year. For me, you are number one," she continued.

Grange lauded all athletes who represented Jamaica at the games in Birmingham.

"Let me say how proud I am and how proud we all are of the contingent to the Commonwealth Games. The fact that the Sunshine Girls, our track and field athletes, and all the [other] members of the Jamaica delegation made Jamaica proud is a credit to Jamaica."

Grange singled out the netball Team Captain Jhaniele Fowler for special mention.

"You shone! You really led the team well and you're a great example of what it means to be a leader of a team."

She said the journey of the Sunshine Girls to the silver medal was something special.

"In all of what happened at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games, I found it most amazing that you, the Sunshine Girls, beat the Australia Diamonds and the New Zealand Silver Ferns in the same tournament — that makes it so special.

"Add to that, the score of 103-24 against Barbados in the group stages, that was most impressive — so the journey to the silver medal was worth as much as the medal itself. It was a superb performance overall."

She has promised that they, along with the other athletes, will be feted soon.

"It is my intention to have a celebratory function, something very special, for you and the rest of the delegation."

Grange promised to meet with the president of Netball Jamaica, Tricia Robinson very soon.

"For netball in particular, I want to meet with you so we can talk family business. And in talking family business, at the end of it all, you will be smiling," she said.

Grange thinks it is only a matter of time before the girls rise to the summit of the sport of netball.

"The support you have received girls, from all of us, has paid off and very soon you won't be just number one in Jamaica but number one in the world," she said to rapturous applause.

Robinson thanked those who turned up to welcome home the team, including all their sponsors.

"Thank you so very much for turning up to welcome our ladies home. They have done us proud.We didn't quite get the gold but it was historic in beating not only the number one nation, but the number two nation in the world — and for that we are extremely grateful."

Robinson, who is already focusing on the World Cup to be held in Cape Town, South Africa, next year promised more of the same.

"They say 'What is yours, will always be yours.' Our journey continues to Cape Town 2023 and I am sure the ladies will put on another spectacular performance."

BY DWAYNE RICHARDS Observer writer

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