PRESIDENT of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) Christopher Samuda believes Jamaica's participation at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, was a success and is calling for focus on infrastructural improvements in a bid to boost the country's sports development push.
Jamaica ended the Birmingham 2022 Games with 15 medals (six gold, six silver, three bronze), but while that represented a decrease from the 27 (seven gold, nine silver, 11 bronze) won in Gold Coast, Australia, four years earlier, Samuda underscored the value placed on the Games and the depth of participation as points of success.
"In terms of medal count, it was not as successful as in the Gold Coast, but there were also other elements of success and one must highlight the character of the athletes who came here to Birmingham in order to represent their country," Samuda said.
"A lot of them had previous commitments, a lot of them had, of course, the World Athletics Championships, and notwithstanding that championship being very close to the Commonwealth Games and their previous commitments, were able to sacrifice that and represent their country, and that is successful in terms of the evaluation of the Games," Samuda added. "That is something that the JOA emphasises, character and patriotism above self."
Jamaica was represented in 17 sporting disciplines, the most in history, winning medals in track and field, which accounted for the bulk of the medals, judo, and netball.
Ebony Drysdale Daley's silver medal in the women's 70kg was the country's first medal in judo at this level.
The Sunshine Girls also created history by contesting their first final at this level, losing to Australia (who they had earlier defeated in the group stage) in the final and securing the silver medal â€“ their highest finish at the Games.
Double sprint champion Elaine Thompson-Herah, Rasheed Broadbell (110m hurdles), Janieve Russell (400m hurdles), Shanieka Ricketts (triple jump), and Lamara Distin (high jump) were Jamaica's gold medal winners in Birmingham.
In addition to the netballers and Drysdale Daley, silver medals were won by Danniel Thomas-Dodd (shot put), Shiann Salmon (women's 400m hurdles), Jaheel Hyde (men's 400m hurdles), and Jamaica's women's 4x400m relay team of Roneisha McGregor, Junelle Bromfield, Salmon, and Natoya Goule.
Traves Smikle (discus), Kimberly Williamson (high jump), and Jamaica's women's 4x100m relay team of Thompson-Herah, Remona Burchell, Kemba Nelson, Natalliah Whyte, and McGregor won bronze.
"We have to commend all of those athletes across the disciplines who came to Birmingham and represented their country very well," Samuda said.
With one eye on the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, Samuda said a focus of the JOA is to ensure Jamaica is represented in more events going forward as an indication of increased development of sport across the island.
"Our objective is to broaden the pool of sports in which Jamaica is represented in Games in which we have jurisdiction, and in order to facilitate that objective we will have to look at the infrastructure of our various sporting associations in assisting them in building out infrastructure and ensuring that they are able to have the necessary talent to work with," said Samuda, who also singled out coaching education as another key area.
"Going forward we want to ensure that we support the education of our coaches, it is critical that we build the capacity of our coaches because they are the custodians of the talent.
"There also has to be talent identification and this is something we have always said to our sporting organistions, that they must refresh the pool of talent and this is where you will increase your chances of medalling in international Games," said Samuda.
The JOA boss was also full of praise for the organisers of the Games and was grateful for the engagement opportunities it provided for members of the Jamaican Diaspora through partnership with the Jamaica National Group, which included the Commonwealth Manor, a space were athletes and Jamaicans overseas mingled against the backdrop of elements of Jamaican culture as well as events and celebrations used to mark the island's 60 years of Independence, which coincided with the Games.