RJR Sports Woman of the Year
This has been an exciting year for Jamaica and Jamaica’s swimming. We as a nation have done tremendous things, from having the largest 5k road race per capita, in the world (the Sagicor Sigma Run) to having the fastest on land and now in the water is a tremendous feat for such a small and incredible country.
When international people ask about Jamaica, they are in shock to find out how small Jamaica really is, considering how many big name athletes, entertainers, CEO’S and entrepreneurs, to name a few, who actually originate from Jamaica. We are a land where there are many hardships, but the land is green and the sun shineth.
Throughout my 15 years swimming for Jamaica, I have seen the hardships involved in many sports including my own and I have seen a lot of swimmers come and go because of it. My reasoning for that is best explained by Pablo Picasso:
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once they have grown up.” The majority of athletes get better as they mature and expand their knowledge and experience in their sport, but what happens when they fail and there is no one to help them back up. They would never get to experience just how great they could have been. All the nominees here have excelled in their area of sport and continue to do so with the support of their families and Jamaica. When a youth falls, we need to nurture them and build back their confidence. Too many times, I have witnessed athletes being thrown to the wolves because of unrealistic expectations; because nobody wins all the time, and if they do, I would love to meet them.
Instead we should praise the athletes for their perseverance to continue for greatness, their passion and spirit to fight and their dedication to succeed for the green, black and gold. Growing up in an athletic family, I felt lucky and blessed. Even though swimming is not a popular sport for most Jamaican’s, my family was by my side from day one. My uncles went to every meet they could, whether it was close to them or not.
My Aunts, helped with funds, for meets or equipment, my siblings and cousins are forever my cheering squad and my parents….well my parents are truly something special.
After graduating from college, I had no money to stay at school and swim, nor did I want to give up on my dream and goals in swimming. My parents asked me one question,
“Do you still want to swim?” I told them
“Yes, there is still some unfinished business I have in the pool” and that was it.
In 2010, I went back home to train for the 2012 Olympics, and I watched as my parents grappled with the new bills – my swim fees, nutrition, medical services, training suits, technical suits which the average cost is around US$500, travel meets and I am sure I am forgetting a lot more, but never once did I hear them quarrel or complain, because they did it all out of faith. Their faith in me was unshakeable and it was remarkable because it was more than I had in myself.
During these last four years my mother wrote a motivational and encouraging letter to me every month, while my father adopted the name ‘fastest’ when calling me, because he said, “To me, you are already great!”
It was not until 2013, when I was granted the Sports Development Fund that I could start paying for travel meets myself. So you can understand why I say, I am blessed, because from the beginning my family nurtured my every passion and allowed me to grow and excel in whatever I chose.
I try, not only as an ambassador for Grace Kennedy Money Services and the Patron for this year’s Sagicor Sigma Run but most importantly as a Jamaican athlete, to expand my horizons and responsibilities. I urge other athletes to realise that what we do in our respective sports is not only for us. When we achieve greatness, everyone in Jamaica achieves it with us, and it’s because of that feeling of association and family, that we must use our popularity in our sports discipline for good.
I urge you all to find a cause worth fighting for, whether it is children, learn to swim programmes, adult literacy, medical aids, building projects, or the many other worthy causes there are in Jamaica. Find a cause and let’s help each other build a better Jamaica.
I want to thank all of the nominees this year and past years because without them I would not be where I am today. These ladies and gentleman are not only my country women and men but also my greatest competitors. With Veronica, Shelly-Ann, Stephanie, Kaliese and Kimberly, tearing up the track and Stafanie batting down her opponents, I know I have to step up my game.
I thank you all for helping me to become a better athlete.
I want to thank the Amateur Swimming Association for always having your heads high and being optimistic about the sport of swimming in Jamaica. It’s hard, but I think we are, as stated so elegantly by Mr Christopher Samuda late last week, “we are becoming to become!”
To the media houses for their coverage of swimming over the years; I know our stories are not the most popular at times but your coverage of my swimming journey and that of the Amateur Swimming Association’s journey in swimming has truly been appreciated and I thank you all for that.
I want to thank my coach, Christopher Anderson Jr. When the odds were against him, with me being Jamaican and choosing an unpopular sport, and with me being a person of colour in a sport where the majority are Caucasians, he always believed I was destined for great things, regardless of what others may have said, or how he was treated because of it. He always has my back, no matter where in the world I am.
Most importantly, I would like to thank my family. It’s been a long and hard road to get to where I am today. I am a World Champion, World record holder and now Jamaica’s Sportswoman of the year for 2014, and you all deserve to be right up here with me.
Finally, I would like to thank the RJR Foundation for this award and the people of Jamaica for being patient with me and living every inch of the excitement I had in the water with me. This award goes out to every person that can swim, is learning to swim, or planning to learn to swim in the future. This award shall be used as a beacon to unite and ignite the swimmers of Jamaica, because it does not end with me.
My father once said that life consists of good memories, bad memories and everything in the middle, after I achieved my World Record; he said one thing to me – “Thank you for the memories.”
I would like to thank each and every one of you here tonight, watching and listening.
Thank you for this wonderful memory.