Oral Tracey | We can build on 2019 successes
Jamaica participated in its first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament,and the senior men’s football team consolidated its top-50 position in the prestigious and pivotal FIFA/Coco-Cola World Ranking this year.
Jamaica also won 12 medals at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, the joint second-medal haul in the country’s history of the event, comprising three gold, six silver, and four bronze. This is inclusive of Jamaica’s sprint starlet Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce coming back from childbirth to destroy the opposition on her way to her fourth individual 100m World title. The relatively unknown Tajay Gayle became the nation’s first-ever senior World champion in the long jump event.
There were historic qualifications and participation in World Cup events such as women’s lacrosse and squash by Jamaica. Any calendar year having all these feats for the nation must reasonably be seen as a great year in local and regional sports.
There were, of course, disappointments. The Windies flopped at the ICC World Cup by finishing ninth of the 10 participating teams, and the national senior netballers, the Sunshine Girls, placed fifth at the Netball World Cup, a tournament they were highly touted to win. Elaine Thompson underachieved in her second consecutive World Championship 100m final.
There were other significant occurrences on both ends of the spectrum, with the National Stadium and Jamaica hosting our first-ever Concacaf Gold Cup games, which, in and of itself, was quite historic. That and other lesser positives had, however, to contend with some extraordinary negative realities, such as the first-round Olympic-qualifier exit of the highly touted national men’s Under-23 football team at the hands of Caribbean opponents Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis in a tournament played right here in Jamaica. These were pretty hard pills to swallow.
There was also the unthinkable misfortune for the national Under-15 boys’ team, who did not compete in their regional qualifiers because the Jamaica Football Federation inexplicably forgot about their obligation to secure the requisite visas for the team to travel to the United States.
TEACHING AND LEARNING MOMENTS
All things considered, it would be downright greedy not to show gratitude for our sporting achievements in 2019. Next year will be a massive one in sports with some real flashpoint moments and events on the schedule. The Olympic Games will be on in Tokyo, Japan, the pivotal senior men’s World Cup qualification will begin, and the Windies will have a chance to salvage some pride as they seek to defend their Twenty20 world title in Australia.
It is, therefore, important that all stakeholders across the nation’s full sporting spectrum remain engaged. Fans, administrators, and athletes need to use the fortunes and misfortunes of 2019 as teaching and learning moments, and embrace them as simulation exercises for the major events that will unfold in 2020. We must learn from our mistakes, correct them, and work on our weaknesses while consolidating our strengths.
With just a few days to go before we usher out 2019 and usher in the new year, let us put some respect and gratitude on all that the past year threw at us at the various sports stadia and arenas across the world. Let us start with visualising and following up by putting in the requisite work to make 2020 even bigger and better.