JOA states goal for equality in sport, gender

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July 2, 2020

Reflecting on Olympic idealism on the occasion of Olympic Day, the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), has reinforced its goal of facilitating equal opportunities in sport and gender.

The reinforcement of this position came from Ryan Foster, the JOA’s Secretary General/Chief Executive Officer.

He said: “As we celebrate Olympic Day and Olympism, the JOA continues to inspire our constituent members to self-actualise their potential. We strongly believe in the equality of all members by giving all associations equal opportunities to achieve their respective goals.”

Foster added: “Since 2017, we have inducted over 10 new sporting associations because for far too long we have not been brave enough to see beyond traditions and norms. We have incorporated more members into the family to embrace change and to give the newer sport the chance to compete on the world stage, the chance to earn and the chance to not only dream, but to realise.”

Olympic Day, which was celebrated worldwide on Tuesday, was introduced in 1948 to commemorate the birth of the modern Olympic Games on June 23, 1894, at the Sorbonne in Paris. The goal was to promote participation in sport across the globe regardless of age, gender, or athletic ability.

Citing the need to enable and afford Jamaican athletes in all disciplines a real chance for improvement towards participation at sports’ highest levels, Foster noted the JOA’s tremendous spending of hundreds of millions.

“Our mandate is not to leave any of our members (family) behind and we have demonstrated that commitment by spending in excess of $200 million in two years on these non-traditional sports,” said Foster. “All of this has been done in a financially structured and budgeted manner. The results have been there to see in squash, skateboarding, rugby, fencing, badminton, diving, hockey, surfing, to name a few.”

He added: “We will continue to awaken the dreams of many and we will continue to push for equality in sport and equality in gender.”

The funding afforded leading athletes in these non-traditional sporting disciplines to rise to their global standard and recognition, with several attaining new heights and on previously uncharted path seeking Olympic qualification.

“When you look at a sport such as skateboarding, which is not only a sport but it is a way of life – a sport that is so ingrained in their DNA. When you look at a sport such as darts, whereby it is not only competitive, but it is used as a means to unite and inspire many generations,” Foster pointed out.

Foster is also President of Jamaica Skateboarding Limited, whose main athlete, Tafari Whitter, is pushing for a place at the Olympic Games.

In his Olympic Day greetings, Whitter also shared about his sport and journey.

“I’m just very happy and thankful to be part of the Jamaica Olympic Association, which has helped my progress as a competitive skateboarder who travels the world representing Jamaica. I’m also honoured and thankful and grateful to be one of the first Jamaican-born skateboarders in the Olympic try-outs,” said Whitter.

Athletes from other non-traditional sports also expressed promise given enhanced opportunities to raise their game and compete at the Olympics.

Toni-Ann Williams, who created history in becoming Jamaica’s Olympic gymnast, at the 2016 Games in Rio, said: “One thing that it means for me is pride to be able to (combine) the love of your sport and your country and unite them on one of the biggest stages in the world. Being able to compete in your country’s colours and compete in the sport you’ve trained your whole life for was my favourite part of competing at the Olympics.

“Another aspect of being an Olympian I love is being able to be representational, a trailblazer, paving the way for young girls and boys to be able to live their dreams and be able to dream big and be able to accomplish anything they put their minds to,” added Williams, who competes in artistic gymnastics.

Thalia Richardson, a female badminton player whose sport is on a path for baptism at the 2024 Games, shared: “The Olympics are very important. It basically shows the different level that you’re on, it shows that you’re not just top in the Pan Am region or competing in European tournaments, but this is a world thing, it’s everyone from all over the world and the fact that I’m able to represent Jamaica in that capacity I really want to make it to the Olympics and do well at the Olympics as well.”

Foster said the non-traditional sport had been languishing for too long and this needed change.

“For far too long this gap has existed,” said Foster. “Our members are all equal parts of the JOA family tree.”