Olympic hopefuls hail JOA’s $40 million support

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November 24, 2020

Olympic hopefuls for the Tokyo Games in Japan are expressing gratitude over an expedited $40 million injection by the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) under its ‘Olympic Invest’ programme to fund their preparation and qualification.

Underlining the impact created by the COVID-19 Pandemic, national diver, Yona Knight-Wisdom, said the money will be useful in attaining his Japan goal.

He said: “2020 has of course been difficult for everybody, but particularly for athletes in so many ways – spending so much time away from normal training, losing the chance to earn prize money from competitions and also the exposure that big events can bring. So it’s great to finally be back in full-time training, preparing for whatever 2021 brings.

“But to have the financial backing of the JOA will help to give me that extra bit of motivation to work hard every day and be ready to compete to my highest level when the time comes,” the 25-year-old added.

Knight-Wisdom created history in becoming the first athlete to represent Jamaica in Olympic diving competition, at the 2016 Games in Rio 2016. He explained that additional JOA funding will allow him to focus unilaterally on competition.

“This investment will allow for me to get more physiotherapy to help look after my body, as well as to help pay for day-to-day training expenses such as travel, which means I can focus on the important things,” he said. “Hopefully this support will allow all of us to represent Jamaica to our highest level in Tokyo, because I believe a successful Olympics will bring joy and lift the spirits of the island as we come out of this terrible pandemic.”

Skateboarding Jamaica Limited’s Tafari Whitter, who is chasing history on a quest to become the nation’s first Olympic representative in that discipline, expressed gratitude and relief that the finances will ease difficulties created by COVID-19.

“I would like to say I am very proud of the JOA family on the fast track of $40 million for athletes’ preparation, due to COVID making things hard for most of us,” said Whitter.

“The JOA family managed to still keep things under control throughout these rough times and that is why I am so thankful and grateful for the opportunity of being part of history. Love you Jamaica. Let’s go to Tokyo. I am so, so proud of the JOA family,” he added.

Secretary General and CEO of the JOA, Ryan Foster, noted that “2020 is on in 2021 and the JOA, irrespective of the time of an event, is prepared for all seasons, all times, in solidly backing our national campaigners in their efforts to achieve timeless gains for country and self”.

Foster added: “Our business spreadsheet and strategic plan for Tokyo drill down to the minute and at every level there is the athlete. Every line item speaks to performance and the overall goal is ‘Jamaica to the World’.

“Our Pathway to Success strategy is centred around the athlete and their development and this Olympic Invest initiative is yet another way of solidifying our goal to get 10 sporting disciplines in the next Olympic Games,” the JOA exec added.

Olympic Invest is one of several recently instituted JOA projects that Foster says have borne athlete satisfaction.

“The Internship and Scholarship programmes were well received and the athletes who have benefitted from both are well on their way to not only achieving on the field of play, but also in classroom and the boardroom,” noted Foster.

Christopher Samuda, President of the JOA, reiterated the organisation’s drive to develop athletes in a wholesome manner.

“The JOA is serious about powering our athletes in empowering them to achieve the gold medal yes, but more importantly the platinum pride of self-accomplishment, which is an invaluable dividend of ‘Olympic Invest’,” said Samuda.

“Sport takes a lot of investment to achieve sustainable growth and the JOA is pursuing a game plan that is long term in its gains – with short and medium milestones,” he added.

Alton Brown, with sights firmly set on Olympic karate competition, has been achieving on the field of play. He is the number one ranked male karate athlete within the Caribbean, number two for his division across Pan America and number 22 in the world.

“I have my eyes firmly set on two objectives: qualification and medal success at the Tokyo Games; and legacy within Jamaica Karate following the Games. This additional funding from the JOA will have a vital impact on my ability to continue to pursue and successfully reach those goals,” Brown observed.

“The movement towards qualification at these Games has been four years in the making and would not be possible without the JOA’s support at key moments throughout this journey. In addition, the efforts of the Jamaica Karate Federation, under the leadership of Tony Robinson, have been instrumental in getting us to this moment.”

Brown explained the rigours of qualification, which demands money.

“Since 2018, the financial burden to the athlete of participating in the karate qualification process for Tokyo has been unprecedented, with almost 20 events taking place across five continents,” he shared.

“We have adapted well to the COVID-19 Pandemic, utilising relationships we hold with national teams across the Caribbean and Europe to continue development. This funding will not only allow us to be present at the final qualification events from February 2021, but also maximise the relationships we hold with other national teams, to ensure vital partner training opportunities necessary to continue to produce world-class results.

“The world is taking note of Jamaica Karate and this additional funding will allow us to finish the race and make Jamaica proud,” said Brown.