2015 is at an end but it was a memorable year in sports for Jamaica. From netball to track and field, Jamaica’s athletes shone brightly throughout the year leaving us with many great memories.
The following are my top Jamaican sports men and women performers for 2015.
Our netballers are often overlooked for awards. The RJR Sports Foundation claims it is hard to nominate a netballer because they play team sports, which to me is ridiculous before you really don’t need statistics to determine what great play is. You see a great play and you know right off the bat that it is.
In June, Jamaica’s Rommel Aiken won her second ANZ Championship scoring 47 goals from 51 attempts to lead the Queensland Firebirds to a 57-56 win over the New South Wales Swifts in the finals of the biggest and best netball league in the world. The super tall Jamaican also won her third ANZ Championship Most Valuable Player Award. She also won the Australian Conference Most Valuable Player award and was the first shooter to 400 goals this past season.
Her Jamaican teammate Southern Steel’s Jhaniele Fowler-Reid won the New Zealand Conference MVP award.
Alia Atkinson will go down in history as the Jamaican swimmer who made the breakthroughs for swimmers here. In 2014, she became the first Jamaican to set a world record and win gold at the World Short Course Championships. In 2015, she recorded another first when she became the first Jamaican to win medals at the World Long Course championships. She also joined an elite group of swimmers to break 1:06.00 for the 100-metre butterfly. It was the fastest time of the year and one of the fastest times ever.
In October Jamaica’s Alicia Ashley became the oldest woman ever to win a world title when she defeated Christina McMahon by unanimous decision to win the vacant WBC female World Super Bantamweight title in New York. The 48-year-old known as Slick had lost the title to Jackie Nava in September 2014.
In August Danielle Williams shocked the world when she won gold in the 100 metre hurdles in a personal best 12.57s at the IAAF World Athletic Championships in Beijing, China. She was the first Jamaican to win the title since Brigette Foster-Hylton in 2009. The soft-spoken Jamaican, a five-time NCAA Division II champion, also won the World University Games title in Gwanju, South Korea in 12.78s.
WOMEN’S MILE RELAY TEAM
Christine Day, Shericka Jackson, Stephanie McPherson and Novlene Williams-Mills pooled their respective talents to pull off an unlikely victory over the USA at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China. The team defeated a powerful USA team of Alyson Felix, Francena McCorory, Natasha Hastings and Sanya Richards-Ross to win Jamaica’s second world mile relay title (first was in Edmonton in 2001) and helped Jamaica close the championships in style winning three of the four relays.
This young woman from Manchester High (currently at Utech) demonstrated to the world that whenever Jamaica’s giants – Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell – finally decide to walk away, the sprints will be left in her capable hands. Plagued by injury in previous years, Elaine blossomed this year and peaked in Beijing in 21.66 seconds, one of the fastest times ever run. Merlene Ottey’s national record of 21.64s is under real threat. She was beaten into second place by another young star on the rise Dafne Schippers who ran the third fastest time in history.
Back in 2006, Sherone Simpson was the fastest woman in the world in both 100m and 200m. Knee injuries, surgery and an unfortunate drug suspension ran her off track for a while. She switched camps and came close to being back to her best, winning her first title since the 2006 Commonwealth Games when she claimed the 100 metres at the Pan Am Games in Canada. It was also the first time she was breaking 11 seconds since 2008, when she won silver in the 100m in Beijing.
SHELLY ANN FRASER-PRYCE
What can you say about this great female sprinter, arguably the best female 100m sprinter ever? She claimed her second straight and third overall 100m world title in 10.76 (easing down) and won another gold in the sprint relay when Jamaica ran 41.07 the second fastest time in history.
VERONICA CAMPBELL BROWN
Coming off an extremely ordinary year few would have seen VCB finding something special to run 21.97s second collect an unexpected bronze medal in Beijing. It was one of her fastest times ever in a performance no one saw coming.
The West Indies continued to look like rank amateurs in 2015 but those who saw Chris Gayle’s 215 against Zimbabwe during the ICC World Cup in February will never forget it for its sheer brutality. The powerful Jamaican slammed 16 sixes and 10 fours as the West Indies racked up 372 for 2 against Zimbabwe. The inning was so memorable that few remember that Marlon Samuels scored an unbeaten 133 that was also quite good. It’s a shame the West Indies were later blown away by South Africa and New Zealand and unceremoniously dumped out in the quarter-finals.
The Axeman continued to deliver in 2015 knocking out Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan before losing his title on the scale. He was robbed of another victory in December when judges ruled his fight with Juan Sosa a majority draw.
2015 may just be Bolt’s penultimate year in the sport as there is a strong feeling 2016 will be his last year as a competitor. Eleven world titles and six Olympic titles as well as the world records in both 100 and 200 metres means the ‘tall man’ has nothing left to prove – he is the greatest sprinter that has ever lived. During the season he struggled with injury which affected his form. But he showed up in Beijing and showed that he doesn’t lose when it matters most. Outside his false start in Daegu in 2011, Bolt has won every major individual final since 2008. Justin Gatlin threatened that record in 2015 but Bolt delivered in what was perhaps his greatest race. He came back to run a world leading 19.55s in the 200m before claiming his third World Championship triple with another great anchor leg in the sprint relay. We will miss him when he finally decides to walk away.