By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published January 11, 2016
Unlike the current furore surrounding Jamaican Chris Gayle which seems to be forming new wriggles daily, the winners of the 2015 RJR Sportsman, Sportswoman and People’s Choice Performance of the Year Awards should be a formality this coming weekend.
Last year’s winners, boxer Nicholas Axeman on the male side and swimmer Alia Atkinson on the female side, and in the people’s hearts, were as clear as glass. Similarly, this year’s winners should have an inclination of their fate before donning their tuxedos and gala dresses for the event.
SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR
There are five nominees for this year’s RJR Sportsman award: the incomparable Usain Bolt; discus juggernaut Fedrick Dacres; hurdling technician Hansle Parchment; the colossal O’Dayne Richards and the speedy Rasheed Dwyer.
Of these five, Bolt’s repeat performance of copping the 100m, 200m and 4x100m titles at IAAF World Championships is the standout performance for sure. Even though at the Pan American Games, Dacres won the gold medal in the discus while Dwyer won the silver medal in the 200m; and at the World Championships, Hansle Parchment snagged the silver in the 110m hurdles while Richards won the bronze in the shot put, with Dwyer snatching gold in the 4x100m relays; the criteria for the RJR Sportsman of the Year is pellucid.
Olympic or Olympic-like events such as World Championships or world record feats take precedence over Commonwealth or Pan American Games, which in turn is placed ahead of Central American and Caribbean (CAC) events, and others. None of the men listed above established world records last year in their respective events and only Bolt won any individual medals decorated with gold at Olympic-like events such as the World Championships. As such, Usain Bolt will win the 2015 RJR Sportsman of the Year.
SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR
On the women’s side, the battle is a little tighter, but for me the final selection is perspicuous as a summer day. This is mainly due to the RJR Sports Foundation criteria being heavily skewed to Track and Field or Olympic Sports.
Nine women have been nominated for this year’s RJR Sportswoman award. On the face of it, you would assume the organisers were scared to leave anyone out or they were trying to name a football team of nominees. However, the long list of female nominees is reflective of the gender from Jamaica which dominates sports on the world level in both quantity and quality. We have come to expect it since the days of Merlene Ottey, Grace Jackson, Deon Hemmings, Sandie Richards and Juliet Cuthbert, right up to this current crop of feminine stalwarts.
The nominated nine include boxer Alicia Ashley; swimmer and last year’s winner, Alia Atkinson; West Indies captain and cricketer Stafanie Taylor; and then a contingent of track and field stars: Danielle Williams, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shericka Jackson, Elaine Thompson, Sherone Simpson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
From this list of nine, unsurprisingly, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce should win the 2015 RJR Sportswoman of the Year Award. If she does not, Gary Allen, chairman of the RJR Sports Foundation, Michael Fennell, chairman of the selection committee, and the other members of the awards committee will have a few questions to answer from me.
Ashley reclaimed the WBC World Super Bantamweight title; Taylor won the ICC Women’s Twenty20 Cricketer of the Year award; Atkinson, established a national record in the 50 metres breaststroke at the World Championships while winning silver, and secured the bronze in the 100m breaststroke; both Campbell-Brown and Jackson won individual bronze medals, while copping gold medals on their respective relay teams at the World Championships; Thompson reaped a silver medal in the 200m and gold on the 4x100m relay team at the World Championships; Simpson won gold in the 100m at the Pan Am Games and gold on the 4x100m relay team at the World Championships; and Williams earned two gold medals in the 100m hurdles: one at the World University Games, and the other, surprisingly, at the World Championships.
Nevertheless, Fraser-Pryce should win the 2015 RJR Sportswoman of the Year Award comfortably. Her winning gold medals in the 100m and 4x100m relays at the World Championships, as well as dominating the Diamond League in the 100m – winning all but one race all season – should give her the nod.
PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD
The five nominees for the performance of the year, to be voted on by the public, span four sports: swimming, football, cricket and athletics. Alia Atkinson’s bold swim in search of gold, though claiming silver, in the 50m breaststroke at the World Championships was a proud moment marking the country’s first medal ever at a FINA Long Course World Championship. Simon Dawkins last minute goal against Nicaragua saved a desperate nation – thankfully – from a premature elimination during the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign. Chris Gayle’s swashbuckling bodacious double century against Zimbabwe during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup was the perfect reply to his long list of critics. Albeit, the surprise performance of the year was Danielle Williams win in the 100m hurdles at the World Championships against all the experts picks. However, this in my view was not ‘the performance of the year’.
The performance of the year that the people should and will choose is the golden run by the girls – Christine Day, Shericka Jackson, Stephenie Ann McPherson and Novlene Williams-Mills – in the 4x400m finals at the World Championships. It garnered and unleashed several pent up emotions over the years for Jamaicans and the girls alike, and reminded us of the golden run by the boys – Arthur Wint, Leslie Laing, Herb McKenley and George Rhoden – in the 1952 Olympics. Jamaica has won the women’s 4x400m at a World Championship before – once in 2001. However, the USA dropped the baton in that race and Lorraine Fenton marched home to a comfortable win. This time, there were no excuses, and with brilliant runs on each leg, especially the anchor leg by the double mastectomy and 400m stalwart Novelene Williams-Mills, we saw real guts and glory.
Too bad Javon Francis wasn’t nominated.
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
From the “Lies & Statistics” column in the Western Mirror (Published January 11, 2016)