Optimism is high for Jamaican athletes competing in next year’s summer Olympics in London, England. However, if an endorsement from nationals abroad is approved, the fervor could extend to the distant future and the 2014 Winter Games in Russia.
According to Olivia Grange, minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, a United States-based Jamaican organization recently proposed an opportunity for nationals to enter an ice hockey team in the Winter Olympics in Russia.
She said representatives of Jamaican Olympic Ice Hockey Team Inc.,(JOIHT) based in Denver, Colorado are seeking the endorsement of the Jamaican government and the Jamaica Olympic Association for its team to carry the island’s flag through the competitions.
Grange was told that JOIHT will be recruiting Jamaican-born players as well as players of Jamaican-descent residing in England, the United States and Canada.
JOIHT said team member, Willie O’Ree – the first Black man to play in the National Hockey League – was ready to solicit several of the Jamaican players whom he allegedly knows personally or to whom he has access. It is understood that the team would practice in Colorado, the home base of the Denver Avalanche Hockey team.
“I am excited by the idea and I have asked them to go through with the Jamaica Olympic Association and the Sports Development Foundation the formalities involved in being a representative sporting body in Jamaica. I anticipate them becoming part of the Jamaica Winter Olympics program, showing again to the world the power of Jamaican sport, that country without ice can perform well in winter sports.”
Jamaicans first participated in the winter Olympics in 1988 in Calgary, Canada when they qualified in the bobsleigh category.
Since that time, athletes have represented the island-nation qualifying in the ski category.
Despite the perceived novelty of a tropical country’s entry to winter competitions, the Caribbean nation was not the first to compete during the global competitions.
In 1928, Mexico made its debut with a bobsled team which placed 11th out of a field of 23.
The same year Jamaica entered the contests, a number of warm climate nations also competed. They included: Costa Rica, Fiji, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guatemala and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Other tropical countries, which have competed include Ethiopia, Ghana, the Cayman Islands, Madagascar, Peru and Colombia.