The COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation or postponement of many local and international sports competitions, but many Jamaican athletes received recognition for their achievements overall. The news in sports during 2020 covered Jacqueline Williams who made history as the first woman to serve as third umpire in men’s international cricket, Xavier Gilbert who was named head coach of the U-20 Reggae Girlz, Reggae Girl Konya Plummer who was nominated for the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year Award, and Stoddart Nieto who was honored by the International Olympic Committee. News stories also focused on Olympian Merlene Ottey who received the 2020 Order of Jamaica, swimming star Alia Atkinson who was named the CAC Female Athlete of the Year and who joined Special Olympics Caribbean as a Champion Ambassador, Courtney Walsh who was named the new head coach of the women’s West Indies cricket team, and Olympian Elaine Thompson-Herah who received a nomination to the title of World Athletics Female Athlete of the Year. Also in 2020 Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz retained the Number 1 spot in the Caribbean Football Union rankings and were ranked 47th in the world.
JAMAICAN WAS FIRST WOMAN THIRD UMPIRE IN MEN’S INTERNATIONAL CRICKET
Jamaica’s Jacqueline Williams was the first woman in history to serve as the third umpire in a men’s international match. Williams, 43, took on the historic role when she officiated in the first of three Twenty20 International. The match pitted Jamaica against the visiting team, Ireland. In May of 2009, Williams became the first woman named to the International Cricket Council International Panel of Match Referees.
XAVIER GILBERT CONFIRMED AS HEAD COACH OF U-20 REGGAE GIRLZ
The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) general secretary Dalton Wint announced that Xavier Gilbert gained the organization’s support in his new role as head coach for the Under-20 national Reggae Girlz team. The Reggae Girlz competed in the first round of the CONCACAF qualifiers in the Dominican Republic from February 22, 2020, to March 8, 2020. Wint said that Gilbert was the right person to head the team because of his previous experience as a successful women’s coach.
KONYA PLUMMER OF REGGAE GIRLZ NOMINATED FOR 2020 NCAA WOMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD
Konya Plummer, the captain of Jamaica’s historic Reggae Girlz 2019 showing at the Women’s World Cup in France, received the nomination from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for its Woman of the Year award for 2020. The award was established in 1991 to honor graduating female student athletes for their accomplishments in athletics, academics, service and leadership throughout their college careers. She was named the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. Plummer is the first Jamaican-born player drafted in the history of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) College Draft.
INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE HONORS JAMAICAN
The International Olympic Committee honored Jamaica’s Stoddart Nieto, who competed at two Olympic Games for Jamaica, to recognize “the fight and path of an Olympian.” Nieto said that achieving this accomplishment helped to shape her life as an athlete and as a person. She noted that her journey as an Olympian prepared her for “the most important race, which is life’s race.” She thanked the committee and President Thomas Bach for honoring her with the President’s Award. Nieto, a 2005 Central American and Caribbean Championships 400-meter hurdles medalist, married high jumper Jamie Nieto who suffered a major injury that left him partially paralyzed.
BRONZE QUEEN” MERLENE OTTEY RECEIVED 2020 ORDER OF JAMAICA
Merlene Ottey, who won nine medals representing Jamaica at the Olympics from 1978 to 2000, received Jamaica’s fourth-highest honor, the Order of Jamaica. Known as the “Bronze Queen,” Ottey won six bronze medals at the Olympics, as well as 14 World Championships medals. Her wins at the World Championships included consecutive 200-meter titles in 1993 and 1995. She is ranked seventh among 100-meter sprinters in the world and fourth in the 200-meters. Ottey, 60, switched representation to Slovenia in 2000 and holds the world indoor record in the 200 meters with a time of 21.87 seconds set in 1993. After winning the gold medal at the 1993 World Championships, Ottey was named Ambassador of Jamaica. She was named Jamaican Sportswoman of the Year 13 times between 1979 and 1995.
JAMAICAN OLYMPIAN ALIA ATKINSON NAMED CAC FEMALE ATHLETE OF 2020
Alia Atkinson, Jamaica’s swim star and Olympic athlete, was named the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Female Athlete of the Year for 2020. The “Swammy Awards” are given out by “Swim Swam” quarterly magazine, which was established in 2013 to cover the international sport of swimming. This was the sixth time in the history of the awards that Atkinson, three-time national “Sportswoman of the Year” won a Swammy, having previously been presented with the magazine’s award in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019.
COURTNEY WALSH NAMED AS NEW HEAD COACH OF WINDIES WOMEN’S TEAM
West Indies cricket legend Courtney Walsh was named the new head coach of the West Indies Women’s team by Cricket West Indies (CWI). Walsh will head preparations and development of the women’s team at least until the end of 2022. This will include competitions like the next International Cricket Council (ICC) Women’s Cricket World Cup and the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, The former CWI fast bowler worked as an assistant coach with the Bangladesh Men’s team and then with the West Indies Women’s team under a short contract. Walsh is the top wicket-taker in the history of West Indies Tests, with 518 wickets in 132 Test matches. He is also a former Jamaica and West Indies captain.
JAMAICA’S ELAINE THOMPSON-HERAH NOMINATED FOR FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARD
Double-gold medalist Elaine Thompson-Herah, 28, expressed her pride at being nominated for the title of Female Athlete of the Year for 2020 by World Athletics. The track star won two gold medals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. She was one of ten nominees selected by a global panel of athletics experts representing the six continental areas of World Athletics. During the season, she was undefeated over seven races and ran a world-leading time of 10.85 seconds in the 100 meters at the Diamond League meet in Rome, Italy. She also ran the distance with a time of 10.87 seconds at Doha at the end of the season. Thompson-Herah was the only Jamaican nominated on either the female or male athlete of the year lists.
JAMAICA REMAINED AT TOP OF CARIBBEAN FOOTBALL UNION RANKINGS
According to a release of the FIFA World Rankings for November 2020, Jamaica remained Number 1 in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) rankings. Jamaica was ranked 47th in the world, which made the Reggae Boyz the highest-ranked team in the CFU and the third-ranked team in CONCACAF. The Jamaican team has been consistently at the top of the Caribbean rankings since 2017.
JAMAICAN SWIM CHAMPION ALIA ATKINSON JOINED SPECIAL OLYMPICS CARIBBEAN AS CHAMPION AMBASSADOR
Alia Atkinson, a Jamaican world champion swimmer, was named as a Champion Ambassador to Special Olympics Caribbean, joining 58 other such ambassadors worldwide. The Champion Ambassadors program began in 2020 with the chosen individuals giving their time and using their public platforms to boost the inclusion of Special Olympics athletes in sports. As a Champion Ambassador, Atkinson is working with Special Olympics Caribbean to raise awareness, motivate athletes, and recruit donors to support Special Olympics programs in the Caribbean region. Atkinson said she has seen how dedicated Special Olympic athletes are and that she looked forward to working with the regional group to enhance the organization’s programs.
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