Jamaican athletes, especially its women athletes, provided exceptional performances on the world stage, while sports continued to represent a major source of Jamaican effort and pride in 2021. Four Jamaican women were placed on the shortlist to referee at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023, a first appearance for two of the candidates, and a second appearance for the other two. Khadija “Bunny” Shaw, captain of the Reggae Girlz, was ranked Number 31 on the list of the 50 best football players in the world by ESPN FC. Diver Yona Knight-Wisdom who competes for Jamaica qualified to participate at the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, his second appearance for Jamaica. Discus specialist Shadae Lawrence set a new national record with a throw of 67.05 meters at the USATF Throws Festival at Roy P. Drachman Stadium in Tucson, Arizona. Sara Misir made her mark on auto racing history when she became the first woman from the Caribbean to qualify for the final of a Formula One competition in the United Kingdom. Briana Williams the Jamaican National Under-20 record in the 100-meter event at the finals of the American Track League Duval County Challenge with a time of 10.98 seconds to win the women’s final, breaking the Jamaican national records, which she set herself. Veronica Campbell Brown, one of Jamaica’s most honored and decorated athletes announced her retirement, as did Jamaica’s swimming sensation Alia Atkinson, who ended her career of nearly 20 years. Jamaican runner Elaine Thompson Herah became the first woman to win double gold medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter Olympic events at two consecutive Olympic Games, and later went on to be named female World Athlete of the Year. To show her support for women and sports in Jamaica, Cedella Marley, the CEO of the Bob Marley Group and global ambassador for the Jamaica Women’s Football Program for the seventh year, introduced a new initiative called “Football Is Freedom” to provide the tools and resources needed to develop women’s football in the Caribbean, Latin America, and Jamaican Diaspora communities in the United States.
1. FOUR FEMALE JAMAICAN REFEREES SHORTLISTED FOR 2023 FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP
Four Jamaican women – referee Odette Hamilton and referee assistants Princess Brown, Stephanie Dale Yee Sing, and Jassett Kerr – have been shortlisted to officiate at the next FIFA Women’s World Cup, which is scheduled for Australia and New Zealand in 2023. If they are chosen, Brown and Yee Sing will be officiating at the event for the second time. They were both at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France in 2019. The 2023 appearance would be a first for Kerr and Hamilton. If selected, Hamilton will be the first local female referee to officiate at a senior international tournament. According to Victor Stewart, manager of the referee’s department at the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), he is “extremely pleased” with the progress local female officials have made in the global arena. He noted that they have done very well and are “right up there with the best.”
2. KHADIJA “BUNNY” SHAW ON ESPN FC LIST OF TOP 50 FOOTBALL PLAYERS IN THE WORLD
Jamaican Khadija “Bunny” Shaw, 24, has been named one of the 50 best football players in the world by ESPN FC. Shaw, captain of the Reggae Girlz, was ranked at Number 31 on the list, which was created by experts on women’s football both within and without ESPN. Shaw is already the all-time top goal scorer for Jamaica. No Jamaican players, male or female, has outranked her on the ESPN lists, which means she is the highest-ranked Jamaican football player in history. ESPN FC cited Shaw’s “extreme mental strength” in experiencing the tragedy of losing four brothers and two nephews during her college years. Shaw debuted internationally in 2015 and was a member of the Jamaican team that qualified for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the first Caribbean country to do so. She was named Guardian Footballer of the Year in 2018 and in 2020 made history when she became the first national female football player to receive a Jamaican National Award, the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Officer, for her outstanding achievement in sport.
3. JAMAICAN DIVER YONA KNIGHT-WISDOM QUALIFIES FOR 2021 SUMMER OLYMPICS IN TOKYO
Diver Yona Knight-Wisdom, who was born in the United Kingdom but competes for Jamaica, has qualified to participate in the 2021 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. He finished 13th overall in the 3-meter springboard event at the 2021 Diving World Cup in Japan, ensuring his participation at the Olympic Games with a score of 405.20 points. This will be the second appearance at the Olympics for Knight-Wisdom, 25, who competed at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
4. JAMAICAN SHADAE LAWRENCE SETS NEW NATIONAL RECORD WITH DISCUS THROW
Jamaica’s discus specialist Shadae Lawrence established a new national record with a throw of 67.05 meters at the USATF Throws Festival at Roy P. Drachman Stadium in Tucson, Arizona. The distance of the throw was two meters longer than her previous personal best of 65.05 meters, which she set in 2019. Lawrence said she was not surprised by her record-breaking performance as she had consistently trained very hard in recent weeks. She produced good throws in practice and knew she could do well in competition. Her coach Julian Robinson expressed similar sentiments, saying he was not surprised as Lawrence has become stronger and has continued to improve her technique. With her throw in Arizona, Lawrence moves up to the third spot on the World Athletics rankings.
5. JAMAICAN SARA MISIR BECOMES FIRST CARIBBEAN WOMAN TO MAKE FORMULA ONE COMPETITION FINAL
Sara Misir, 23, of Jamaica made her mark on auto racing history when she became the first woman from the Caribbean to qualify for the final of a Formula One competition in the United Kingdom. Misir was one of 50 finalists from over 9,000 applications from around the globe to the Formula One Women’s Program. At the program’s completion, the top competitor will be chosen to drive for a McLaren GT team. The competition’s final is scheduled for March 2 and 3, 2022, in the UK. Misir is also completing a master’s degree at Florida International University. According to her father, Rugie Misir, his daughter’s achievement represents a big boost for the sport in Jamaica and will put the nation on the map for racing.
6. BRIANA WILLIAMS BREAKS THE JAMAICAN NATIONAL UNDER-20 RECORD SHE SET
Jamaican Briana Williams, 19, broke the Jamaican National Under-20 record in the 100-meter event at the finals of the American Track League Duval County Challenge held at Hodges Stadium at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. Williams ran the distance in 10.98 seconds to win the women’s final, breaking the Jamaican national records, which she set herself. Williams’ coach Ato Boldon said he expects her to run even faster times in the future. He said that the runner’s new personal best did not surprise him as their goal was to return to the 10.94-second time she ran at the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) National Senior Championships in 2019.
7. JAMAICAN OLYMPIC ICON VERONICA CAMPBELL BROWN TO RETIRE
Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell Brown, one of the nation’s most honored and decorated athletes, has announced her retirement. The legendary sprint champion who is known as VCB made her announcement on social media on June 23, 2021. She posted an emotional message to fans, writing, “Through the grace of God, I have climbed from a small town in Trelawny, Jamaica up the ladder of success to become one of the most decorated women in the Olympic Games and World Championships history.” She added, “As I take off my spikes never to put them on again, this girl from Clarks Town walks away happy and contented with a race well run.” Campbell Brown plans to focus on parenting and her charity and entrepreneurial ventures, which include the VCB Foundation.
8. JAMAICAN SWIM CHAMPION ALIA ATKINSON ANNOUNCES HER RETIREMENT
Alia Atkinson, a five-time Olympian and a four-time world swim champion, announced her retirement from her exemplary swimming career of more than two decades. Atkinson is the first Black woman to win a World Championship in swimming. She announced her plans via her Instagram account after finishing her last race at the World Short Course Swimming Championships of 2021. Atkinson represented Jamaica in international swimming competitions, specializing in the breaststroke, for about 20 years and has competed at five consecutive Olympics from 2004 to 2021.
9. ELAINE THOMPSON HERAH MAKES HISTORY AT TOKYO OLYMPICS
Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson Herah, 29, is the first woman to win double-gold medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter Olympic events at two consecutive Olympic Games. Thompson Herah first won the 100-meter gold with a time of 10.61 seconds to break the 33-year-old Olympic record set by Florence Griffith Joyner at the Games in Seoul in 1988. Two days later, she won the 200-meter gold medal with a time of 21.53 seconds. Thompson Herah expressed her happiness at winning the 200-meters, noting it was a new personal best time for her and a Jamaican national record.
10. JAMAICAN SPRINTER ELAINE THOMPSON-HERAH NAMED FEMALE WORLD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Jamaican sprinter and Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah was crowned World Athlete of the Year in recognition of her amazing performances at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. She is the first woman to win Olympic sprint doubles back-to-back, retaining her 100-meter and 200-meter titles at the 2020 Olympics and also winning a gold medal in the women’s 4×100-meter relay. Her time of 10.61 seconds in the women’s 100 meters and her 200-meter time of 21.53 seconds was the second-fastest times for these events in history. After the Olympics, Thompson-Herah went on to run the 100 meters in 10.54 seconds at the Prefontaine competition in Eugene, Oregon.
11. CEDELLA MARLEY LAUNCHES “FOOTBALL IS FREEDOM” WOMEN’S FOOTBALL INITIATIVE
Cedella Marley, the CEO of the Bob Marley Group, is serving as global ambassador for the Jamaica Women’s Football Program for the seventh year and is expanding her commitment to and advocacy of the women’s game. She has introduced a new initiative called “Football Is Freedom” with the goal of providing tools and resources to develop and grow women’s football in the Caribbean, Latin America, and Jamaican Diaspora communities in the United States. Marley was prompted to launch her initiative by noting the important role football has in empowering young women on and off the pitch. The mission of the program involves supporting the development of women’s football by funding existing grassroots programs, supporting the growth and development of national teams via the staging of a yearly exhibition match or mini-tournament to provide quality training and raise funds to directly benefit women’s programs in participating federations, and investing I the holistic wellness of players through the funding of scholarship and program to help players with the skills and tools they need to succeed in areas beyond football.