Jamaica’s Athletes Underpaid while they Overperform?

Jamaican athletes are forced to struggle on meagre per diems or none while they deliver ace performances at global athletic meets. In the wake of the 2015 World Championships in Beijing Asafa Powell, one of Jamaica’s most beloved and talented athletes, is speaking out.

“The Jamaican public pretend as if there are only ten persons here at the World Championships, what happens to the other forty who have to go back home after the championship and won’t get the chance to go to any track meet? If these athletes can get help for even five months out of the year, that would help.”

Powell added that they have started to ignore some of the promises from government over the years.

.@officialasafa u Zagrebu tjedan dana prije mitinga na Mladosti: "Napast ću Boltov rekord" >> http://t.co/YwEWSmwFdz http://t.co/xi9kHj88o7

.@officialasafa u Zagrebu tjedan dana prije mitinga na Mladosti: “Napast ću Boltov rekord” >>  http://bit.ly/1JJEibn  pic.twitter.com/xi9kHj88o7
@officialasafa Exposing the plight of the emerging Jamaican athletes. & den ppl have the nerve fi a pressure U. Weh dem know bout pressure?
Coming up: @kayraynor will tell us about a special report coming up on Prime Time Sports on @televisionjam – athletes talk frankly
Excellent feature on Jamaican athletes @televisionjam. @officialasafa got it right. The Jamaica team is not just 10 people.
Talking talking talking…our athletes want help just to train & maintain their bodies. I didn’t know it was this bad.
If our athletes don’t get a medal…understand they have serious struggles. Our Govnt only recognizes the athletes who win a medal..
@officialasafa interview hit the nail on the head. GOJ needs to invest in d athletes especially during competition season @televisionjam
@IamBathsheba thank you..Being a professional athlete is a 9-5 job if ur gonna do it right. They r struggling & need support ..It’s not easy
Proud of @officialasafa for speaking out for the athletes…
@KellyKatharin Odayne made a good pt. medical persons could donate their time. Per diem of USD25 in Toyko..smh @officialasafa #athletes
@officialasafa respect is due to you and all our athletes for all the hard work & dedication you guys show my support is solid for you guys
@rastabenji not sure u realize that over the years many who have have helped those who have not … It can’t be on athletes alone to help
@rastabenji there is a small@percentage of athletes that earn a significant sum. You can prob count them on one hand. It wouldn’t be 1/2
@rastabenji for them alone 2b contributing 2an endowment fund ..That’s what the JAAA’s r in place to do along w/things like the Chase Fund
@rastabenji what is needed is a sound and solid plan! Athletes do it even have a health care plan …. The basics are not there
@rastabenji well maybe those funds can be funneled into the company that was set up some years ago Jamaica Sport & managed / invested etc
@unclemiltywho thank you … It would have been wrong not to speak up
@rastabenji I don’t have the answers I only hope that this will be a spark to get the right people together to start change
@Giselle_JA amen! We are going to have a fund raiser in November will share details in a few weeks
@officialasafa said it. Even 5 months support. Not all their bills, just cover training, nutrition etc. It is an investment that will pay.
Most of our athletes work full time + train. Look at how well they do w/all of that can u imagine if they could dedicate themselves fully?
@jasondadzmorgan coaches himself. Everyday..No help..No guidance & he holds the record. What if he had a coach? What if he had a programme?
Did u know @jasondadzmorgan uses his phone to record himself 2c what he’s doing right/wrong? Everyday w/no help. I repeat he has the record
That is heart… That is determination
Did you know that #danehyatt was injured after the 2012 Olympics & has never received treatment… His calls and emails go unanswered
Yet he has worked steadily to rehab himself and show up taking off from work to represent our country..That is heart…That is determination
Did u know that most athletes like @Leford_Green left WC & if not for their families they wouldnt be able to cover their rent? That is heart
They showed up knowing they may not go back to a job or cover their bills … They showed up for you … For Jamaica.
when I tweeted that mssg durin WC abt whn u can get on a trck/field/court & perform this is y. They gve thr ALL & if dem nuh win thyr bashed
So when you decide to bash an athlete for not coming 1st or for hitting a hurdle or not making semis remember he or she gave up so much 4u
10 athletes do not make a team …. There were 42 others right there with them giving their all for you and for our country
They deserve the same respect as the 1’sthat crossed the line 1st..They sacrificed a lot to be there.That is heart & that is determination
Did you know that most of our athletes flip a coin to decided between supplements, gym, rehab or food for their kids …Which u think wins?
All they want is a shot… A shot to be the best they can be… That’s not asking for much. Not just 2b remembered in a championship year
@GoldielockzAma no image rights were brokered it was a free for all … No athlete saw a dollar
@Chelle10camp there will be a fundraiser in November… Will share info soon – thank you
@wayajol @mamachell I am not talking about questions…. Questions and bashing are 2 different things
@deikamorrison @officialasafa then calculate the per capita impact of medals on Brand Jamaica and the lack of reinvestment. It nuh right.
Athletes left for Bahrain so many cussed them. Every single time they hit that track they wear themselves down and for what @officialasafa
Did u know that4the last 2 Nt’l trails @jasondadzmorgan wouldnt hve been able 2attend if not for a fan/fellow athlete paying for his ticket?
I hope that today marks the beginning of change …. For all of our athletes … They deserve a fair chance. They have earned it
@deikamorrison @officialasafa it’s not sustainable for clubs like #MVP #Racers & others to foot bills of athletes. We need another ntl plan
.@officialasafa a very telling interview was listening to Jermaine Gonzalez on @shearer39 NNN relating the struggles of some athlete
If you missed it the story will be back on @televisionjam in the repeat of news at 10:30pm #supportourathletes
@officialasafa More voice need 2speak up1week ago we finish 4th mis medal by inches 4 Jamaica & today I’m filling out a job applications
@chamberschamp another example of the struggles of our athletes …. Hold firm me bredda … Betta Muss Come! #supportourathletes
@chamberschamp @officialasafa See it there now. Grim reality. Yesterday at WC, today seeking a job. How can we expect great results?
@officialasafa I mentally/psychology Hurt today know that I’m running 44sec in 400m and looking 4 and 9-5 job to support myself 4 #Rio2016
@officialasafa seein athletes frm other small islands gettin crazy supports frm their country without achieving 1/2 the success of Jamaica
@RealLifeDiva_ we are having a fundraiser in November but link him @jasondadzmorgan he doesn’t bite lol
@Tamarac1954 @chamberschamp well sir weeeks ago I was participating in World Championships which ended on Mon. I did that interview last Sun
@geordavis @kalilahe Sportsnationlive with @shearer39 explored the challenges being faced by athletes months ago! Replay the interview
Dionne Jackson Miller

Kayon Raynor ‘s story on our struggling athletes is going to generate a lot of discussion – and has already. The first response – I predict – from “authority” is going to be that they help quietly but that the athletes are either too demanding or they can’t provide the level of help needed. (That has been said already on several occasions in different ways). Here’s what I think. Time to take this long-simmering issue which creates untold resentment into the air and ventilate it with a national discussion, with the aim of finally coming up with solutions. Tired of the secrecy and whispering, and the opaque responses. I fully believe that help has been provided. But I fully believe that athletes are suffering, and the pot-cover banging and photo ops, without much more, I suspect, help feed the resentment. What are the possibilities? Structured assistance? Another lottery specifically for this purpose in association with help from donations/corporate Jamaica? Why should this not be a public conversation, especially regarding any kind of structured assistance? What can we and what can’t we do? Juliet Flynn has been saying for years, for example, that there needs to be more creativity eg a national gym/facility/partly sponsored by corporate Jamaica, where athletes could get physiotherapy, massages, treatments.. It is time to stop the cycle of banging pot covers in HWT then forgetting about them until the next big event. It’s time to have an honest, open conversation about this. I don’t think we have done so yet.

Jamaican Swag: Usain Bolt, Arthur Wint and the #Beijing2015 World Championships

commentary on Jamaica’s stellar performance at the world championships in Beijing 2015 with must-see video footage.

The video above is from Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce’s Facebook feed. It shows the 200m final in Beijing up close and personal and in slow mo too–

“Bolt not only reached for the moon in Beijing, but also has shown that he wasn’t a flash in the pan or an outlier. Four years later he has picked the moon out of the sky again and has done it with ease and bravado, again something Jamaicans dearly love. You must not only win, you must do it with effortless style—something Bolt has displayed over and over again. His derring-do and bravura performances are symbolic of the Jamaican ambition to appear cool and deadly at all times.”

Three years after I wrote that paragraph for Newsweek Bolt has pulled it off yet again. A thrilling double gold in the 100 and 200 metres at the Beijing 2015 World Championships (see video above for footage of the 200m). As he matures Bolt has grown into a thoroughly engaging, all conquering hero, the legendary status he once coveted now his permanently. He is the athlete of the century, this one and the last.

At Bolt’s side is the equally swift and admirable Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce now the most decorated female runner on the planet with three 100m gold medals in the World Championships alone. And in their wake are the myriad of other Jamaican athletes plucking medals from the rest of the world, with ease and grace; young Danielle Williams winning the gold in the 100m hurdles and Hansle Parchment silver in the 110m hurdles. The women’s 200m gold went to the flying Dutchwoman, Dafne Schippers, a talent to watch, but Jamaica’s elegant, gazelle-like Elaine Thompson was hot on her heels and the much beloved Veronica Campbell-Brown hot on hers. They took the silver and bronze respectively.

Not many people realize that Jamaica has a proud tradition of sprinting going back more than half a century—to 1948 when 6 foot 4 inches tall Arthur Wint sped past Herb McKenley to win gold in the 400m. Jamaica took gold and silver in that race which can be viewed in the video immediately above. In the 1952 Olympics Jamaican runners swept the 4×400 relays from under the feet of the Americans. The video embedded below has incredible footage of Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley mining some of Jamaica’s earliest Olympic gold.


Finally here is the full text of the essay I wrote for Newsweek during the 2012 London Olympics. It captures I think some of the indomitable spirit of Jamaica and Jamaicans.

Jamaica gained independence from Britain in August 1962. As the nascent nation replaced the Union Jack with the Jamaican flag, its people imagined a future full of glory, honor, and world-thrilling exploits. With the colonizers gone and the days of slavery far behind, what could stop them from conquering the world?

As the decades rolled on, a deep and abiding disappointment began to set in as successive governments fluffed opportunities to create a workable, new framework for the aspirations and ambitions of ordinary Jamaicans. For many, things seemed to be worse than when the British were in charge; you only had to look over at the Cayman Islands for confirmation. Once part of Jamaica, the Caymanians had remained with Britain in 1962 and now seemed to be flourishing while Jamaica languished, violence and corruption paralyzing its body politic.

Most postcolonial countries have found it hard to overcome the handicaps they inherited at independence, and Jamaicans are rightly proud of their superb tradition in athletics and the country’s incomparable music, both of which have catapulted them onto the world stage on more than one occasion. For a nation this tiny, Jamaica has an ego and cultural wallop grander than most superpowers, punching way above its weight, as some here like to say.

It’s a matter of some chagrin to middle-class Jamaica that those who have put this little country on the map have been, almost without exception, members of its underclass. While formal, official Jamaica lumbers along tangled in red tape, bureaucratese, and “proper” English, the people at the bottom have sprinted and sung their way to international attention.

The exploits of Usain Bolt and his fellow Jamaican athletes have to be seen against this background. They all come from deprived communities, and each is a story of personal triumph and determination in the face of incredible odds. Usain Bolt is the personification of what Jamaicans would have liked their country to be: swift, insouciant, and unbeatable at what he does best—run. When he powered to the finish line in record time during the 100-meter, with Yohan Blake in close pursuit, they were elated. But nothing can describe the mood of brimming joy that has pervaded the nation since Bolt repeated his triumph in the 200m, once again with Blake hot on his heels. And then, as an example of what Jamaicans call “brawta”—a little extra thrown in to perfect the whole thing—Warren Weir in bronze position, completing the Jamaican trifecta.

Nothing warms the heart of Jamaicans more than to hear a story about someone triumphing against all odds, through sheer perseverance, guts, and hard work to prove his or her talent and ability. “Never say die” should have been the national motto, for as long as you try your best, even if you lose, Jamaicans will love you. But you’ll have to die trying.

Bolt not only reached for the moon in Beijing, but also has shown that he wasn’t a flash in the pan or an outlier. Four years later he has picked the moon out of the sky again and has done it with ease and bravado, again something Jamaicans dearly love. You must not only win, you must do it with effortless style—something Bolt has displayed over and over again. His derring-do and bravura performances are symbolic of the Jamaican ambition to appear cool and deadly at all times.

Jamaica is a contradictory mix of individualism and community spirit. Bolt was raised by a village, Sherwood Content, in rural Jamaica. What Jamaicans love is the fact that although you could take the boy out of the village, you couldn’t take the village out of Bolt. At heart he remains the healthy-spirited, simple-hearted boy who grew up there, though he now knows how to negotiate the deadly streets of Kingston and the world.

As video footage of Bolt and his teammates in Birmingham and at the Olympic Village shows, the Jamaican men’s team thrives on camaraderie, good will, and fun and games. Do it well and enjoy what you’re doing is another Jamaican homily, illustrated by the young men and women of this extraordinary little country. On the Olympic stage it’s been a winning strategy.

To be the best in the world is what every Jamaican would like, though circumstances often come between them and this simple ambition. Bolt is beloved because he has honed his natural gifts to perfection with enough gas left in the tank to reach higher and farther.

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