Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

Starting a race weekend as championship-leading driver is never a bad thing, but doing so carries extra weight. However, there is also added pressure when a driver, who holds himself to high regard, has to make up grounds to deliver a championship win.

That's the situation Jamaica's karting sensation Alex Powell is in, as he heads into the business end of the season in pole position in the five-race Champions of the Future (COTF) series, but at the same time, is someway off the lead in the more illustrious four-round FIA Karting European Championship.

Still, Powell welcomes the challenge that both events present as part of his growth process in a budding career that could see him transition to the Formula 4 ranks next year.

"I want to win both the Champions of the Future and the European Championships, so I will do everything I possibly can to achieve that feat. I have been a little lacking in some cases, particularly where race pace is concerned, but I am confident with the direction that we are working in and we will be working very hard over these next few weeks," Powell told SportsMax.tv from his base in Italy.

The American-born driver's declaration came while he reflected on the second and third place finishes in the third round of both events, in the OK category, on separate weekends in Rodby, Denmark.

In the COTF series, Powell was beaten by Italian Gabriel Gomez, with Great Britain's Kean Nakamura-Berta in third. Despite placing second, Powell moved to the top of the series standings 24 points ahead of rivals with two more rounds to come at Cremona and Franciacorta, both in Italy on July 12-15 and September 13-16, respectively.

"Champions of the Future was quite a successful event in terms of consistency, as I was in the top five from the qualifying heats all the way through to the final. Unfortunately, in the final, we missed out as we were lacking a bit in pace. 

"But it is good to be atop the overall standings with a fairly good lead and so the aim is to maintain that over the next two rounds. It comes with some amount of pressure because you have to ensure that you drive the best race possible for those two rounds," Powell said.

Just this past weekend, the 15-year-old Mercedes-Benz AMG F1 protégé, again showed good speed through the rounds, but faltered at the backend of the 21-lap final in European Championship action. He placed behind Dutchman Rene Lammers and Gomez.

"The weekend started off poorly as qualifying didn't go to plan so we had to completely change the kart and it did work for us to an extent because I won all three of my heats, but that race speed was missing in the latter stages of the final. It was a bit frustrating, but we did the best we could, and we just have to try to improve going forward," the Prema Racing representative shared.

Though he is 43 points off Lammers, who heads the European Championships on 208 points, Powell on 165 points, admits overhauling the leader will be tough but is by no means impossible. Gomez (202 points) currently occupies second position.

"I'm not saying that it is over but I'm going to need a really big points haul or some mishap for the first two for me to win the overall championship. But it is important that we stay positive, there are 81 points available and I'm 43 behind so with a perfect weekend we can overturn it," Powell, a cousin to former 100m World record holder Asafa Powell, said.

"We were in a similar position last year and just missed out on it so I'm not giving up and I will be giving it my all. All or nothing for the last round," he added.

With that last round of the European Championship scheduled July 27-30 in Italy, Powell pointed out that he will be putting in the necessary work, physically, mentally and otherwise in an attempt to once again prove his class.

In last year's championships, Powell won the last round but just missed out on being crowned European champion by a mere two points.

"We basically have a month to prepare, I'm actually off to Sarno, Italy for a race in Kz2 (shifter karts) in preparation for the last round of the European champions for that category which is the first week of July. So though its two different categories, it will serve as a preparation race and could be a good indicator of what I need to work on in terms of race strategy," he explained.

"Because we are going to need a very good last round but until then, we will have to focus on ourselves and do the best that we can and then hopefully we will be in the best possible position to challenge," Powell ended.

 

After missing out on the 2000 Guineas due to injury, Huntsman signalled his readiness to challenge for the St Leger next month, as he won the Mr Lover Lover Trophy, a Restricted Allowance II event for native-bred three-year-olds (non-winners of two) and imported three-year-olds and upward (maiden), in impressive fashion at Caymanas Park on Sunday.

Trained by Ian Parsard, Huntsman, who was out for the third time in his budding career, dismantled the field by some 16 lengths and completed the nine furlongs and 25 yards (1,820m) journey in a respectable 1:58.2. The splits were 27.3, 53.1, 1:17.2 and 1:43.2.

This was Huntsman's second win, with his next performance being a second-place finish behind 2000 Guineas winner and leading St Leger contender, Mojito. As such, the 10-furlong St Leger to be contested on July 1, promises a great confrontation between the two and there are still some late-developing three-year-olds likely to have an impact.

Though he welcomed the win as a good indicator that Huntsman is more comfortable over distances, Parsard said it is still a wait-and-see approach with Huntsman regarding the St Leger, as his main target is the blue riband Jamaica Derby over 12 furlongs.

"I didn't think he had a realistic chance against Mojito in the Guineas, I think Mojito is way ahead of the three-year-old crop quite frankly, and I think coming out of the (eight-furlong) shoot, we wouldn't have had much of a chance," he said I'm reference to Huntsman's absence from the opening Classic event.

"We have to be a little bit gingerly with this horse, he has some issues, but we decided to take our chances coming two turns, so we will see, at least he won here so we will keep going. He is making good steady progress, he didn't have a lot of competition so he was allowed to dictate the pace, but in the Classic races, he won't have that luxury so hopefully we will see if he can progress from here.  If he comes out of this well, then we will shoot for the St Leger, but the main objective is the Derby," Parsard added.

Partnered with jockey Reyan Lewis, Huntsman left the gates well and was kept slightly outside Burlap (Dane Dawkins) in the clubhouse turn before gaining the ascendancy on the backstretch.

Despite being in a tight hold, Huntsman continued to widen the gap, especially after leaving the half-mile, and from there it became a mere formality as his rivals had no response to his devastating late kick.

Burlap was best of the rest in second position with From Sheer To Ben (Anthony Thomas) and Life Is Life, finishing third and fourth respectively. 

Huntsman was one of two winners for Lewis on the nine-race card, as the leading rider also won aboard Inspire Force for trainer Philip Feanny in the seventh race.

Also with two winners on the day were former three-time champion jockey Anthony Thomas and current champion jockey Dane Dawkins.

Thomas piloted Aava Jaelyn in the sixth race for trainer Donovan Thompson and Mrs Lyndhurst for trainer Steven Todd in the eighth race, while Dawkins won aboard Casual Peach for trainer Barrington Bernard in the fourth race and Get A Pepsi for trainer Errol Burke in the last race.

Dale Murphy's American-bred Runaway Algo rebounded from a dismal performance last time out to post a facile 14-1/4 length victory in a three-year-olds and upward Open Allowance event for the Thunderbird Trophy over seven furlongs (1,400m) at Caymanas Park on Saturday.

The performance, by all indications, demonstrated that the four-year-old chestnut colt will always be a force to reckon with going anywhere beyond six furlongs and, as such, his recent fourth-place finish attempting the five-furlong straight course for the first time on local soil, can be forgiven.

 With last year's Mouttet Mile winner Excessive Force, who was expected to be the main challenger to Runaway Algo, scratched from the event, that made the Lanmark Farms-owned charges task that much easier, and he duly obliged in his usual gate-to-wire show.

Away cleanly under Raddesh Roman from the wide number six draw in the small field, Runaway Algo briskly assumed pole position with Duke (Reyan Lewis) briefly keeping his company, before the former gradually opened up and posted an opening quarter-mile in 24.1 seconds. 

Though being tightly restrained by Roman, Runaway Algo breezed through a half-mile 1in 46.4, as Duke and Laban (Abigail Able) tried desperately to keep pace, particularly upon approaching the homestretch, but their efforts were futile.

With only a mere change of hold by Roman, Runaway Algo covered six furlongs in 1:10.2 and later opened up in the final furlong, still under a canter, to complete his third victory from five starts this season, in a decent 1:24.3.

Money Monster (Sadiki Blake), Sistren Treasure (Dane Dawkins) and Duke, took the next three placing.

Runaway Algo was one of three winners for Roman, who also won aboard I Am Interested in the fifth race for trainer Joseph Thomas and Antarctica in the sixth race for trainer Errol Waugh.

Jerome Innis rode two winners on the day in Badgyalriri for trainer Howard Jaghai in the fourth race and Sabina for trainer Owen Sharpe in the seventh race.

No trainer won more than one race.

Racing continues on Sunday with another nine-race card on offer, featuring the Mr Lover Lover Trophy. Post time is 12:15 pm.

He may not quite be back to optimum health just yet, but Jamaica's diving flag-bearer Yona Knight-Wisdom believes he is well enough to produce something special, in not one, but possibly three events, at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games later this month.

Though it won't be his first outing since recovering from surgery to repair a ruptured rectus femoris tendons in his left knee late last year, the 24th staging of the June 23 to July 8 Games in El Salvador, will be Knight-Wisdom's first major event of the season, and he is overly excited about the prospects.

"My recovery has been incredible. I’ve put in some serious hard work trying to ensure I’m as close to my best as possible in time for the summer, and I’d say I’m almost there. I’m excited for this CAC Games because I feel I have a point to prove to myself as I was disappointed with my last CAC performance in 2018," Knight-Wisdom told SportsMax.tv from his base in the United Kingdom.

Despite missing the mark at a World Aquatics event earlier this year, the British-born diver, whose mother is Barbadian and father Jamaican, was upbeat about that performance in his comeback, after a careful build up, which he said serves as added motivation, particularly from a mental perspective.

It would have been easy for Knight-Wisdom to throw in the towel on his dream of making a third-consecutive Olympic Games appearance when he initially picked up the injury, but his stubborn determination and unwavering desire to represent Jamaica as long as possible, wouldn't allow him to give in.

"It was a World Cup in Montreal, and I finished 13th, just missing out on the final by four points, but that was enough to qualify me for the super final. I was super surprised by that outcome because I beat some really good divers, granted they didn’t perform as well as they could’ve done," Knight-Wisdom, who is the first diver to represent Jamaica at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, shared.

"But it was a really good motivational boost for me to keep on pushing through the challenges of rehab. It showed me my mental strength is immense and my approach to injury was that of a truly professional athlete, and I’m really proud of myself for that.... could’ve been easy to just give up, but I didn't," he noted.

With a number of events still to come this season, the 27-year-old, who represented Jamaica at the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games in Rio and Tokyo, respectively, considers this CAC Games outing an opportunity to really gauge himself, as remains resolute in his pursuit to rewrite the history books. 

In fact, it is clear for all to see that Knight-Wisdom, standing just over six feet tall, is well aware that the challenge of overcoming seemingly insurmountable hardships or failure is the foundation from which true victory begins.

"The last couple of months were beneficial, and I’ve even come a long way since those (World Aquatics) events. My quality is definitely still there, the only question mark is consistency as I’ve been progressing so rapidly every week, it feels a little different to the one before. So, I don’t know what to expect, but my knee is holding up and I still have a lot of confidence in myself," he declared.

After the CAC Games, Knight-Wisdom will look to the World Diving Championships in Japan as his first avenue to secure qualification for next year’s Olympic Games in Paris.

Should he fail to make the top 12 there, he would have another shot at qualify at the World Cup Super-Final in August, after which he will have the Pan American (PanAm) Games in October where he will seek to replicate or even surpass his historic 1-metre springboard silver medal-winning performance from Lima in 2019.

Having contested only the 1m and 3m springboard dives for most of his career, Knight-Wisdom welcomes the addition of Yohan Eskrick-Parkinson to Jamaica's diving programme, which now allows him to compete in synchro competitions.

"I’m hoping my synchro partner will also qualify so I can get to do three events there too. So, I’ve got three opportunities to fight for medals and I’d love to come away with three medals," Knight-Wisdom said.

"I’ve learned over the years that readiness in diving doesn’t really matter, I’ve had some great performances from subpar preparation and vice versa. I’ve put in the work so I can give my best with confidence, but I’m just happy that I can compete as my recovery could’ve been way more problematic," he ended.

Though disgruntled with the Jamaica Football Federation's (JFF) style of leadership and, by extension, the way they have been treated as players, Reggae Girl Deneisha Blackwood says the team is still focused on the task at hand and will be aiming to execute efficiently at the FIFA Women’s World Cup next month.

Blackwood and her teammates in a scathing letter released on Thursday, outlined a number of areas of concerns in how the JFF goes about business, chief among them are subpar planning, transportation, accommodations, training conditions, compensation, communication, nutrition and accessibility to proper resources.

These issues the Girlz revealed, remain unresolved despite the fact that they were shared with the federation on multiple occasions.

The Reggae Girlz also pointed out that their preparations for the July 20 to August 20 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, have been impacted by what they say is the federation’s “extreme disorganization”.

This, as they were promised a two-game sendoff series on home soil, which has not materialized due to logistical issues. As such, they are currently engaged in a camp which is expected to end next Wednesday. 

"It is unfortunate that we don't have a game for the sendoff, but I think the girls are focused, we are having a good training camp and we are just trying to prepare and not think about the difficulties that we are facing. So, the main focus is just to get better for the World Cup," Blackwood said.

"I just want us to be in the best mental state as a group and I think once everybody has the right mindset we will do well. I just want to support my teammates whether I'm on or off the field, that has always been my biggest thing being a part of this Reggae Girlz setup, the way we play with and for each other, so that is the most important thing for us now," she added.

With the team vibe in the right place, coupled with the fact that competition for final spots to the global showpiece are still up for grabs, Blackwood said they are gradually identifying those ingredients that gets everyone motivated, both during practice and game time.

The 26-year-old left full-back used the Cup of Nations tournament in Australia in February -- where the lost 0-3 to Spain and the host nation, and 2-3 to Czech Republic --and their most recent camp in England, a 2-0 win over Sheffield United, as good examples of the strides they have made.

"I think for the last couple camps, this is the best we have had in terms of chemistry and everybody buying into what is required. As coach said it is a very competitive environment and people are fighting for their positions, but we have come together as a team and I think our chemistry is so good right now," Blackwood noted.

"We left Australia on a high and even though we didn't win any of the games, I think the takeaway is that we are not afraid of teams. They were surprised that we came out the way we did but we wanted to keep surprising people because a lot of people don't think we are good or don't expect us to do well," she opined.

That said, Blackwood believes that the addition of English-born players, Rebecca Spencer, Drew Spence, Atlantic Primus, Vyan Sampson and Paige Bailey-Gayle, along with young players Solai Washington, Kameron Simmonds, Peyton McNamara and goalkeeper Liya Brooks, adds more value to the programme when compared to their debut World Cup appearance in France in 2019.

"I think it's good that we brought a lot of players in, maybe they didn't play in the last World Cup, but they have a lot of experience in football especially the English players and I think that's a good thing for us. They bring a lot of professionalism to the team, and I think everybody is feeding off of it and bringing good energy.

"I also think the younger players also bring a lot to the table as they not only keep us on our toes, but we can motivate them and they feed off us also because they are the next generation of Reggae Girlz, so having them there is definitely something good for us and good for the programme on a whole," Blackwood stated.

At the upcoming World Cup, Lorne Donaldson’s 43rd-ranked Reggae Girlz will once again come face-to-face with Brazil, France and Panama in Group F, and Blackwood is confident that they can progress beyond the group stages.

"Football is a very funny game so people can say stuff, but we go into every game like we have never played the team before and so I think that is the type of mentality we have, and we are not just going to go there and let them come and just walk over us," she declared. 

 

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) is now moving to save face, as they have once again been called out by the senior Reggae Girlz over a range of issues which they players say, have affected their preparation for the upcoming FIFA World Cup, in Australia and New Zealand.

The Girlz in a widely circulated letter first shared on social media by prolific striker and captain Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw, expressed “utmost disappointment” with the handling of their affairs by the JFF.

Among the areas of concerns outlined by the Girlz are subpar planning, transportation, accommodations, training conditions, compensation, communication, nutrition and accessibility to proper resources.

Despite sharing their concerns with the federation “on multiple occasions” the Girlz pointed out that the issues remain unresolved, and they believe the lack of interest by those in charge, threaten the integrity of women’s football in Jamaica.

The Reggae Girlz also say that their preparations for the July 20 to August 20 global showpiece have been impacted by what they say is the federation’s “extreme disorganization”.

“In recent months, due to extreme disorganization of camp logistics, we have missed several official FIFA friendly matches. This will undoubtedly impact our preparations for Australia,” they said.

“The Reggae Girlz consist of professional and collegiate footballers who are spread out across the world. To be left questioning whether a camp will even take place two or three days before the expected start is unprofessional and often prohibitive for some of our players,” the Girlz added.

The Girlz said that they hope “by using our platforms to express the reality of our situation, our efforts will be reciprocated.

“We hope there will be immediate and systematic change within our federation and those in charge of protecting the integrity of women’s football,” the letter ended.

Meanwhile, the governing football body in response, said they have noted the Reggae Girlz concerns and are taking them seriously.

“We acknowledge that things have not been done perfectly, and we are working assiduously to resolve them. We will continue to support the team in every way possible, so that they can be successful at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand,” the JFF said.

A similar situation came to the fore in 2019 ahead of the Girlz World Cup debut appearance in France. Then, the Girlz main issues were the absence of a proper contract and salaries for players.

While Norwegian standouts Karsten Warholm and Jakob Ingebrigtsen shone on home soil at the Oslo Diamond League, Jamaica’s athletes had somewhat of an off day, with Rushell Clayton’s second-place finish in the women’s 400m hurdles, being the best of the lot, at the Bislett Stadium on Thursday.

Warholm, clocked the fourth fastest 400m hurdles time in history, as he won in 46.52 seconds, after which his compatriot Ingebrigtsen, established a European men's 1,500m record of three minutes 27.95 seconds, much to the delight of the 15,000 supporters that turned out for the fifth stop on the Wanda Diamond League series.

Just before that, Jamaica’s in-form sprinter, Shericka Jackson, the third-fastest woman in the 100m this year at 10.78s, was beaten into third by Ivory Coast’s Marie Josee Ta Lou, in an event that wasn’t as close as was anticipated.

Ta Lou, who was the second-fastest athlete this year coming into the event, was comfortable in victory, as she clocked a meet record and world leading 10.75s in a positive 0.9 metres per second wind reading. She bettered the longstanding meet record of 10.82s set by Marion Jones in 1998, and the previous world lead of 10.76s set by American Sha’Carri Richardson, last month.

Bahamas Anthonique Strachan was second in a personal best 10.9s, while Jackson (10.98s) recovered from a slow start to take third ahead of the British pair of Dina Asher-Smith and Daryll Neita, who were also clocked at 10.98s.

Clayton earlier ran a brave race for second in a season’s best 53.84s, behind impressive Dutchwoman, Femke Bol, who also clocked a meet record and world leading 52.30s for the 400m hurdles. Incidentally, the previous meet record of 52.61s was set by Bol last year, along with the previous world lead of 52.43s, which she clocked earlier this month.

Panama’s Gianna Woodruff, also with a season’s best 54.46, was third ahead of the other Jamaican Janieve Russell (54.91s). Russell’s time was also a season’s best. ‌

Jamaica’s national record holder Danniel Thomas-Dodd placed third in the women’s shot put event with a mark of 19.44m, which came on her second attempt. She finished behind Canadian Sara Mitton, who won with a throw of 19.54m, while American world leader, Maggie Ewan was second with 19.52m.

World Championships silver medalist Shanieka Ricketts was fourth in the women’s triple jump, after only managing a best of 14.33m, with Thea Lafond of Dominica, finishing fifth with a best leap of 14.21.

World and Olympic champion Yulimar Rojas, topped the event after cutting the sand at 14.91m, just shy of her world lead of 14.96. The Venezuelan won ahead of Cuba’s Leyanis Perez Hernandez, with a personal best 14.87m and Ukraine’s Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk, who also achieved a season’s best 14.75m.

Another Jamaican Kimberly Williams did not start.

Former World Champion Tajay Gayle placed sixth on his Diamond League debut in the men’s long jump. Gayle’s best mark was 7.87m, as Switzerland’s Simon Ehammer (8.32m), American Marquis Dendy (8.26m) and Miltiadis Tentoglou (8.21m) of Greece, took the top three spots.

South African Wayde Van Niekerk continues to round into form, as he topped the men’s 400m in 44.38s, ahead of Zambia’s Muzala Samukonga (44.49s) and American Vernon Norwood, who clocked a season’s best 44.51s.

Meanwhile, there were also meet records for 19-year-old American Erriyon Knighton, who won the men's 200m in 19.77s to beat the mark previously held by sprint legend Usain Bolt.

Kenya's Beatrice Chebet won the women’s 3,000m in a world-leading 8:25.01, while a brilliant men's 5,000m race went down to the wire with Ethiopia's Yomif Kejelcha awarded victory over Ugandan Jacob Kiplimo in the fifth-fastest time in history (12:41:73).

Swedish star Armand 'Mondo' Duplantis took victory in the men's pole vault where he was the only athlete to clear 6.01 metres.

The next Diamond League event takes place in Lausanne, Switzerland on 30 June.

For all the experience that Rebecca Spencer possesses in what has been a fairly successful career, she has never been to a global tournament before, so this summer's FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, would be her crowning moment.

The England-born goalkeeper, who started her career in the youth system at Watford before moving to Arsenal, also spent time at Nottingham Forest and Gillingham on loan, after which she travelled to France where she had a stint with ASJ Soyaux.

Spencer later returned to England and had spells at Birmingham City, Chelsea and West Ham United, but later found the right fit with her current employers Tottenham Hotspurs. 

Along the way, she was capped by England at Under-19 and Under-20 levels and also received a call-up to the senior England squad in 2016.

However, in June 2021, Spencer, who qualifies to represent Jamaica through her grandparents, made her senior international debut with the senior Reggae Girlz and was instrumental in the team’s second-consecutive World Cup qualification, as she paraded her goalkeeping skills with much gusto, particularly, at the Concacaf Women’s Championship in Mexico.

At 32 years old, the vastly experienced Spencer has no qualms in admitting that she is at a ripe age in her career, especially in an era when bright young prospects are unearthed at an increasingly earlier age, which is why she is intent on making the most of this opportunity.

In fact, she is currently facing stiff competition from 23-year-old Sydney Schneider to decide who will be the Reggae Girlz number one shot-stopper at the showpiece, with 18-year-old Liya Brooks as their understudy.

The Lorne Donaldson-coached Girlz are currently engaged in a local camp after which the tactician and his assistant Xavier Gilbert will decide on the final 23-player squad for the July 20 to August 20 World Cup.

"Personally, I want to have the best competition of my life, obviously I'm 32, so I'm not getting any younger. But you know, nothing really phases me in any situation, I kind of have a lot of experience obviously playing in England so long, so I hope I can bring that experience to the World Cup and help the team," Spencer said.

"So, I am look forward to it and hopefully I can just do my Job and be there for the team and the rest of the team will put their best foot forward as well. Like coach said our team is probably the best we have ever had so I am really confident in what we can do when we get to the World Cup. We could surprise everyone that's there," she added.

Having joked about her age declaring that some days she is reflective, it is left to be seen if Spencer will push her career to possibly make another World Cup appearance in 2027, but until then she is living in the moment and, as such, is firmly focused on steadily building towards the upcoming tournament.

"Obviously it would be a very proud moment, but I haven't thought that far ahead as yet, we still have a lot more preparation time to go that I've not let that part of it sink in as yet," Spencer said.

"I'm just focusing on camp-to-camp and at the moment my mind is fully here not the World Cup as yet. I want to get this training week out of the way and obviously, if selected, when we get to Amsterdam, it's going to give a feel of how things are going to be when we get to Melbourne. Once we get to Amsterdam, then its go time for us," she reasoned.

Many may not be aware, but Spencer, like many before her, initially started out as a striker, before finding comfort in goalkeeping, a complex position that requires physicality, strong mentality, and a highly unique set of skills. 

While every good goalkeeper must be able to produce a range of different saves, there’s a lot more to it than just technical ability. Spencer would tell you that a top goalkeeper needs to be brave, an excellent communicator, focused, determined, and, more importantly, willing to endure the criticisms and disappointments that come with the job.

"Playing football at the highest level is challenging in every moment, there are plenty of ups and downs but it's also very rewarding because I measure success through personal growth. So yes, there are disappointments but if I set certain goals for each season or a tournament and I achieve them, that's certainly a success for me," she shared.

Finally, Spencer, who pointed out that if it wasn't football, she would have enjoyed working in health care, because she enjoys taking care of people in need, welcomed the initiative by FIFA which guarantees all players at the World Cup at least US$30,000 in prize money.

"Obviously it's excellent, it's a big incentive for players and we are going to be geared up to get out of the group stages which means it could be more, but for us as players, we don't normally think about that, we normally focus on the football, but FIFA has done a great thing by doing that," she ended.

 

The senior Reggae Girlz may be far advanced in their preparations for the FIFA Women's World Cup, but Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Michael Ricketts welcomed Restaurants of Jamaica's (ROJ) $7 million sponsorship as a timely injection that will ensure the Lorne Donaldson-coached team breathe much easier heading Down Under.

Ricketts believes the Girlz have not been shown enough appreciation for their historic accomplishment of qualifying for a second-consecutive World Cup but says KFC's support represents a step in the right direction and another example which he hopes other corporate companies will follow.

The one-year partnership will see KFC pumping $6 million in cash and another $1 million in products to the Reggae Girlz, who are currently in camp putting the final pieces in place ahead of the July 20 to August 20 showpiece, in Australia and New Zealand.

"We need to show far more appreciation to our Girlz and when you think of the struggles some of these players went through, the sacrifice and commitment to get a country like ours to two global tournaments consecutively, it is no ordinary achievement," Ricketts said during a press conference at JFF’s St Lucia Avenue base on Wednesday.

"So, I must recognize Mr. [Andrei] Roper and KFC for coming on board to partner with the JFF to ensure that we improve the quality of life for all these girls that constantly and consistently make us so very proud. This is something that we can gloat about and hopefully this really sends a strong signal to Jamaica as it relates to the positive and social impact that these two qualifications have on our little boys and girls," he added.

While most of their focus is currently on the World Cup, Ricketts said the Olympic Games Qualifiers against Canada in September, as well as the women's Nations League and Gold Cup, has not been lost on them, hence is call for more support.

But beyond that and despite the financial constraints, the president pointed out that his administration is intent on getting things right going forward, particularly where developing the country's football from the grassroots is concerned.

By virtue of the Girlz qualification, the JFF is assured of just over US$1.5 million from FIFA, but that figure could increase if the team goes beyond the group stage. The Girlz are drawn in Group F alongside France, Brazil and Panama.

"We are just intent on ensuring that the whole psyche of our little boys and girls are positively impacted. We struggle to meet our footballing demands when you think that we have 12 teams, six on either side of the gender, that we must take care of, it is challenging, but we are managing.

"So, I want to again mention our sponsors we had Courts last week and now KFC joining the Marley Foundation and others, but we need other corporate entities to come on board as we try to impact the social needs of the boys and girls that are interested in playing the sport," Ricketts shared.

"We must put programmes in place, and we are intent on getting a proper grassroots programme. We have a committee which is responsible for talent identification, grassroots and development, so this committee will be very active in identifying grassroots kids and having them properly harnessed and then get them in a formal setting so we can then make the transition from little kids to high school players and then inevitably, national players," the president noted.

Meanwhile, ROJ’s Brand Manager Andrei Roper explained that this partnership with the senior Reggae Girlz is an extension of that with captain and prolific goal scorer, Khadija "Bunny" Shaw.

The 26-year-old Manchester City striker, who is not in the current camp, is expected to join up with the final squad when they head to Amsterdam for a pre-tournament camp before heading to Australia.

"We really wanted to help to make the Reggae Girlz journey to the World Cup that much easier, theirs is a tremendous achievement and I don't think we fully appreciate as a nation what a huge achievement it is. They are true ambassadors for Jamaica, not just for women's sport but for brand Jamaica on a whole, so for us at KFC we pride ourselves on giving back... just supporting all those pillars of society that really represent everything positive about Jamaica," Roper affirmed.

"Women's football is an area where we did see an opportunity to really give a bit more as a brand. Last year, we started a partnership with Khadija Shaw as our big deal ambassador, so this is just a fitting extension of our relationship with Khadija, who is the face of women's football and so we are broadening our scope and partnership to the wider Reggae Girlz programme.

"So, we just want to say thanks and just to help make their preparations a bit easier because we know it’s going to be a tough group and so we want to just really make the last lap going Down Under that much easier. So great partnership for us and we are glad to be on board," he stated.

For some, owning a football club is a statement that you are at a certain level as a businessman. But for Mount Pleasant Football Academy’s owner Peter Gould, it is not just about status.

In fact, Gould would readily tell you that he cares little what others think about his financial status and more about fulfilling his heart’s desire –to change the landscape and, by extension, help shape the legacy of Jamaica’s football through his academy.

“We had a couple of setbacks, you know the Covid-19 pandemic was a big setback obviously, but we are gaining back our strength and momentum and I think we should be in a better place by September. So, we are pretty excited, we have put a lot of work into the academy and the platform is well and truly set to accomplish all that we want to,” Gould declared.

“It will take a few years to build a complete institution, but we have people willing to come along and help us to move to another level, so we firmly believe we will be able to get there and put Jamaica’s football on the map the real way,” he added.

The Englishman established the academy in 2016 after he travelled to Jamaica and fell in love with the Mount Pleasant community in St Ann. Two years later, Gould opened a state-of-the-art football facility, which he said was designed to properly develop and nurture the talent of some of country’s young football prospects.

Incidentally, 2018 was also the same year that Mount Pleasant’s senior team, formerly known as “Stush in the Bush”, earned promotion to the Jamaica Premier League (JPL), and five years later, they are crowned kings of top-flight football.

The team, boasting one of its academy products, Devonte Campbell, defeated Cavalier 2-1 in Sunday’s final at Sabina Park, courtesy of a Sue-Lae McCalla brace. Collin Anderson got Cavalier’s goal.

“This is our first Premier League success, so it feels good, this was one of our objectives and it is great that we achieved it. I am happy, the fans are happy, and I also believe the community is widening in terms of people supporting our movement. So, obviously we are doing something right and I firmly believe that they only way to build is from the community,” Gould noted, as they continue to celebrate the parish’s first national title.

While it is unlikely that the entire Mount Pleasant setup, including the academy is yielding much return on investment for Gould and his wife Amanda, he said it is imperative that they maintain their standards to continue impacting the lives of the young charges, in particular.

Through the innovative project at the academy, the young men benefit from a high school education, as directed by the Ministry of Education, along with a structured football training programme.

The Mount Pleasant Football Academy has already sent Under-13 and Under-15 teams overseas to compete, with the latter currently representing St Ann in a Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) youth tournament.

“Listen the investment, I don’t even count it, the investment is about changing people’s lives, it is about the kids and exposing them. The ambition is to develop talent for the future, but more than that, they are getting an education and that I believe is the way of getting quality football…educating your players and then you get that discipline on and off the field," Gould opined.

He continued: “This is what we have coming through the vine and as we keep expanding you will have more kids coming to Jamaica to do their English and Mathematics and to play football. Many parents are making plans for their kids in the coming period, so they can go into officiating or coaching and analytics, so it is looking quite lovely.

“So, we are absolutely in it for the long haul, we are still building and putting in plans as we go along, it is just to get it done faster but it has been non-stop movements.”

Though admitting that there were times when he was infuriated by the Premier League team’s substandard performances, Gould reiterated that his approach is one of heart over head as he is well aware that in football, success comes at a high price. As such, he pointed out that the thought of backing out never once surfaced.

“I can’t say I was never disappointed especially when we were losing against 10 men, I was like what the hell, but still I was planning for the next match. So, we had some bad days on the road but no, never felt like backing out. We are here for the cause, we started something, and we intend to see it through. We know it won’t all happen one time, but we are managing to stay on the horse and get down the course,” the benefactor shared.

“We will announce some plans in a few weeks that I think really will engage the audience and will hopefully help the transformation of football and the youths. So, we have some experienced people coming on board because obviously it is not a two-person job me and my wife, we have other people wanting to join the train,” Gould disclosed.

Like every sporting team, Mount Pleasant also have their fair share of behind-the-scenes flaws, but Gould praised the efforts of Head coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore and his assistant Davion Ferguson, as well as manager Paul Christie in ensuring that whatever issues arise, are dealt with in a professional manner.

“To be quite honest I don’t really get involved in the day-to-day happenings. We have a management in place and Paul Christie is that lieutenant, he manages to take that control of leading with Tappa and Fergie. We have a meeting once a week when I’m in the country, but he [Christie] has put in tremendous work since he joined, Tappa has been so easy to work with, Fergie as well, so it has been a good team effort.

“They have a good team there, doctors and physios, again I don’t want to get involved in the players’ day-to-day, so yes we have issues, but we have people there that manage it as best as we can,” Gould explained.

Finally, the businessman said they will continue to aim high with Mount Pleasant Football Academy which he believes boasts a bright future.

“The plan is just to keep engaging the kids in Jamaica, we will be taking more kids on, and we will be doing a few projects in the summer,” he said.

“The future is looking bright, and we want to make Mount Pleasant a household name in Jamaica and so we will carry on with pride. I am not saying we will win the title every year, but we want to continue raising the bar,” Gould ended.

Millions of dollars were invested to establish Mount Pleasant Football Academy in 2016 with hopes that it would one day become the standard bearer of Jamaica's football. 

Two years later in 2018, Mount Pleasant secured promotion to the nation’s top-flight league and five years later, the wait by fans in the garden parish of St Ann for a Jamaica Premier League (JPL) title, came to an end.

A brace by Sue Lae McCalla in the 7th and 89th minutes, saw Mount Pleasant to its first national championship, as they edged Cavalier Football Club 2-1 in a keenly contested final at Sabina Park on Sunday.

Collin Anderson had earlier pulled Cavalier level in the 83rd minute with his 20th goal of the season, becoming the first player to record such a tally since Reno's Craig Foster in the 2014-15 season.

McCalla, who also won a JPL title at Portmore United, jokingly told a member of the coaching staff ahead of the game that he would score two goals, one at either end of the park, and it indeed proved most prophetic.

As such, of the 24 goals scored in his Premier League career, the 30-year-old said none was more important than the two on the night.

"Before the game I told the masseuse that I had two goals to score, one in the top goal and one at the other end so it was destined to happen. I came out here to lead by example and win my team the title, so this means a lot and will go down as part of my legacy," McCalla, who wore the captain’s armband for 65 minutes plus, said in a post-game interview.

With the first title now in hand owner Peter Goule displaying the spending power to further improve a team that drafted a number of the country's best players over the years, Head coach Theodore "Tappa" Whitmore believes this could mark the start of many more JPL honours to come. 

"Words can't explain the feeling at the moment, we set out on a journey, and we have completed that journey now with a win and I am very proud of the work done by everyone from the players to the support staff and management," the former Reggae Boyz captain said.

"It was a tough season, we went through a lot, the road wasn't easy, but we made the necessary adjustments along the way, and we finally did it this afternoon. The support of the Goules is very important to our charge and this is just the beginning of lots more trophies to come," Whitmore added.

The showpiece promised much between two teams of some quality, and it didn't disappoint the well over 10,000 fans, many of whom journeyed from St Ann.

So, it was only right that Mount Pleasant gave them something to cheer about and McCalla sent them into frenzy when he firmly headed Devonte Campbell's weighted corner past Vino Barclett.

Mount Pleasant lost inspirational captain Ladale Richie to injury in the 25th minute, but it mattered little as his teammates gallantly fought on to add to their tally.

They should have done so on a number of occasions, but a lack of proper positioning and poor decision-making at times, denied them at that point.

In the 32nd minute, Devonte Campbell rounded the well-advanced Barclett in a blistering counterattack, but failed to get a proper cross in with Trivante Stewart and Kimonie Bailey waiting in the six-yard box.

Four minutes later Stewart dazzled his marker with some nippy footwork and made space for a cross which went begging, as none of his teammates were on hand to apply the finish at the far post. 

Cavalier had the best of their few looks at goal in the 37th minute later when Nickache Murray's delightful pass inside the danger area found an unmarked Jerome McCleary, who failed to make it count.

And Stewart got away from defenders but had his delayed effort charged down by Barclett, who left his line well on that occasion to ensure it remained 1-0 at the break. 

The second half offered very little to write home about, but just when it seems it was done and dusted for Mount Pleasant, Anderson popped up with a timely goalmouth finish that threatened extra time.

However, it was not to be, as cometh the hour, cometh McCalla, who again rose highest to expertly head past Barclett from Ricardo Morris's corner a minute from time.

While the relief for the Mount Pleasant camp was unmistakable as they were flocked by jubilant fans that invaded the Sabina Park field, the disappointment of Cavalier's Head coach Rudolph Speid and his players, was clear for all to see.

“I thought it if we had gone to extra time we would have taken over because they were making a lot of changes and their quality was going down. But two headed goals by Sue Lae McCalla, I wouldn’t have dreamed that would have happened and it is unfortunate that we couldn’t hold on for the extra time,” Speid said.

 

Reigning champion jockey Dane Dawkins inched closer to rivals in the race to retain his title, as he rode a dazzling three-timer, including Perfect Brew, who dismantled the field to cop the Alsafra Trophy over a mile (1,600m) at Caymanas Park on Saturday. 

Perfect Brew, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Richard Azan, justified favouritism, romping the three-year-old and upward Overnight Allowance race by six lengths in a time of 1:38.0. The splits were 23.4, 45.4 and 1:11.1.

The four-year-old bay gelding, who finished nine lengths behind the reigning Horse of the Year Atomica over seven furlongs (1,400m) on May 23, showed that he was better off from that run, as Dawkins rode a patient race, while Ameth Robles played catch me if you can aboard former Horse of the Year Further and Beyond.

Returning from an almost one-year break, Further and Beyond, now trained by Donovan Hutchinson, rushed to an early three length lead, which rapidly increased on the backstretch, as the rest of the field settled well off the blistering pace.

By the time Robles and Further and Beyond left the five-furlong mark and flashed past the half-mile, they were well over six lengths in front with Stomp The Rhythm (Anthony Thomas) and Marquesas (Tevin Foster), the closest pursuers at the point.

However, Dawkins made his move aboard Perfect Brew at the three-furlong point and after hitting top stride in the home stretch, they swept by a now-tiring Further and Beyond, whose lack of race fitness was well advertised, and a fighting Stomp The Rhythm, in the latter stages to win. Marquesas completed the frame.

While it was the first win of the season for Perfect Brew, it was Dawkins's 35th of the season, as he moved within 10 of leader Reyan Lewis and two shy of second-place Tevin Foster.

Dawkins earlier won aboard Jaguar in the fifth race giving newly licensed trainer Ricardo Mathie a first win from his first start. He later piloted Big Guy In The Sky to victory in the ninth race for trainer Gary Subratie.

Meanwhile, Barrington Bernard and Courtney Williams, who are also freshly licensed trainers, also won their first races. Bernard won the first race with Anngelos (Roger Hewitt), while Williams won the seventh race with Zion (Phillip Parchment).

While Jamaica's Netball culture and current ranking pits the Sunshine Girls as overwhelming favourites to win gold at the upcoming Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games, Nicole Aiken-Pinnock is mindful that it still requires efficient execution to get the job done.

As such, Aiken-Pinnock, who will guide the 12-member number-four ranked Jamaican team to the 24th staging of the June 23 to July 8 Games in El Salvador, is taking steps to guard against complacency and ensuring that players take nothing for granted.

"On paper, we are expected to win, but at the same time, we know the games aren't played on paper so we will not only have to turn up, but more importantly, execute accordingly. So, we just have to take it one game at a time," Aiken-Pinnock said.

"We have to turn up and be ready for every game. We have to respect our opponents and make sure we give of our best regardless of who we play against because they will not be handing any win to us. I am sure we will have to work hard for our wins, so we have to just work hard and believe in our structure and execute," she added.

Aiken-Pinnock revealed that their preparations have so far been on course to achieve their intended goal, with only some fine-tuning required over the next week.

"Preparations have been going well, I can tell you that there is a lot of intensity and focus at the sessions. The drive and effort of the ladies is commendable, and we just have to keep working at the small things and try to be as consistent as possible," she said.

Aiken-Pinnock, a former defender, who represented Jamaica at numerous major tournaments, knows the importance of a fielding a solid team with some depth, which is why she welcomes the addition of the experienced Adean Thomas and Rebekah Robinson to accompany rising stars Crystal Plummer, Abigale Sutherland, and defender Kimone Shaw, who are all a part of the squad to the World Cup later this year.

With this being the first time in CAC Games history that netball will be a part of the multi-sports event, Aiken-Pinnock said it represents an opportunity for the young players, in particular, to show their class and, by extension, gauge their readiness for the showpiece in South Africa.

"We do have a few ladies who will be participating in their first major tournament for Jamaica away from home, so we just have to ensure that stay mentally prepared and ready for what is to come at the Games," Aiken-Pinnock noted.

These games will definitely assist our young players going into the World Cup, especially Crystal, to prepare her for what is to come at the big dance," she ended.

Full Squad:

Shooters – Shadine Bartley, Simone Gordon, Amanda Pinkney, and Rebekah Robinson

Centre court – Crystal Plummer, Abigale Sutherland, Adean Thomas, and Quannia Walker

Defenders – Theresa Beckford, Paula-Ann Burton, Abbeygail Linton, and Kimone Shaw

 

Such is the impressive form of triple jump sensation Jaydon Hibbert that he only required two attempts to win the event and end his freshman year of college undefeated.

In fact, it was on his very first jump that Hibbert cut the sand at the winning mark of 17.56m, in a negative 0.3 metres per second wind, on Friday's third and penultimate day of the NCAA Division 1 Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Austin, Texas.

Hibbert representing University of Arkansas followed that with another big leap of 17.38m, but later pulled out of his run up for a third and fourth attempts, as he suffered what appeared to be cramps or some discomfort in his right leg.

However, the damage was already done, as his initial mark which bettered the previous Facility Record of 17.13m and was just shy of the Meet Record of 17.57m, ensured that the former Kingston College stalwart added another accolade to his South-eastern Conference indoor and outdoor titles, as well as the NCAA indoor honours. The 18-year-old, also smashed a number of records, including the World Under-20 mark for indoor and outdoor, along the way.

Hibbert won ahead of University of Miami's Russell Robinson (16.94m) and Florida State senior, Jeremiah Davis (16.67m).

Owayne Owens (16.36m) of University of Virginia and Malik Cunningham (16.17m) of Villanova, were sixth and seventh, while Hibbert's Arkansas teammates Carey McLeod (15.99m), who won the long jump in a Jamaican sweep, and Ryan Brown (15.89m), finished 11th and 12th respectively.  Apalos Edwards of Louisiana State, did not turn up.

On the track, Phillip Lemonious of Arkansas capped his college career in style with victory in the men’s 110m hurdles to claim his first individual national title and in the process became the first Arkansas athlete to win the event since 2006.

Lemonious, who clocked a personal best 13.28 seconds in qualifying, lowered that time when he stopped the clock in 13.24s, running in a positive 1.8m/s wind. He maintained his composure over the 10 obstacles from a good break in lane five, to stave off the late challenge of De'Vion Wilson (13.26s) of Houston and Jaheem Hayles (13.28s) of Syracuse.

Giano Roberts of Clemson was fifth in 13.31s.

It was sweet redemption for the 24-year-old Lemonious, who endured a rough patch last season.

"To be honest, I try so hard. Last year took a toll on me and coming back this year was also hard battling injuries, but I just had to trust my coach, who told me that this is my championship to win so I went out there and got it," Lemonious said shortly after the race.

University of South Florida junior, Romaine Beckford, also showed good form on the night to win the men’s high jump and successfully complete the double, adding this outdoor championship to his indoor title. 

Beckford soared to a new personal best height of 2.27m on his way to victory, denying Oklahoma senior, Vernon Turner, who also cleared 2.27m, but had to settle for second on the count back. Roberto Vilches of Missouri was third with a season's best leap of 2.24m.

Former St George’s College student Zayne Palomino of Southern Mississippi finished down the pack after he only managed to clear 2.06m.

Elsewhere in the field, Roje Stona of the University of Arkansas, who placed 14th in the shot put, produced a stronger showing in the discus, placing second behind the vibrant Turner Washington of Arizona State.

Stona, launched the instrument to a big fourth round mark of 65.55m and seemed well on his way to the gold, before Washington snatched victory with his very last effort of 66.22m, a season’s best.

Former Petersfield standout Kevin Nedrick of Liberty University was fifth with a mark of 61.93m, while Stona's Arkansas teammate Ralford Mullings was 16th at 57.68m.

Meanwhile, Jevaughn Powell, finished seventh in the men’s 400m final in 45.32s, as his University of Florida teammates Emmanuel Bamidele and Ryan Willie both clocked personal best times of 44.24 and 44.25 in a close one-two finish. Emmanuel Bynum of Tennessee also clocked a personal best 44.49 for third.

Powell later joined forces with Bamidele, Jacory Patterson and Willie to clinch victory in the 4X400m relay, to retain the Men’s Team crown.

There were no signs of tired legs on display as all four athletes clocked blistering splits, with Powell on the third leg being clocked at 44.94s, passing to Willie, who closed in 44.28s to stop the clock in 2:57.74, a new Facility, Meet and Collegiate Record.

Arizona State (2:57.78) and UCLA (2:59.82) were second and third respectively.

The Mike Holloway-coached Gators tallied 57 points, four ahead of Arkansas, with Stanford (44 points) and Louisiana State University (43 points), placing third and fourth.

Don't wish for it. Work for it.

That is the motto that United States-born Barbadian gymnast Olivia Kelly lives by, as she has always been motivated to turn her thoughts into actions.

In fact, at 17 years old, Kelly has her eyes set on accomplishing a goal which, if successful, will propel her budding career to higher heights. The goal? To be the first gymnast to represent the Eastern Caribbean Island at the Olympic Games.

Achieving such a dream is by no means impossible and Kelly, also known as "Storm," in gymnastics circles, positioned herself to bring it to fruition when she placed 10th at the PanAm Gymnastics Championships in Medellin, Colombia recently, and earned a spot to the World Gymnastics Championships for a second year consecutively.

The championships scheduled to begin late September in Antwerp, Belgium, serves an Olympic qualifier and, as such, Kelly is focused on ensuring her performance quality and the details of her routine are on point, while staying physically and mentally healthy.

"I’m not really aiming to do anything much different other than to stay healthy and keep training hard. My goals this year were always to just train hard, trust my training at Worlds, and hopefully qualify for the 2024 Olympics," Kelly, who has a number of first for Barbados, declared.

"I've devoted a lot to this sport and so I always want to be competitive, but my best is all I can do and if I do that, I will always be satisfied," she added.

At the PanAm Championships, Kelly, who earns her Barbadian stripes through her father, Tori, scored 12.867 for her vault routine, 11.867 on uneven bars, 12.267 on the balance beam and 12.467 for her floor routine, for an All-Around total of 49.468.

"Colombia, was so much fun and I’m very pleased with the performance. I definitely feel like I can work on little things for Worlds, but I think this was a great meet for me," Kelly noted.

That performance, she said, was a reflection of the lessons learnt from last when she made her debut appearance on the international stage.

"I gained a lot of experience from last year which was a learning year for me in the international field. At both the Pan American Championship in Rio and the World Championships in Liverpool, I fell on bars, but even then, I still had a great experience. So, coming into this year, I felt way more prepared and confident because of my 2022 season. 

"That season taught me that I can be resilient and bounce back in the next event. I’ve learned that I can push that negative energy back and really focus on what’s happening now instead of the past," Kelly reasoned.

While she is clearly identified as one of, if not the best young gymnast for her country, Kelly, who got involved with the sport at two years old, when she took tumbling and mommy-and-me classes, knows she still has some ways to go.

As such, the North Stars Gymnastics Academy stalwart, guided by coach Ashley Umberger, a former member of the United States senior international gymnastics team, is determined to continue working over 30 hours per week to improve physically and mentally challenges to realize her dream.

"The aim is always to be better than you were before. So, I am going to add some skills for Worlds and clean up my routines, as well as build up my mental toughness and my confidence a little bit more," Kelly, who is homeschooled with Florida Virtual Global School, ended.

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