Kwesi Mugisa

Kwesi Mugisa

Kwesi has been a sports journalist with more than 10-years’ experience in the field. First as a Sports Reporter with The Gleaner in the early 2000s before he made the almost natural transition to becoming an editor. Since then he has led the revamp of The Star’s sports offering, making it a more engaging and forward-thinking component of the most popular tabloid newspaper in the Caribbean.

Historic Jamaica Alpine skier Alexander Benjamin believes the country possesses the attributes to produce top-quality skiers on a consistent basis and hopes to be the first of many.

At 38 years old Benjamin made history for the Caribbean country to qualify for the Alpine Skiing event at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.  He is, however, the second skier behind Errol Kerr who competed in Freestyle skiing at the 2010 Winter Olympics and finished in 9th position.  Kerr’s finish is the best placing by a Caribbean athlete at any Winter Olympics.

Despite the fame garnered from the 1988 Winter Olympics four-man bobsled team, immortalised by the cult classic Cool Runnings, it is the Summer Olympics that have been the forte of the Caribbean island.

Led by Jamaican track and field legend Usain Bolt Beijing was a happy hunting ground for the country’s Olympic team in 2008, where they claimed 11 medals.  While Benjamin won’t necessarily expect that type of success, the newly minted Olympian believes there is plenty of talent to harness.

“What my story is all about is encouraging the next generation of Jamaicans to start before 32, so that we can have a real chance at medaling,” Benjamin told the SportsMax Zone.

“I’ve already identified three Jamaicans in New York, started skiing when they were less than two years old, and they’ve been race training for the last 10 years.  So, they’re now 14 years old and these guys are going to come with force when we get to the 2026 Games,” he added.

“I think that we can get a really strong ski team from the pool of talent we already have in Jamaica and the diaspora.”

Benjamin has targeted being actively involved with the Jamaica Ski Federation (JSF).  Richard Salm the former president of the JSF died of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident last year.

 

 

Jamaica Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (JBSF) High Performance Director Mark Silver has lamented the circumstances that saw the country’s women’s two-woman team edged out of the Olympic qualifying positions.

Up to last month, the women’s team of Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian and brake woman Audra Segree were favoured to be listed among the automatic qualifiers for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, among the world’s top 12 teams.  By the time January rolled around, however, a conflation of unfortunate circumstances had changed things entirely.  According to Silver, things began to go wrong from the perspective of the team at Latvia's Sigulda World Series where there was a Covid-19 outbreak.

“We did everything we could.  We missed out because of the weather and believe it or not Covid,” Silver explained.

How it works is there are races across the world, after Christmas, the first race was in Latvia, and unfortunately, 7 athletes couldn’t race, which meant that athletes that would have finished lower down finished higher and received points that they wouldn’t have if the race was full of athletes,” he added. 

“In another race, a massive amount of snow meant that athletes who raced later benefited from the snow being clear.  Now, with the snow it's part of the sport, we expect that.”

In the final standing, the team finished tied with France for the final spot but were edge out via the tiebreak.  The team could still qualify for the Games if France or any of the other 10 teams above them Germany, Canada, United States, China, ROC, Switzerland, Romania, Austria, Great Britain, Australia, or Belgium are unable to take part in the event.

“With Covid, the girls finished third overall on the NAC, and before Christmas, I would have said I was confident and with the press release, had it been what we had expected and predicted they were probably our safest option,” he added 

“However, things that changed but that’s sports.  For each bad thing that goes against you sometimes we get good things and fingers crossed we were bang on points, and who knows maybe this time around luck will go with us.  Hopefully not at the expense of anyone else but hopefully the girls will get to live their dreams as well because they worked so hard.”

President of the Jamaica Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation, Chris Stokes, admits it is a special feeling to see the country’s four-man men’s team heading back to the Winter Olympics for the first time in 24 years.

Inescapably, whenever a Jamaica team qualifies for the Olympics, an inexorable link is made to the 1993 smash hit Cool Runnings, which starred the late John Candy and Doug E. Doug that went on to become a cult classic.

Unlike the movie, however, the hard yards put in to get to the Olympics, for the nation that has never seen a drop of snow, has always been real.

Stokes was a last-minute alternate when the team crashed the sled during the historic catapult down the ice in the four-man competition, in Calgary 1988, for the squad that would become immortalised in film.  He and others have pushed on ever since.  The team has subsequently appeared at another eight Olympic Games.  The men’s team, however, last appeared at the Winter sports spectacle in 2014 when a two-man team of Marvin Dixon and Winston Watts finished in 24th place and have not taken part as a four-man unit since 1998.  In the upcoming Olympics, the men’s team will make a triumphant return, but the team has also qualified for the two-man event and women’s monobob to appear in a historic three events.

“It has a special place in my heart to know that we will be in the four-man event once again at the Olympics, having been a part of that team myself (In 1988) it gives me great satisfaction,” Stokes said.

“It's not something that we take for granted it's hard work every time to qualify and it is a huge step for us to have three teams at the Games this year.”

With a bit more luck it could have been four, with the women’s two-woman team finishing just outside of the automatic qualification spots based on a tiebreaker.  The team could still appear at the Games having secured the position as the first alternate, should any of the automatic qualifiers withdraw from the event.

 “The two-woman team of Audra Segree and Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian were close.  They were in the qualifying spots for most of the way but in the last few weeks, I think some very questionable decisions were made when it comes to qualification.  I can’t say that I was surprised because these things happen, but it was unfortunate.”

The women’s team made its debut at the 2018 Winter Games with Fenlator-Victorian and Carrie Russell taking part in the event.  Despite the possibility of that team being left out this time around, qualifying three teams is not a feat to be scoffed at.

“We have an absolutely outstanding program and we don’t take it for granted.  We have a strong administration and an elite coaching staff that are wanted all over the world.”

West Indies fast bowler Ravi Rampaul is confident the experience of senior members of the team will be crucial in its effort to retain the ICC World Cup.

The 37-year old’s call up to the squad has been among the most controversial made by the Caribbean team, with some fans insisting the West Indies should have focused on selecting younger talent.  Rampaul’s effective showing the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), however, convinced selectors that he could be an asset for a team looking to successfully defend its title.

In 10 matches, Rampaul was the tournament’s leading scorer with 19 wickets at an economy rate of 7.96 and a best of 4 for 29.  The bowler is satisfied that the work put in merited selection to the team’s T20 World Cup squad.

“In every team, you want to play for, you have to put a performance out there and I know I needed to work hard and show the selectors I could still take wickets and compete at a level.  I needed to put the performance out there and show them I could take wickets at the CPL stage,” Rampaul told members of the media on Saturday.

Despite the criticism aimed towards the age of some members of the squad, Rampaul believes the experience of the team will be critical in the bid to retain the trophy.

“Going into big World Cup games you need experience and the team that was selected is a lot of experienced guys and a lot of young guys as well, guys that play around the world in different conditions.  We know games come quick and fast and the experienced guys will know how to manage themselves.”

The West Indies will bow into action with a match against England on October 23rd.

Guyana 400m sprinter, Aliyah Abrams, will approach competing at the Tokyo 2020 Games with fresh zeal after taking full advantage of the enforced break from the sport the coronavirus provided last season.

Like many others the Guyana national champion found herself upended with heavily disrupted training sessions, the majority of meets cancelled, and even eventual postponement of the Olympics.  Still, she endeavored to make the best use of the situation and found unexpected benefits.

“Despite the Games being cancelled and a whole lot of meets being cancelled it was the reset that I needed,” Abrams told SportsMax.TV.

“Sometimes you just need to step away from track and pursue and do other things that you enjoy.  When you come back to doing it, you can rekindle that flame that you had,” she added.

“A lot of things of things were shut down but I got a chance to spend some time with the people I love and recover my body and my mind.”

For the 24-year-old, Tokyo will represent her second appearance on track and field’s biggest stage, and in addition to being in a better frame of mind, she is also feeling in better physical shape.

“It’s been five years from 2016 to the 2021 Olympics, I was able to compete internationally and do well at Worlds and at Pan Ams, so I have more experience, I’m in better physical shape as well.  I’ve also run faster than I did heading into the first Olympics,” Abrams said.

The quarter-miler, who has a personal best of 51.13, has targeted cracking the 50-seconds barrier in Toyko, but in a highly competitive field that may not be enough to earn a place among the top eight women in the world.  Win or lose though, the plucky athlete certainly intends to give it her best shot.

“I haven’t been running the third 100 of my race the way that I want to this season, so I have been working on how to better execute that.  The problem has been the second part of my race.  Once I set that up, I’ll be in good standing,” Abrams went on.

On her Olympic debut in Rio, Abrams exited the competition in the first round, she has much higher targets this time around.

“My ultimate goal this time around is to make it to the final that would be a success for me."

 

 

Iconic St Lucian high jumper Levern Spencer is yet to achieve her dream of standing on the Olympic medal podium, but very few could dispute the great heights she has already achieved for the tiny island and the wider Caribbean as a whole.

It would have been easy to sit back and accept that odds are stacked against her.  After all, she hails from an island with a population of less than 200,000 and much fewer resources to spare for sport than much bigger nations. 

She did not begin competing in the sport until 14, much later than many of her peers, and at 5’ 9’ in a field where competitors consistently range well over 6ft she is routinely one of the smallest.  But, throughout her life and career, Spencer has habitually slain her fair share of Goliaths.

What she may lack in height, is more than made up for in a big heart filled with determination that has driven her journey of unprecedented achievement so far and the burning desire to keep flying higher.

In total, Spencer, who began representing St Lucia as a junior some 22-years ago, has claimed 21 gold medals for her country so far.  Most famously, she won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, a first for both herself and her country.  It was a proud moment.

“St Lucia had never won a gold medal at this event, and it was my fifth Commonwealth Games, and winning a gold, having won two bronze medals in 2014 and 2010, it was a big deal for us,” Spencer recalled.

 Levern Spencer Wins High Jump Title At Hvezdy v Nehvizdech | World-Track  and Field Website

 

“Being the one to create history is something I will always remember…whenever I stand on the podium hearing my country’s national anthem, seeing the flag being flown, it’s always very special and emotional.  I always had in the back of the mind that it is because of my efforts, because of something I did,” she added.

As with a great many things, barring a twist of fate, the world might never have heard of Spencer.  Things could have turned out much differently for herself and the country.  The athlete did not consider doing the jumps as a very young athlete and only gave it some consideration after it was suggested by a teacher.

“One of my teachers at the time just advised that I do the high jump for my house (intra-school team) and I won the event not knowing anything about technique or the high jump.  So, I’m so thankful that I did not say no and gave it a try,” Spencer said.

“I’m just happy that, that teacher who was my first coach as well, Mr. Gregory Lewin, introduced me to the sport.  Sometimes it’s good to listen and say yes, you’ll give it a try.  Maybe if I had said no, I probably would not have been the high jumper I am today.”

The rest as they say is history, in addition to winning numerous medals and awards, Spencer went on break the county’s national records on several occasions.  In fact, she set the first when she was just a 14-year-old, not too long after starting the event.  She set the current mark of 1.98m in 2010.

At 37, the jumper is heading into the twilight of her career and the time for Olympic glory has all but run out.  Heading into her fourth Olympic Games, however, hope burns eternal that she may be able to create history for St Lucia, yet again, but this time on the grandest of stages.  Spencer knows it will take something extraordinary.

“In order to win Olympic gold, I would definitely need something special on that day.  It might take around a clearance of 2m, which I haven’t done but it’s possible, anything is possible.  I would need something special on that day,” she said.

“Two high jumpers that inspire me are Ruth Beitia and Chaunte Lowe, Ruth despite her age and not having an Olympic medal after three attempts, just like me, she kept going until she won her gold medal and 37 and Chaunte because like me she is one of the smallest in the field and always manages to be competitive despite having to overcome so many challenges.”

In truth, however, even if the athlete were to leave the Games empty-handed, perhaps, for the final time, she had more importantly already served as inspiration for future generations and when it comes to putting her country on the map, flew well clear of that bar, with plenty to spare, a long time ago.

“Despite the many medals that I have won, what I regard as my biggest success in my athletic career is that coming from a tiny nation of only 180,000 people I was able to work hard and be competitive against the best in the world.  Sometimes on many occasions defeating them.  I am happy I have served as an inspiration for up-and-coming St Lucian athletes and I know that I gave my all and my best at whatever I did and persevered to the end.”

Perennial rivals Waterhouse and Harbour View battled to a hard-fought 1-1 draw in the fifth and final match of the first round of the Jamaica Premier League.

The match played at the Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence, on the grounds of the University of the West Indies, saw Andre Fletcher converting a penalty for Waterhouse in the 15th minute but Oquassa Chong replied with a beautiful freekick in the 24th minute.

Just before Waterhouse got their penalty, Harbour View were left despondent as seconds before, they too had a loud shout for a penalty after Chong crashed to the turf in the area.  Moments after and veteran Lovel Palmer was deemed to have committed a foul on Waterhouse’s Kenroy Howell.  Referee Christopher Mason pointed to the spot after a brief look at the play.  Andre Fletcher stepped up and fired past Tafari Chambers in goal and gave Waterhouse a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute.

The talented Chong, now becoming a freekick specialist from his exploits with Jamaica College in the Manning Cup, stepped up and curled a beauty past Tafari Chamber’s brother, Akeem, to pull Harbour View level in minute 24.  It was an even game with a fair result and both teams really tried to play positive football in what turned out to be an entertaining encounter.

Waterhouse’s assistant coach, Daniel Bent, was pleased with the point although he believed they could have secured all three.

“Well, we got a point and we didn’t lose the game. But we wanted all three points but that didn’t come our way,” he pointed out.

“I think we had a good first half and even a better second half. We could have scored many goals if our decisions in the final third were better,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Harbour View’s head coach Ludlow Bernard said he was not totally disappointed with the result.

“It was a game of two halves. We attempted in the second half to really play on the counter but I don’t think our distribution was great and it kind of affected our abilities to create goal-scoring opportunities,” said Bernard.

CWI chairman of selectors, Roger Harper, has defended the selection of young fast bowler Jayden Seales, despite the player’s lack of experience at the regional level.

With strike bowler Shannon Gabriel out of the upcoming series against South Africa, due to injury, the 19-year-old Seales made it into the final 13-man squad on the back of an impressive performance in the recent West Indies Best vs Best practice match.

The young fast bowler took five wickets overall, including a three-wicket burst that saw him remove the top order of West Indies Best B in the second innings. 

With only one first class match under his belt, however, some have objected to the young bowler being picked ahead of those with a lot more experience.  Harper has insisted, however, that the player’s performance in the practice match was enough to show the selectors plenty of what they were looking for.

“I saw a young bowler play in games where Test players and the best of our regional first class players were playing and he performed exceedingly well, better than a number of players that have been playing first class cricket over a number of years,” Harper told members of the media.

“The match was not classified as a first class match but those matches were played by the best of our regional first class players and he did exceedingly well.  So, I like to think that if he can perform well in those games against those players, he had the potential to transfer that to Test games,” he added.

The series against South Africa will get underway at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in St Lucia, on Thursday.

 

Promising West Indies batsman, Kyle Mayers, has expressed confidence at the prospect of becoming a top international Test cricket all-rounder, on the back of encouraging displays with both the bat and ball in recent months.

The attacking-minded Mayers burst on the scene with a stroke-filled 210 unbeaten in the first Test against Bangladesh, in February of this year.  However, against Sri Lanka last month, the player also had a good turn with the ball.  Not only extracting movement from a placid pitch but taking four wickets in the process, with just a short spell.

The display prompted some pundits to suggest that the player had the ability to become a dependable all-rounder for the squad if he could improve his overall fitness.

Bowling would not have been entirely new to Mayers, however, as he was at one point considered more of a bowling all-rounder, having claimed 71 wickets in 30 first-class matches at an average of 21.54.  Having displayed more prowess with the bat in recent months, Mayers is convinced that he can do both at the highest level in the mold of former West Indies captain Jason Holder, or England’s Ben Stokes, the world’s top-ranked all-rounders.

“I have it in me to do it.  I just have to become fitter,” Mayer’s told SportsMax’s The Commentators podcast.

“I just started Test cricket and people think watching it on tv, it’s very easy, it’s very hard.  I will always say that, and I will always let young people coming up know that if you want to play Test cricket you need to work very hard,” he added.

“Preparation is key for me to be up there with Jason.  It will take that hard work, but I believe I can do it for sure.  Having number one and maybe number two in the world can’t be so bad.  If they had two of the world’s best all-rounders the guys would be happy.”

 Catch full interview in the Podcast below

 

 

Several regular players will be missing from the Jamaica Reggae Boyz line-up when they face regional powerhouse the United States, in a friendly international, in Austria, next Thursday.

When the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) released a final 18-man squad on Tuesday, the likes of regular team captain and custodian Andre Blake, defender Damion Lowe, and Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey were a few missing from the line-up.

At present, some members of the national squad have been locked in tense negotiations with the JFF, and according to reports, have yet to sign contracts ensuring their availability to represent the national team.

The squad will in the meantime see the return of defender Adrian Mariappa (Bristol Rovers), Michael Hector (Fulham) with potential debuts for English-based talents Leon Moore, Ethan Pinnock (Brentford), and Watford striker Andre Gray.  Also making a return to the squad will be former Manchester United youth player Ravel Morrison.

The United States have been in top form in recent friendly internationals, handing Trinidad and Tobago a 7-0 thrashing in their previous match  Prior to that, they registered a 6-0 win over another CONCACAF team El Salvador and a 6-2 win over Panama.

The match will take place at the Stadion Wiener Neustadt at 12:00pm (Jamaica time).

 

 

Full squad

  1. Jeadine White Cavalier SC
  2. Kemar Foster Portmore United
  3. Adrian Mariappa Bristol City FC
  4. Michael Hector Fulham FC
  5. Curtis Tilt Wigan Athletic FC
  6. Amari Bell Blackburn Rovers FC
  7. Ethan Pinnock Brentford FC
  8. Liam Moore Reading FC
  9. Wesley Harding Rotherham United
  10. Renaldo Wellington Montego Bay United
  11. Chavany Willis Portmore United
  12. Ravel Morrison Unattached
  13. Ricardo Morris Portmore United
  14. Jabari Hylton UWI
  15. Andre Gray Watford FC
  16. Omar Holness Darlington FC
  17. Kevaughn Isaacs Mount Pleasant
  18. Luca Levee Harbour View FC
  19. Shaven Paul Mount Pleasant

 

West Indies fast bowler, Kemar Roach, insists he is ready for the challenge of trying to take wickets on Bangladesh pitches, despite the surfaces being more suited to spin-bowling.

Despite the presence of several spinners in the squad, the 32-year-old is expected to lead the West Indies bowling line-up, along with fellow pace bowlers Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph.  If the dominance of spinners in the One Day International series, on pitches that offered very little assistance to pace bowlers, is anything to go by they will certainly have their work cut out.

Having been in Bangladesh on two prior Test series, Roach would know first-hand what it takes to succeed on spin-friendly terrain.

In 2011, he claimed 0 for 52 off 9 overs and 1 for 49 off 13.2 overs in the second Test of the series.  When he returned in 2018, he claimed 1 for 74 off 18 overs in the first Test and 2 for 61 in 25 overs as Bangladesh made a mammoth 500 in the second Test.

“It mostly favours the spinners but I think there is enough there for fast bowlers to get something as well.  It’s just about having your plans, executing, and being disciplined,” Roach told members of the media via a press conference from Bangladesh on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be tough, we know we have to bowl a lot more overs to get our rewards but once you are willing to put the work in you can get some rewards over here…so it’s going to be tough but I’m up for the fight.”

The Windies have had recent success with pace bowling in Bangladesh with Tino Best claiming a five-for in 2012 and Fidel Edwards claiming 8 wickets in the 2011 series.

 

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