Take one look at Jamaican Olympic triple jump hopeful Shanieka Thomas and her potential is obvious. At six-foot tall and 145 pounds, she is built almost exactly like world record holder Inessa Kravets. Thomas, 11th at the 2015 World Championships, knows the similarity and hopes one day to match the Ukrainian’s fine achievements. Kravets set the record – 15.50 metres – at the 1995 Worlds and took gold as well at the 1996 Olympics. “The fact that the world record holder has the same build as me is encouragement to show I’m able to achieve the world record or even more,” she observed after a training session at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies last week. “A lot of people don’t remember that the world record holder has a really slim build,” she pinpointed. Thomas, a three-time US collegiate champion at San Diego State University, left California to train at Mona last season. “Everyone was asking me, ‘Why come back to Jamaica and there’s not a lot of people doing well in the field events?’,” she recalled. “It’s hard to have a lot of people doing well in the field events if nobody actually comes home to show the talent the coaches have here,” she analysed. “So it’s a big jump, and it was risky at first, but I like the transition because it’s been going well.” With astute advice from her coach, Kerry-Lee Ricketts, the former Vere Technical High School student-athlete qualified for the Worlds at the last opportunity with a winning 14.23-metre jump at the NACAC Championships in Costa Rica. Now their goal is to make her faster and stronger. MORE SPEED “This year,” she revealed, “we’re focusing on getting more speed down the runway, as well as strengthening, making sure I’m more powerful.” Now almost 24, Thomas has great respect for retired 2005 World Champion Trecia Smith and her former Vere Technical teammate, Kimberly Williams, who in 2014 succeeded Smith as Commonwealth champion. Mention of Smith’s national record of 15.16 metres and Thomas glows. “That’s a really big performance, and I would love to jump at least 15.01,” she envisioned, “just to be over the mark.” During her San Diego years, the 2008 Carifta Games Under-17 champion ran relays on a regular basis. Now she dreams of running the 4×400 in black green and gold. “Every season, I contemplate doing the 400, but when I start thinking about the training for the 400,” she shudders, “I’m like, no. I’m going to stick with the triple jump.” She is encouraged by the relay running of World and Olympic triple jump men’s champion Christian Taylor at the 2014 World Relays. “If it’s not the Olympics or the World Championships,” she said, “if it’s even like the Pan-Am Games or something like that, I want to run a 4×4 … for Jamaica.” Runs over 350 and 400 metres are part of her background training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and she says “you’ll maybe see me on the 4×4 for UWI for the preparation towards Rio”.
For some time now, cricket has been a man’s game, and it has been so since at least the start of the Test game 140 years ago.Although women have been involved as supporters of the game for such a long time, their involvement was confined to ‘bowling’, under-arm style, to their younger brothers in the backyard or as members of the tea brigade,When it came to women’s participation and administration, however, the game was considered foreign to their nature and, therefore, out of bounds to them.Gradually, however, women around the world, in places like England and Australia, but excepting one like Pakistan, began to play the game, and like most things, it spread like wild fire until it got to other places such as India and South Africa.In Jamaica and the West Indies, however, it took its own sweet time, and it was not until around the 1970s that women took to the field.Before then, Ms Vera Wright became a member and committee member of Lucas Cricket Club, Lucas became popular for their tea-time refreshments, and Ms Wright became known as ‘Auntie V’ to Lucas members and their friends.She set the pace for others to follow, and those who followed included Margaret Cooke – honorary secretary at Lucas, Dorothy Hobson – committee member and now manager at Melbourne, Monica Hosue (Williams) – committee member at Melbourne, Carol Bryan – honorary secretary at Melbourne, Caroline Kelly – committee member at Melbourne, and Pat Gillings – committee member at Melbourne.Others who followed included Novelette Rickets – committee member of Manchester Cricket Association and the first woman member of the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA), Pauline Anderson-White – honorary secretary of the Trelawny Cricket Association, Rose Bryan – committee member of the St Mary Cricket Association, and Diann Campbell – committee member of Melbourne and the first woman honorary secretary of the JCA.Also in action are women like Amanda Baker – committee member of the St Elizabeth Cricket Association, Pollyana Mitchell -honorary secretary of Lucas, and Sonji Watson – committee member of Kensington Cricket Club.PLAYERS IMPORTANTAs dedicated as these women may be, however, players are the most important part in the development of the game, and the 1970s also saw the start of the drive in the real growth of women’s cricket in Jamaica.Led by Monica Taylor and Sally Kennedy, women’s cricket took off almost from the word, ‘go’, with teams like Kensington, Lucas, Diamonds, and Waterwell, followed by Melbourne playing competitively and fairly regularly and putting out players like Rhona McLean, Kay Osbourne, and Joyce Miller, to Vivalyn Latty-Scott, Jean Cadogan, Yolande Geddes, Peggy Fairweather, Hobson, and Grace Williams-Alston, down to others like Marlene Needham, Jennifer Sterling, and Jacqueline Robinson.Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, in fact, ventured out into international play before the West Indies.Those, however, were lovely days, days of regular and exciting competition among Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and St Lucia, bringing together players like Louise Browne, Ann Browne, and Stacey Ann King from around the region, and those were the days when the West Indies hosted England and Australia, toured England and India, and, in the process, defeated one or two along the way.In terms of participation and competition, women’s cricket, especially in Jamaica, fell away for a while, but it has recently hinted of a comeback, and with Jamaicans like Stafanie Taylor, Shanel Daley, and Chedean Nation, and with West Indians such as Deandra Dottin, Anisa Mohammed, Marisa Aguilera, Hayley Matthews, Britney Cooper, Shermaine Campbell, and Shaquana Quintyne, the future seems bright and rosy.On the field, there is also Jacqueline Williams, a good female umpire who had the distinction of standing in the regional men’s four-day competition at Sabina Park recently and, by her presence, her deportment, and her skill, she has set a pace for others of her gender to follow.PROMISING HISTORYWest Indies women are the T20 champions of the world, and once they step up the participation and the competition all around the region, especially after such a promising history, nothing, it seems, can stop them in the future, and particularly now that West Indies Cricket has appointed a woman as its chief operating officer.Verlyn Faustin, the company’s secretary, is now also the chief operating officer (COO) responsible for the day-to-day operations, and mainly for control, administrative, and reporting procedures aimed at effective management on and off the field.All who love West Indies cricket applaud Faustin’s elevation and wish her well in this her added responsibility, especially as from all reports, she is more than capable.Her rise to close to the top is a good move for cricket and for women’s cricket in particular. It has given them a voice at the top where it matters most, and on top of that, she has joined other women around the world of cricket, including Ingrid Cronin-Knight and Liz Dawson, who are members of the nine-member New Zealand Cricket board, and Debbie Hockley, who is president of the board and one who call the shots for all New Zealand’s cricket.With Jimmy Adams as the new director of cricket, with Jason Holder as the captain of the men’s team, with Taylor as the captain of the women’s team, and with Faustin as the COO, West Indies cricket, men and women, is in good hands, or so it seems.
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