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Jamaica - not only a nation of sprinters!
Especially since Usain Bolt launched his six-time Olympic champion career, Jamaica has been known as a nation of sprinters.
Although lacking true winter sports conditions, the small island has a proud history of both summer and winter sporting achievement. Athletes including the Jamaican bobsled team which made its Olympic debut in the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary (CAN), have captured the imagination of the world. Also Jamaican skiers and snowboarders have a strong will to compete and attain high goals.
FIS Newsflash spoke to Richard Salm, President of the Jamaican Ski Association as part of the summer series presenting activities of the various members of the global ski family:
FIS Newsflash: How did Jamaica come to skiing and snowboarding?
Richard Salm: “The Jamaica Ski Associationwas formed in 1998, when my son Andrew decided to work the ski season in Val d’Isere (FRA) and we felt that if he was willing to put in sufficient training time, he might be able to compete in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail, Colorado (USA), in 1999. As a result we formed the National Association with the blessing of the Jamaican Olympic Association, and proceeded to apply for a FIS licence for Andrew.
Andrew worked with a French trainer and became the first Jamaican Alpine racer in the World Championships. He was joined by Colette Gillian, a Jamaican girl who also represented the country at this level.
While neither competitor achieved glory, it was a historic moment for our little island, and the number of Jamaican spectators who showed up to support the team was amazing!”
FIS Newsflash: How did skiing continue to develop?
Richard Salm: “Two years later, I was contacted by Mike Fennell, President of the Jamaica Olympic Association, who told me that Errol Kerr, who was both an Alpine racer and a ski cross specialist wished to compete for Jamaica. He lived in the United States, but was born to a Jamaican father. It then happened that after obtaining a Jamaican passport for Errol after six years, he was granted his FIS license for his new country.
Errol’s exploits in ski cross rapidly catapulted Jamaica on to the front pages of the international ski media, notably when he achieved a 9th place finish in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver at the tender age of 23. The whole island of Jamaica is now looking towards the 2014 Games in Sochi.”
FIS Newsflash: Which challenges do you encounter in promoting your athletes and ski sports?
Richard Salm: “The major obstacles that stand in the way of the Jamaica Ski Association achieving the goals that we set out to attain are purely and simply financial. We are a small island, with a proud history of sporting achievement, yet as a developing nation we lack the resources to support our athletes in all disciplines. Corporate Jamaica will readily support those sports which have universal popular appeal, such as soccer, and will be quick to back a winner, such as the marketer’s dream, Usain Bolt, but how many Jamaicans can relate to the sport of skiing?
Our Ski Association is not in a position to employ anyone, and all the assistance that is given to our ski team is entirely voluntary. The Jamaican Government does the very best that it can afford, by providing a monthly stipend to our Association, but unfortunately this is insufficient to cover the cost of sending skiers with their coach and technician to FIS races in various parts of the world in order to allow them to qualify for the upcoming Winter Games.”
FIS Newsflash: What can the world expect from future Jamaican ski and snowboard racers?
Richard Salm: “It is pleasing to report that since Errol Kerr has put Jamaica firmly on the map in international skiing, the Jamaica Ski Associationhas received a number of requests from Jamaicans living overseas who would like to represent Jamaica in various winter sports disciplines.
We currently boast a senior racer living in Germany, Mike Williams, who is working towards representing Jamaica in the Alpine events in Sochi. We have a junior racer, Chelcie Bird, based in the United Kingdom who is scheduled to compete in the FIS Alpine Junior World Ski Championships in Quebec next year. Last but not least, we are hoping to seduce a highly qualified snowboarder, Kevin Vachet, to relinquish from his French connections and return to his homeland, Jamaica, whose passport he carries, in time to represent us at Sochi 2014.
We have considerable support from the Jamaican Diaspora living in North America and the United Kingdom, and we hope that our skiers will capture the imagination of the world in the same way that our bobsled team did back in Calgary in 1988. It is not in the Jamaican psyche to moan about the problems we face; we have goals to achieve, and we have the athletes willing and ready to attain them. We may be known as a nation of sprinters, but just wait till our skiers and snowboarders get up to speed - watch out world!”