Jamaica has established and maintained a remarkable sporting record over the past half-century. Since 1948 Jamaicans have won many Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals. Jamaica's track and field athletes are acknowledged to be among the best in the world. In addition, Jamaica has held several world records, and produced world famous cricketers, boxers, footballers, cyclists, weight lifters, wrestlers and netballers.
The Origins of Netball
The game of netball evolved from basketball, which was invented by Dr. James Naismith a Canadian Physical Education Teacher, who wanted an indoor sport to keep his pupils physically occupied during the winter months.
Dr. Toles introduced netball to England in 1895 from the USA at Madam Ostenberg's College. It was brought here to Jamaica by English women who came to Jamaica to teach in our girls' secondary schools such as Wolmer’s Girls School. This game has been a part of the physical education programme at Wolmer's Girls School, which is located on Marascaux Road in Kingston, since 1909.
In the early years following 1909 the game was played mainly in schools and teachers' training colleges, but after a while, the alumnae of these institutions started teams, and began to play friendly matches among themselves. In the 1930's seven teams in the Corporate Area played for an ISSA Cup. They were:
W.O.G.A. built a hard court at Cavaliers, the first hard court for netball in Jamaica.
The Jamaica Netball Association became affiliated to the West Indies Netball Board in 1959, and was invited to send a team to the West Indies Tournament in Montserrat in August 1959. First Jamaican Netball Team – 1959.
The Jamaica Netball Association was formed in 1959 by Pancho Rankine, Margaret Beckford and Margarietta St. Juste. The game began to be played at the club level since then. The game grew in popularity and its spectators looked forward to being entertained by competitions at the school, church, community, business, club, parish, and national levels.
For further information, visit the Jamaica Netball Association website.Bobsledding
In 1998, Jamaica participated in the Calgary Winter Olympics in the bobsled event, finishing 29th overall in their first Winter Olympics Games. The team also participated in the 1992 Winte Olympics in albertville and finsihed 34th. In 1994, at Lilehammer, the team had its best finish, placing 14th in the four-man event, ahead of Japan which finished 15th. The performance of the Jamaican Bobsled Team - a phenomenon made more remarkable by the fact that Jamaica is a tropical island which has never seen snow - achieved additional fame through the Walt Disney movie "Cool Runnings".
Track & Field
In the 1996 Olympic Games, Jamaica won six medals - one gold, three silver and two bronze. In the 400 metres hurdle Deon Hemmings won Jamaica's first Olympic gold medal in a female event and James Beckford won Jamaica's firt long jump medal.
One of our greatest sports personalities and olympians is Merlene Ottey, OD, who received the appoint of Ambassador at Large by the Government in 1993.
Ottey was the first female Jamaican Athlete to have won an olympic medal, and the first female in the English Speaking Caribbean to have won two olympic medals. Merlene has made and broken many track and field records and has won many awards.
Jamaica also performed well in the 1997 Junior Carifta Games, accumulating 61 medals - 28 gold, 20 silver and 13 bronze. The 1998 Carfita Track and Field Games, were held in the Hasley Crawford Stadium, Trinidad and Tobago between April 11 and 13. Jamaica dominated the games and placed first with 31 gold, 21 silver and 17 bronze medals.
Jamaica has also exhibited outstanding performances in football and netball. Jamaica currently holds the number 5 world ranking in netball.
In addition to traditional sports such as horse racing, auto racing, seasonal bird shooting and regattas, there are several `new' sports. These include ballooning and go-kart racing. Deep seas fishing tournaments are held periodically throughout the year an attract international participation.
Cricket is one of the most popular sports played in Jamaica. It was passed down from the English colonial masters, and today serves as a unifying force among Jamaicans.
Many Jamaicans have excelled regionally and internationally in cricket including George Headley, Alfred Valentine, Jackie Hendricks, Collie Smith, Michael Holding, Jeffry Dujon and Courtney Walsh.
Courtney Walsh, former Jamaica, West Indies and Gloucesteshire captain is presently the leading wicket taker in West Indies Cricket history. At the end of the 1999 Cable & Wireless series, his tally stood at 434 test wickets. He is also the third highest wicket taker of all time.
Jamaica's national football team (known as the Reggae Boys), created history when they qualified for World Cup 1998. The were the first team from an English Speaking Caribbean nationa to do so. At the World Cup, Jamaica faced Croatia, Argentina and Japan. They lost to Croatia and Argentina, but were 2-1 winners over Japan.
The Government through the Institute of Sports (INSPORT) - the organisation responsible for the development of sports locally - and the Social Development Commission (SDC), has broadened the base of participation in other sporting activities. These include volleyball, basketball and softball, in addition to football and netball.