Participating under the theme ‘Generation Next – the Future is now’, Jamaica will be sending its largest-ever contingent of athletes, 185, to the Central American and Caribbean Games with the team looking to stamp its authority with some outstanding performances in the city of Baranquilla, Colombia.
The 23rd edition will begin with the opening ceremony on July 19 and run through to August 3, with the main venue being the Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Melendez.
The previous record number of athletes to have represented Jamaica was 135 and Ryan Foster, CEO of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), the country’s umbrella sporting organisation, underlined the significance of strength in numbers and the opening it provides for Jamaica’s ‘next generation’ of sporting stars.
“The future is now for the JOA and the CAC Games will not only showcase our current top performers in the respective sporting disciplines but will also have the next generation of athletes who will be taking up the mantle for years to come,” observed Foster.
Over 470 events will provide competition at the Games and Jamaica will also increase its participation in the varying areas, providing representatives in 17 different sports as opposed to 14 at the previous Games, which was held in Mexico.
At that championship, Jamaica competed in track and field, football, badminton, basketball, cycling, fencing, hockey, rugby, squash, table tennis, tae kwon do, triathlon, tennis and beach volleyball.
This time, Jamaica has qualified athletes for other sporting disciplines such as swimming, water polo, wrestling, shooting and karate.
On the flip side, some disciplines in which Jamaica participated in 2014, including triathlon, will not have Jamaican representation.
Of course, the meet doubles as a qualifier for senior championships such as the Pan Am Games and Olympic and the JOA noted that it is keen to provide the best opportunities for the nation’s athletes to achieve sporting excellence in the advancement of their careers.
“The CAC Games is no longer treated as a development meet, but is seen as one of the catalyst events geared towards Olympic qualification,” said Foster. “It is also a JOA managed event and we’re taking ownership of it.”
Christopher Samuda, President of the JOA, shared similar sentiments.
Samuda said: “This year represents the development of other sports, particularly team sports and earlier this year we saw where a lot of our elite athletes went to the Commonwealth Games.
“We are looking to replicate that for the CAC Games and as such we will be sending a larger contingent. Cuba will be sending a strong team and the South Americans will be sending a strong team as well,” the JOA chairman added.
Jamaica has a strong and distinguished history in the CAC Games, which it hosted at the National Stadium in 1962, the year of Independence. The major strength of the nation’s performances have come in track and field, but Foster said their impetus lies on all-round excellence.
“The CAC will be an experience of sporting excellence not only in performance, but in attitude towards competition and friendly rivalry,” said Foster. “That’s what the Jamaica Olympic Association stands for and that’s what we will telegraph to the team and the global community.”