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The 2018 Winter Olympics will begin on Friday, February 9. Participating teams look forward to displaying great athleticism in winter-related sports. Although we are always excited to see America’s finest athletes compete respectfully against other nations, we here at the Opes Group are particularly proud of something else: Jamaica’s athletes.

It is no secret that Jamaica has been a powerhouse in the Olympic games – names such as Usain Bolt, Merlene Ottey, and Shelly Anne Fraser-Pryce are household names to many – but these upcoming games are not only in uncharted territory but are being helmed by unexpected leaders: women. Women have taken center stage in politics, in the work place, in fighting Hollywood norms and now we see them taking center stage once again in the Caribbean. Jamaica’s women seek to become bobsled and synchronized swimming champions – both sports with limited support systems on the island.

Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian (pilot), Carrie Russell (pushman and breakman) and Audra Segree (alternate breakman) will be Jamaica’s first all-female bobsled team to compete in PyeongChang, South Korea. This team has trained intensely and is turning heads for being the first female Jamaican bobsled team to actually qualify for the Winter Olympics.

Alexi Harding Carrie Russell

Carrie Russell with serve as the team’s pushman and breakman

Yes, Jamaica has sent a bob sled team to the Olympics before – their grit in the face of adversity inspired the well-known Disney movie Cool Runnings – but lack of experience given the novelty of the sport to those in a tropical country and being ill equipped (they borrowed spare sleds and parts from other countries while at the games) led to poor performance.  These ladies, Fenlator-Victorian et al, are facing similar cultural and financial hurdles but they are nevertheless trying and we cheer on their determination in pushing the envelope.

Similarly challenged are the young ladies from rural Jamaica who are looking to make a name for themselves in synchronized swimming. An article in The New York Times last week profiled the country’s first-ever synchronized swimming team that is set to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The up-and-coming team of girls includes Ajoni Llewellyn (17), Katana Blount (10), Joydayne Whyte (9), Laila Bailey (12) and Nyouka Baugh (15). This group in distant Port Antonio is the only synchronized swim team on the island as the only other team that was in the city of Kingston was disbanded. The young athletes practice four days per week amidst struggles such as being unable to afford taxi fare to attend practice and having to train at their coach’s house given no public pools in the area.  In a country with a majority of its population unable to even swim these ladies have surged past that to attempt an even more complicated variant of the sport and to us that makes them heroines. They will certainly inspire change in the island nation as both young and old follow their example and seek to expand their horizons.

Alexi Harding Jamaica Swimmers

The Island Aquatics Synchro team at the 2017 Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation Swimming Championships

As a company founded by Caribbean natives, it is our sincere hope that Jamaica soars to new heights and gains even greater success on the Olympic stage. We could not be more proud of our athletes and the support system (both men and women as well as foreign and local individuals) that works tirelessly to elevate our homeland’s international standing.