Photo: Shadae Lawrence and Tara Sue Barnett are part of the new Throwers Army set to represent Jamaica at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
A mostly young, Jamaican throwing army will make their debut at this year's Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil intent on showing the world that the small Caribbean nation is more than just a haven for sprinters. Jamaica has earned the reputation if being a sprinting factory based on the exploits of Asafa Powell, Nesta Carter, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Veronica Campbell-Brown and arguably the greatest sprinter of all time, Usain St. Leo Bolt in recent times.
But seven first timers, most of whom are 24 years old or younger, will don the Black, Green and Gold in a bid to shake things up in the field and leave an indelible mark in the 'Land of Samba'. Danniel Thomas, Shadae Lawrence, Kellion Knibb, Tara Sue Barnett, Dania Levy and Fedrick Dacres are all 24 years or younger and will participate in the Discus, Shot Put and Hammer Throw events alongside World Championship bronze medalist but Olympic first timer O'Dayne Richards (27) and second timer Jason Morgan (33).
The number of throwers qualified for the Rio games, is double that of the four that went to the 2012 Games. This 100% growth in the number of throwers representing at the Olympics can be atributed to the hard work of high school coaches who have been doing a tremendous job in conditioning the athletes.
National champion and Shot Put record holder O'Dayne Richards will be looking to improve on the journey that former national champion and Olympian Dorian Scott started at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.
The World championship bronze medalist is grateful for small mercies and with each day that passes he is yearning for greater success in Rio.
“I am thankful to God for where I am. I'm content but my thirst for throwing farther has not been quenched,” he emphasized.
“I'm looking forward to the process of getting there, that is the training and competitions as well as the experience, with the hope that it all comes together to produce a new personal best, especially in the finals.”
The 2016 National Senior Championships Discus throw winner, Fedrick Dacres described the opportunity of being on the team as a great feeling.
"It's a great feeling to be a part of history, to take part in something greater than yourself. In my earlier years I did see myself being a part of this team, I must say," Dacres expressed.
As Rio beckons, the University of the West Indies student is eyeing a hot battle in Brazil, but this is another line in his throwing resume that he has began writing for himself.
"What I'm looking forward to the most is the rough competition ahead and trying to make my resume better," Dacres noted.
Shadae Lawrence has been having a fantastic season and with it comes valuable lessons. The Kansas State University student told reporters after her second place finish in the Discus final that she never had the best Friday night, but had a satisfying results nonetheless.
“It wasn’t that good. My series was sort of affected I think by the circle that was redone on Thursday. But I managed to get a good one on my last throw so I am happy for that.”
With nothing to lose, but a lot to gain, Lawrence is already looking forward to not just the competition, but also to see her throwing role model, Croatian World Record Holder Sandra Petkovic.
“I am looking forward to seeing my favourite athlete Sandra Petkovic, who is so good in the Discus and the host of elite athletes that you see on TV, while I try and compete well with them in Rio. The formula I am working with is to basically to stay in shape and keep working on a few technical aspect of the throw and I will be good.”
National record holder Kellion Knibb joins in the celebration of the history makers for Jamaica. She prides herself and the female throwers on now becoming inspirations for the new generation of young female throwers.
"It is a truly euphoric feeling to know that I have contributed to something so great. It's satisfying to know that we (me, Tara and Shadae) have helped to open the doors for many young and upcoming throwers. I feel like this feat says that the dream is attainable for young throwers of Jamaica - we can be Olympians too," Knibb explained.
Nothing she achieved to this date has come as a surprise to the University of Florida athlete. She is the first female Discus thrower Olympian for that institution, something she dreamed of doing before closing out her collegiate career.
"I am not alarmed that I qualified to be on an Olympic team this early in my career. I have worked towards this goal for years. I am exactly where I have dreamt and worked to be. There is no surprise at all," she explained.
The future is looking good for the former St. Jago High school stand out and Rio is where she hopes the new chapter will begin. Working with coach and former shot put representative Dorian Scott, the NCAA Championship runner-up is eyeing a top eight finish at her first Olympic Games.
"The first goal for Rio is to enjoy the experience because many don't get the opportunity to go to the Olympics. My main aim is to become an Olympic finalist, to be top eight . I aim to use the meet to improve myself as an athlete for the years to come," she forecasted.
After years of campaigning at the National Senior Championships, Tara Sue Barnett was able to crown herself as the Jamaican national champion, winning the event with a throw of 59.03m. When quizzed about her performance she was elated and overjoyed both for herself and her competitors.
"I have been competing at the national trails from my days of high school, and was never lucky enough to win a national title. Winning this national title meant a lot to me as I not only wanted to qualify for Rio, i also wanted to prove to my country that i deserve to go by winning the national trials". Barnett said.
"I wanted the competition to have been more competitive as I compete better under pressure and always pull out a big one when I really need to. However I am very happy I won and that everyone got to compete and was able to finish healthy."
Barnett shared the same sentiments as the national record holder Knibb, as she revealed her plans and goals heading into her first senior international competition.
"Being that it is my first Olympic qualification and i am given the opportunity to represent my country, my objective is to make finals and not only finals but top eight. I know that there are many other women that are way more experienced and talented than I am competing at that level" Barnett added.
The Grand Canyon University standout was cautiously optimistic and is not getting ahead of herself, but has already devised a plan to do great things in Rio.
"I will not pressure myself to win, but use this experience as a chance to make an Olympics final. If I manage to make the finals it would be a great honour for my country, my school and me. The only thing I tell myself is to go there and compete like a real champion. If i do that then I well reach my goal," she told reporters.