Welcome Reception
The GOJ’s VIP Lounge
The Norman Manley International Airport
September 12, 2012

There is something special in victory. There is something extraordinarily special in succeeding against all odds. it is not necessarily what you have done and how you did it. But more importantly it is what you have become as a result of what you did and how you did it.

This, Function Chairman, Minister , ladies and gentlemen is the paralympic spirit and London saw the embodiment of that spirit in Alphanso, Tanto and Sylvia. They all have become, with each championship, champions not only of the physical science and art of the sport but of the character and ideals of it.

And what do we, officials and athletes, of the Jamaica Paralympic Association pledge after London where the value of talent and the will of the human spirit were self-expressed in javelin and discus?

We pledge more inspiring performances on the international stage not only in javelin and discus but in powerlifting, archery, pistol shooting, wheelchair racing, wheelchair fencing, wheelchair basketball and of course the sprints – 100m, 200m and 400m – those glory events for which we are celebrated. In other words, ladies and gentlemen, the pralympic spirit of Jamaica will next year and in the years to come take flight and cover non-traditional events in fulfilling one of our primary objectives of establishing a presence and dominance beyond track and field, in international competition.

Flanked by Sport Minister, Natalie Neita Headley; and Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Arnaldo Brown, gold medallist and regional record holder in the javelin throw, Paralympian Alphanso Cunningham, and other members of the national 2012 Paralympic team return home on September 12. At the press conference which followed, Minister Neita Headley said that the achievements of the athletes were an inspiration to all Jamaica

We pledge to increase and strengthen our advocacy in having the system of automatic and bipartite slots removed as it deprives, as we regrettably experienced in London, some of our athletes a place in the sun though their performances were materially better than others who participated.

We will also advocate generally for a review of the classification system to achieve greater consistency in evaluation and, specifically with respect to athletics, in having emphasis placed on motion assessment in determining whether an athlete is eligible and, if so, the class in which he or she should be placed.

We have the talent, but in nurturing and bringing same to fruition we need corporate Jamaica to demonstrate its commitment in a real way. In a way that Newport Fersan Jamaica has done – beyond the sponsorship dollar – by giving support when the hour of competition has come with all its emotionalism – yes its fears and anxieties but amidst all of that the reassuring hand of support, friendship and victory. Dennis was there in the village and at the training venue with us. He broke bread with us, and was with us at track side in the stadium, in the arena where dreams are fulfilled.

We record publicly also our appreciation to Digicel – the network of which does not only extend to telecommunications but to humanity, an interconnectivity with the aspirations of humanity. Conor, we sat at the Courtleigh and breathed reality into a dream I had and you immediately shared my enthusiasm. I know this will be lifelong.

We have to create a new partnership in sport in this country.

A partnership which is personable and re-inforces personhood. A partnership which has a face which is more than skin deep but which lies in the veins of character and character building, that emphasises the quality of the player first and then the quality of play; that gives a deeper knowledge and understanding of the value of the human capital and its right to self-actualization first and thereafter the social and financial dividends gained. Too often development work is driven by how many people can you reach as opposed to how many lives do you transform.

When Minister Neita Headley said she would be at Gatwick to meet the team upon their arrival in London it was not simply a photographed greeting but an unquestionable commitment to Jamaica’s paralympic team and the movement which goes beyond the lens of the camera.

London will be memorable for the golden ambassadorial performance of His Excellency, Alphsnso Cunningham, the oh so medal close, determined and emperor like hurl of that discus by Beijing’s bronze medalist Tanto Campbell and the grit of one of the Americas record holders our own Sylvia Grant.

But it will also be remembered as the birthplace of our collective vow to aggressively grow the spirit and stature of the Paralympic movement.

As London falls into a deep sleep after the din of the olympics and paralympics and awaits peacefully the autumn and winter of life, Jamaica’s paralympic flame has been ignited and burns now with impregnable hope and refined optimism. And while understandably the flames of the 2012 Olympiad and Paralympiad have been traditionally extinguished to be rekindled in Rio four years hence, ours will not enjoy any respite. It will burn from year to year, from generation to generation.

Christopher L. Samuda
Jamaica Paralympic Association