Local equestrians gearing up for the 2016 season started their preparation at the Kingston Polo Club, Caymanas Estates, over the weekend, with showjumpers in particular introduced to a new discipline – vaulting. Since last Friday, visiting FEI representative Emma Seely from California in the United States conducted a three-day workshop to familarise showjumpers with vaulting, one of seven disciplines in international competitions except the Olympics. Vaulting, she explained, is akin to gymnastics on horseback, but it requires intense training (initially on a barrell) to develop the skill. Seely said the workshop started last Friday with the older and more experienced showjumpers such as Jason Walter, Susan Wates, Lexie Wates, Denise Cole, Nabila Khouri, and Maelle Johnston, then moving to the children on Saturday and finally back with the older participants yesterday. “The response was good,” disclosed Seely. “Being introduced to vaulting for the first time, the participants were curious at first, but they soon got the hang of it, regarding basic movements on a horse, as well as get-fit exercises, and in the end they were quite keen and receptive,” added Seely, who has had vast experience in this area of the sport spanning 35 years. The sessions were conducted under the watchful eyes of national coach Betty Wates, who is also president of the Equestrian Federation of Jamaica. “Jamaicans being natural athletes, I believe we will adopt to vaulting pretty fast, and in a few years, could impact internationally in much the same way Samantha Albert did in showjumping and Alia Atkinson in swimming”, she said. Meanwhile, the polo players started their preparation over the weekend with practice matches on Saturday and yesterday ahead of the Doc Masterton Tournament on January 31 at the Caymanas Estates, traditionally the first polo match each season. According to Rachel Turner and Mitta Rousseau, two of the island’s top polo players, the action should increase this season following a lull in activities last year. Turner said the Doc Masterton will be followed by the Burger King Kids tournament on February 20, as well as the annual tour of the visiting team from Newport from March 3-6. They will play matches at the St Ann Polo Club at Drax Hall, Chukka Blue in Hanover and the Kingston Polo Club. Rousseau disclosed that later in the year there will be the club tournaments – the Hurlingham Cup and Senior Cup – for which Kingston Polo Club are defending champions, with players such as James Robertson, Paul Lalor, Mark Wates, Jorge Donovan, and Turner, as well as the Hi-Pro Family tournament, Dennis Lalor Polo tournament, and one of the big ones – the Scotia-sponsored tournament in mid-year.
Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) president, Mike Fennell says plans for the nation’s Olympic camp at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from August 5-25 are going smoothly, as the JOA have already acquired a base for the camp, which will commence on July 24. The JOA boss told The Gleaner they will be holding two camps, one for athletes and another for the swimmers. But while the track and field representatives will use a Rio de Janeiro Naval Base (CEFAN), which is a physical education centre of the navy and the training site of several civil and military sports, swimmer, Alia Atkinson and diver Yona Knight-Wisdom, will decide on a location of their choice. “We have done a series of consultations with the coaches and officials from the JAAA and we have agreed on a camp at the naval base in Rio for athletics. We are also making another camp for the swimming people, Alia Atkinson and diver, Yona Knight-Wisdom, at a separate venue of their choice for pre-Olympic camp and both camps they commence on or about the 24th of July,” he said. However, pre-Olympic accommodations for the nation’s representatives in other sporting disciplines will be delayed until qualifications for these non-traditional sports have been secured. “When we know who have qualified we will make preparations for the final preparation, we won’t know fully until we sign off the qualification,” he said. “We know that as far as track and field is concern we have to wait until the trials are held at the end of June and we know the composition of who is going after the JAAA have make their selection. We have one swimmer and one diver, who have already qualify, we are hoping more will qualify because we have a number of other swimmers who are close to the qualifying standard and we are hoping for more of that. “We also have the fantastic news of a gymnast (Toni Ann Williams) qualifying and that was really tremendous. Unfortunately we didn’t make it in fencing but we are still awaiting the cyclist (Marloe Rodman) and he is pretty close to qualifying and we hope he reaches the standard, plus there is also a chance for a boxer. But we won’t know all of this until all the qualifying events have taken place,” he insisted.