JIS News

South Africa’s Willowridge High School plans to send 35 students to Jamaica early next year for a 10-day visit, during which they hope to compete with top Jamaican high school athletes engaged in the annual Boys and Girls Champs.
The tour was initiated by the school’s head coach, 2006 Commonwealth silver medallist, Geraldine Pillay, and confirmed by Jamaica’s Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon. Olivia “Babsy” Grange, on her return Sunday (September 27) from a visit to South Africa.
Pillay lived in Jamaica in 2007, when she trained with Stephen Francis and the Maximising Velocity Power (MVP) Track and Field Club at the University of Technology (UTech). This allowed her to train with Jamaican tracks stars Sherone Simpson, Brigitte Foster-Hylton and Asafa Powell, among others.
Miss Grange says that, through the agreement for the tour, her Ministry was opening up another window of opportunity created by the superb performances of Jamaican athletes at Beijing in 2008 and in Berlin last month.
“You can depend on our support, as we want you to have a life-changing experience in Jamaica,” the Minister reportedly told the Willowridge High School students, during a visit to the school last week.
“You will be totally blown away when you visit Jamaica and witness the atmosphere surrounding Champs,” she told the gathering. She also took the opportunity to expose the students to aspects of Jamaica’s culture and heritage.
Pillay said that she was excited that that her team will be able to share her experience in Jamaica, which helped her to develop as an international athlete.
Miss Grange told JIS News Monday (Sept 28) that, while the Willowridge students would not be able to compete at Boys and Girls Champs at the National Stadium next year, she was sure that there would be ample opportunity for them to compete against top Jamaican high school athletes during the period.
She expressed the hope that this would be the start of a new era, in which foreign high school athletes would visit Jamaica, to experience the coaching environment in which the country’s top athletes develop their skills.
Miss Grange was in South Africa for the Fourth World Summit on Arts and Culture, which was staged by the International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies (IFACCA) and the National Arts Council of South Africa, in Johannesburg.
She said that, in addition to the visit of the Willowridge team, South Africa has expressed an interest in bilateral co-operation with Jamaica in sports and arts. She said that she was also assured of a visit from the South African Minister of Arts and Culture, Lulama “Lulu” Xingwana, between now and early next year to pursue the bilateral agreements.

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