Jamaica wants their best surfers to compete in the Tokyo 2020, Olympic Games. Jamaica Surfing Association President Billy Wilmot is pressing the IOC to accept Jamaica’s bid to host an Olympic qualifying event for their nation’s best surfers.
Currently, the qualification route into surfing’s Olympic debut remains hazy. Like other Olympic events nations are required to host a sanctioned Olympic qualifying event for their athletes to be eligible. It had previously been proposed that ISA and WSL world rankings would also come into play.
Despite the International Surfing Association’s (ISA) involvement thus far, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will ultimately have the final word on who can host a qualifying event and who can’t. The selections will most likely reflect the most surf-crazed nations that compete on the world stage.
“For now, I can’t comment on the qualification system because the ISA is waiting to receive directives from the IOC in July 2017,” said ISA President Fernando Aguerre.
Aguerre, the chief architect behind surfing’s inclusion, remains confident that the field will showcase the world’s best surfers. “Once we have that, we will have more information. What I can say, though, is that qualification will be individual with 20 men and 20 women and that the field will be made up of superstars on one side, like Federer, Djokovic, Murray or Del Potro in tennis, but at the same time there will be geographic universality. There will be Africans, Latin Americans, Caribbean people, Europeans, Asians… that really highlight surfing’s diversity in the Olympics,” he said.
Jamaica hosts two major surf competitions annually, the MAKKA PRO championship in St Thomas and the Palisadoes leg of the JSE Jamaica National Open series. It is also bubbling with surf talent, which the Wilmot family have helped steer for decades. Wilmot told the Jamaica Gleaner that Jamaica wants one of their two international surfing competitions recognised as an Olympic qualifying event.
“Surfing has been included in the Olympics for the first time,” he said “and since we have been hosting an international event for the past 10 years, we are hoping we can get our annual event to be considered as an Olympic qualifying event, even if it is for the first round of elimination.”
Should Jamaica be granted the opportunity to host an Olympic qualifying event they will also be eligible for Olympic funding. Wilmot believes that this would only help grow the sport and the calibre of Jamaican surfers.
“The Olympics put us in a different position. Before we didn't have access to IOC and, by extension, the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), so we couldn't access funding, although surfing is a sport the IOC recognised as an international sport; but it was not an Olympic sport.
"As a result of this new development, there is an opportunity to access international and local Olympic funding. We are in the process of putting together a four-year development plan to approach the Olympic Solidarity Fund to get assistance for three or four top-tier surfers, to see how we can help develop their surfing potential," he said.
Who can forget the fame of the Jamaican Bobsled Team after they made their debut at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games? And just as that team invoked the spirit of the underdog wouldn’t it be great to see the boys and girls from Jamaica compete on the grandest of world stage.