Nadine Spencer

Remembering the Women as Jamaica Dominates the 100 Meter Sprint

Last night I was invited to the Jamaican Canadian Association to watch Usain Bolt race at the Rio Olympics. As most of you know, he won his third gold medal in a row in the 100 meter dash, beating American Justin Gatling and cementing himself as one of the greatest sprinters in history. Many Jamaicans gathered at the JCA last night, and we enjoyed a lovely reception while watching the race.

But during the event, I asked my friend why we hadn’t done the same for all the Jamaican women competing in the Olympics? Jamaica had three women in the women’s race, but we had only gathered to watch the men. Her response was that we had“bigged up” the women (meaning we had given them a shout out), and that that was enough.

Here’s the thing: I’m very proud of the fact that our women and men made it to the Olympics and placed extremely well. Usain Bolt is a great champion, and his recent quote “Nothing is impossible, you have to use determination” shows what it takes to get to that level, and is inspiration for all of us. So congratulations to Bolt—I’m very proud of him and what he has accomplished.

However, I’m not sure I see justice in the fact that we gather to watch and celebrate our male athletes, but only give our women a shout out. In 2016, you’d think we would have come to a point where we celebrate all of our people’s accomplishments equally, regardless of their gender. Not only do I believe that women deserve equal support and celebration, I think that, in a culture that has for hundreds of years systematically oppressed women, we should be doing everything we can to lift our women up. Not only will our support show our successful women how much they mean to us, but it will also motivate more young ladies and girls, and help them to believe that they can also accomplish great things.

So thank you, Usain, for winning yet another gold for Jamaica. And thank you, Jamaican Canadian Association, for organizing a great event to watch him do so. But also, thank you Elaine Thomson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, for winning gold and bronze in the 100 meter dash, and more importantly, showing future generations of Jamaican women what they are capable of!