THREE MEDALS FOR ATKINSON Olympic stars Usain Bolt and Elaine Thompson are expected to lead nominations for the 2016 RJR Sports Foundation National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards, with the selection committee set to make those announcements today. Bolt, who returned to the island with three gold medals from the Rio 2016 Games after his 100m, 200m and 4x100m success, is the favourite for what would be a record seventh National Sportsman of the Year award, a nod that would make him the joint most successful male recipient and second only to Merlene Ottey in the overall tally. Boxer Michael McCallum has also won seven Sportsman of the Year awards, while Ottey has won a remarkable 13 National Sportswoman of the Year awards. Fellow speedster Elaine Thompson ended the season as the most dominant female sprinter in the world, winning double gold in the 100m and 200m in Rio before helping Jamaica to a silver medal in the 4x100m relay. She also finished the season unbeaten in the 100m and duly won the Diamond Race title in the event. Underlining her class, Thompson registered the three fastest times in 2016 the 100m (10.70, 10.71 and 10.72) and the two fastest times in the 200m (21.78 and 21.85). Other Olympic standouts such as Omar McLeod, the first ever Jamaican gold medal winner in the 110m hurdles and Shericka Jackson, bronze medallist in the 400m, and 100m bronze medal winner Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce are also expected to be named among the nominees for the highly coveted award. Fraser-Pryce was the female recipient of last year’s Sportswoman of the Year award. Swimmer Alia Atkinson, the 2014 female recipient, had a disappointing time in the pool in Rio but bounced back tremendously since leaving Brazil to break the record in the short course 50m breaststroke at the Swimming World Cup stop in Tokyo, Japan, touching the wall at 28.64 seconds, shaving 16th hundredth of a second off the old mark. Atkinson also recently claimed three medals at the FINA Short Course Swimming World Championships in Windsor, Canada, winning gold in the 100m breaststroke, silver in the 50m breaststroke and bronze in the 100m Individual Medley. Track and field has been Jamaica’s most successful sport, and it certainly reflects in the winners of this award, with athletics dominating the National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards over the years. In its previous 57 stagings, 27 track and field athletes have walked away with top honours among men, with 49 winners among the females. Before Atkinson’s nod in 2014, the last non-track and field connected woman to win the award was Vivalyn Latty-Scott in 1976. 2014 represented a departure of sorts as boxer Nicholas ‘Axeman’ Walters also claimed the male award, making it only the second time in 15 years that a track and field athlete had not won the award. The 2016 RJR National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards will take place on January 13, 2017.
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