As Gambians celebrate the 22nd Anniversary of the July 22nd Revolution, stakeholders in the sporting domain are reveling in what can be described as a historic year (2016). The Gambia, for the first time, has more than one qualified athlete for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
For a country where football remains the dominant sport even though it provides little or nothing to celebrate about in recent years, such a feat is worth celebrating. The development also underlines the need for other sporting disciplines to be given every attention by those responsible for promoting these games.
In the 2012 London Olympics, The Gambia was represented by Suwaibou Sanneh, who missed out on qualification for the Rio Games. This time around, the country will be represented at the Rio by sprinters Adama Jammeh and Miss Gina Bass as well as Finland-based Gambian judoka Fye Alex Njie and swimmer Modou Jonga.
Adama Jammeh, arguably the country’s finest male sprinter, secured his place at the Games by winning silver and finishing within the qualification time at the finals of the African Athletics Championship in Durban, South Africa. Gina Bass on the other hand, booked herself a ticket to Rio whilst in France. Both athletes represented The Gambia in the 200 meters.
Adama Jammeh is now the second Gambian male to secure direct qualification to an Olympics in the sprint event, following in the footsteps of Sanneh in London. Jammeh did not just qualify to the Games but has also smashed another national record (20:45).Gina, who won qualification to the Games finished third in the 200meters women’s event in France. Swimmer Modou Jonga will also be representing the country on wild card status in Rio.
Adama and Gina are currently in Italy getting better prepared with their training partners. Meanwhile, at the IAAF High Performance Training Centre in Dakar are those athletes who have earned qualification as wildcards.
These qualifications are a culmination of more than two decades of passionate support and commitment to the development of sports in the country. The Government has installed an internationally recognised standard athletics track at the Independence Stadium and the hope is that many more athletes will emerge from this new track to represent the county in future competitions.
Bai Sering Colley, a sports enthusiast added, “For the Gambia to produce three athletes for the Rio Olympics is a big achievement for our sports.”
Jarai Jawneh, Regional Sports Chairperson, Upper River Region, summed up the achievement of the country’s Brazil bound athletes as historic and worth celebrating. “I wish the athletes all the best and prayed that they return home with medals.”
Having over five athletes representing the country at this year’s Olympics according to Muhammed Lamin Ceesay of Lamin Village is a very good development, saying it is high time that The Gambia show the rest of the world that despite being a small nation, we do have something to offer in athletics.
Alagie Jobarteh of Sukuta expressed delight with the country’s Olympians, whom he said are primed to fly the country’s flag in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. He added that this is worth jubilating for having almost over three athletes qualifying for the Olympics without a wild card.
by Alieu Ceesay and
Arfang MS Camara