The female athletes putting Antigua on the map
By Carlena Knight
We have heard of many fearless women who have broken down barriers, raised the standard and shone in the male-dominated sporting world and when many think of athletes that fit this mold Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce comes to mind – but on the local stage the list of female athletes is unlimited.
In honor of International Women’s Day, Observer will highlight a few.
Renee Edwards-Ambrose, a trailblazer in her own right, is known not only for her dominance on the car racing scene, having been nominated for the Antigua and Barbuda Drag Racing Association (ABDRA) Female Drag of the Year twice and for Antigua and Barbuda Sportswoman of the Year, but her continuous work teaching females how to fix cars through her LadyMex workshops.
Ambrose is the founder of the Caribbean’s first all-female drag racing team, ‘LHF Motorsports’ nee ‘Lady Horsepower Farm’. She’s also a wife, aircraft maintenance technician, motorsports influencer, plus-size model, mentor and entrepreneur. She continues to show that, despite the many accolades, enough is never enough and pushing yourself towards new ventures should be welcomed.
Reigning sportswoman of the year and national high-jump star, Priscilla Frederick-Loomis, epitomises what the phrase ‘never give up’ means. Despite the many obstacles she has faced financially, emotionally and physically, she earned a silver medal at the 2019 Pan American Games. Known for her signature purple hair, her fellow competitors say her bubbly personality has always been infectious.
As far as history-makers go, many female athletes can fit into this bracket but the most recent would be that of a young girl from New Winthorpes village who had dreams of being selected for the West Indies female team.
Last November, Shawnisha Hector etched her name into that book when she became the first Antiguan to be selected and play for the team. It was because of that achievement and more that she was nominated by the Antigua and Barbuda Cricket Association (ABCA) for sportswoman of the year.
Decorated athlete, coach, sports administrator, wife and mother Heather Samuel-Daley has checked off many boxes when it comes to leading a fulfilling life. Daley was a former national sprint queen, has medalled at the Central American and Caribbean Games, and competed at the Summer Olympics and the World Indoor and Outdoor Championships, and was inducted into her alma mater’s Murray State University Athletics Hall of Fame.
Taking that passion off the track, Daley went on to coach a number of national world athletes to include Cejhae Greene and became the first woman to be appointed Director of Sports. But her proudest moment, she says, is seeing her son Ajani Daley following in his mother’s footsteps as a junior sprint king.
Although all the woman listed certainly earned their stripes on the list of astounding female athletes, there were four women who collectively are worth a special mention all of their own.
Team Antigua Island Girls – Kevinia Francis, Elvira Bell, Christal Clashing and Samara Emmanuel – not only became history-makers as the first all-black female team to row across the Atlantic but became an inspiration for any young girl, showing them that nothing is impossible. These women did what some men would not even contemplate – completing a 3,000-mile journey by rowboat.
Perhaps never before has the country been so unified than that day of January 28 2019 when the team were welcomed home to English Harbour. Politicians from both sides, men, women and children of all races and ages, gathered to witness the heroism of the ‘fearless four’. It is only fitting that they were honored at the National Sports Awards and by the government itself.
Team Antigua Island Girls, along with Hector, Daley, Loomis and Ambrose, have continued to live true to this year’s International Women’s Day theme, ‘each for equal’, as they continue to challenge stereotypes, fight prejudices and achieve greatness.
It was Michelle Obama, another great lady, who said it best: “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”
Happy International Women’s Day!