It will become the scene of both her most fulfilling and horrific experiences, but for the Olympian, it was the moment that defined her for the rest of her life. “That one was the pinnacle, because once you are an Olympian, you will always be an Olympian. That is something no one can ever take away from you. I was proud to represent my country,” said Sharpe during a recent chat with The Gleaner. A great accomplishment for a bright-eyed 16 year-old; still, the Munich Olympics, which were ironically marketed as ‘The Happy Games’, will be mostly remembered for the killing of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches by a group of Palestinian terrorists who had taken them hostage. Sharpe reminisced on the scenes in the Athletes Village and how that incident not only changed the mood of the Games, but also her own perspective. “I remember probably more than I want to remember from it. We could see the terrorist standing outside on the balcony with his gun because of the way the village was set out,” she shared. “The mood of the Games changed. The last time it was held in Germany, it was held in Berlin, and the whole thing with Jesse Owens and (Adolf) Hitler, and so Germany was going out of their way to try and make this a comfortable, friendly games, and that’s how we felt about it.” The extra security detail and the jubilant reactions to the false news that the hostages had been freed are all still fresh in her mind. “I was going through the line at breakfast and I had a smile on my face and the lady that was serving me breakfast she said ‘You don’t know do you? Nobody knows.’ “And I said, ‘Know what?’ And she said, ‘They were all killed.” What didn’t die for Sharpe, is the resolve that she developed from that experience. “Its not something that I usually tell people. I don’t believe in tooting my own horn from that point of view. There is something inside of me that no one can take away from me; I know what my accomplishments are, I just feel like I can hold myself up so high from the experience of being an Olympian, and I always have that self confidence and that’s what reaching that level of sports gives you – you know who you are,” she beamed. This summer, she will have company in the chronicles of Jamaican diving history with Yona Knight-Wisdom set to carve his name beside hers as Jamaican diving Olympian after his qualification to the Rio Olympic Games. MUNICH 1972 In 1966, a Gleaner article declared: “Jamaicans are naturally athletic and agile people, and we could produce divers of world class if more attention was paid to this aspect of swimming.” This bold proclamation was made just after 10 year-old Betsy Sullivan had represented Jamaica in 3m diving competition at the 1966 Commonwealth Games held in Kingston. ” … at that age you kind of know no fear. Whatever is there to do you just do it. Life is just for living at that age, you’re enjoying yourself and having a great time, totally oblivious to the fact I had qualified to a games at age 10 and the magnitude of what that meant. I was just an average 10 year-old playing with my friends, having a good time,” she remembered. “I wasn’t there to win, I didn’t have any expectations at that age, it was just a good experience and I really enjoyed it.” Six years down the road, the then – teenager, Sullivan – now Betsy Sharpe, became the first Jamaican to qualify for the Olympics in the diving event.
Monrovia- Three major events are happening almost simultaneously in Liberia. In March of this year, the deadly Ebola virus had hit Liberia. By August, the outbreak was almost uncontrollable bringing the entire nation to a standstill. With international goodwill, heroic efforts of healthcare workers and a change in attitude towards the virus by Liberians, the trend is slowing. While Liberians are trying to shake off the dust from their feet and look ahead, there is a challenge of elections.Traditionally, Elections have been a source of enormous crowd pulling and tension, with supporters of political parties and Independent candidates negating the issues at bay and thriving on trivialities. Due to the outbreak of Ebola, the initial date for elections was postponed to December 16. A writ of prohibition by some citizens further pushed the date to December 20, just five days short of the Christmas Celebration. The Christmas festivities are marred by huge influx of people from across the country, descending on the capitol to shop for the holidays. Elections and Christmas combined would mean a double effect of citizens’ amalgamation hustling and bustling for competing needs.There are genuine fears that the mass movement of people as an effect of elections and shopping for the Christmas holidays might reignite the outbreak that took tears, sweat, blood and lives to reverse.As the effect of the Ebola outbreak showed, it has the proclivity to bring an entire nation to its knees and shatter every single gain made. Ebola has proved to be a serial killer that has successfully preyed on its victims. It brought to near collapse an already frailed healthcare system, nearly wrecked an economy, shut down schools, cut off a nation from most parts of the world and exposed a people to great stigmatization. These are scary signals that need not relapse. The downward trigger effect of another outbreak is synonymous to the effects of a civil war. We simply cannot afford it. Policy makers and politicians must realize that the common interest of the nation rests in its political stability, resuscitated economy and the health of its citizenry. Everything else is secondary. As Ebola has shown, great gains can be reversed in days and months when caution is left to uncertainty. Another outbreak is suicidal and we cannot afford the shock. There are reports of supporters of political parties marching in streets, hanging on jammed parked vehicles and huge gathering of people in a show of numerical strength. Rival groups have engaged in street fighting thus exposing each other to unnecessary touching and sharing of bodily fluids. This is foolhardy for a nation that has shut down schools across the country, instructing every home to keep a bucket of clean water for regular washing of hands and asking the world to help us out.Politicians are obliged to caution their supporters to see the effect of Ebola not only as a health epidemic, but also a national security concern. It could possibly undermine the purpose for which they are striving to get elected. Significant gains seem to be made in the fight against Ebola in Liberia, thus making us a model and a success story in the region. Liberian health care workers and care givers were amongst the 2014 personalities of TIME magazine, with Dr. Jerry Brown of the ELWA hospital named personality of the year .In her reason why the Ebola fighters are TIME’s choice for the person of the year, Editor Nancy Gibbs is quoted as saying, ‘They risked and persisted, sacrificed and saved.’ She quotes a proverb that ‘Not the glittering weapon fights the fight, says the proverb, but rather the hero’s heart’. She goes on ‘But 2014 is the year an outbreak turned into an epidemic, powered by the very progress that has paved roads and raised cities and lifted millions out of poverty. This time it reached crowded slums in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone; it traveled to Nigeria and Mali, to Spain, Germany and the U.S. It struck doctors and nurses in unprecedented numbers, wiping out a public-health infrastructure that was weak in the first place. One August day in Liberia, six pregnant women lost their babies when hospitals couldn’t admit them for complications. Anyone willing to treat Ebola victims ran the risk of becoming one’.We have to sustain the fight. The war is still on. The effect of Ebola has left several kids orphaned, families completely broken, rise in unemployment, cultural adjournment, and emotional scars.When the dust settles on December 20, elections would be over, politicians would go on holidays and we will wake up to a nation that had rendered itself vulnerable to a virus that takes no prisoners. Ebola, Elections and Christmas seem a lethal combination when mixed in the same pot. Each has its own challenge and needs to be dished separately. Ebola is the toxic to the mix. Let’s get it out completely. When Ebola flees, we can all laugh aloud and tell a story. Until then, everyone stay put.About the Author:Lekpele Nyamalon is a Liberian and lives in Monrovia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgReferencehttp://time.com/time-person-of-the-year-ebola-fighters-choice/Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)