Games wide open | The games

With the 2024 Olympic Games set for 26 July–11 August in Paris, Terrence Clarke highlights some of the Caribbean medal hopefuls aiming to write their names into Olympic — and Caribbean — history

  • Photo by Luca Dugaro/Unsplash.com
  • Mijaín López Núñez. Photo by Jan Woitas/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa/Alamy Live News
  • Marileidy Paulino. Photo by SPP Sport Press Photo/Alamy Live News
  • Sada Williams of Barbados competes in the 400m semi-finals at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest. Photo by Gary Mitchell, GMP Media/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herah, and Shericka Jackson. Photo by Koji Aoki/AFLO SPORT/Alamy Live News
  • Nicholas Paul. Photo by Sebastian Gollnow/dpa/Alamy Live News
  • Steven Gardiner. Photo by Gary Mitchell, GMP Media/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Thea LaFond. Photo by LFP/Alamy Live News
  • Jasmine Camacho-Quinn. Photo by insidefoto srl/Alamy Live News

Bring on the competition, the intrigue, stories of success and despair. Years of preparation will be tested over two weeks of sporting excellence, as the nations of the world converge in France for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

Ouvrons grand les Jeux — “Games wide open” — is a fitting motto, as 10,500 athletes will compete in 329 events in 32 sports.

As the Jamaicans would say, “we likkle but we tallawah” (small, but powerful). And though small, the Caribbean has earned the respect and a reputation at the Games, particularly in track and field.

The Caribbean made its mark at the 2020 Tokyo Games, securing 34 medals — of which 18 came from athletics. And while the region has enjoyed success outside of athletics, it’s sure to provide the bulk of our medals in Paris.

Countless Caribbean athletes are going for gold in Paris and primed for success, but here are a few with particularly strong chances of medalling in Paris.

Cuba

Mijaín López Núñez (wrestling)
The indomitable veteran

Paris will be López Núñez’s fifth Olympics. And this year, he could achieve a staggering record as the first man to win five consecutive gold medals. However, he is fighting against the only opponent no-one can defeat: time. At almost 42 years young, age, fatigue, and the weight of expectation are all working against him. Nevertheless, anything is possible with this Cuban legend.

St Lucia

Julien Alfred (women’s 100m)
The wait is over?

This will be St Lucia’s eighth Olympic Games, but the “Helen of the West Indies” has never experienced Olympic success. The long wait could end in Paris, as Julien Alfred (22) has emerged as a genuine sprint star. No longer is she just a prospect, but a true challenger — earning gold at the World Indoor Champs and silver at the Commonwealth Games. She’s eager to prove she’s ready in Paris.

Dominican Republic

Marileidy Paulino (women’s 400m)
The barefoot champ

Marileidy Paulino (27) could easily have had a successful handball career but, as fate would have it, a switch to track would prove her destiny. She’s already put together a successful career: she’s the first woman from the Dominican Republic to win an individual gold medal, is the reigning 400m World Champion, and has a pair of silver medals from Tokyo. It’s incredible to think she started off running barefoot, but this humble star is hungry to add more success in Paris.

Barbados

Sada Williams (women’s 400m)
The “long sprint” heiress

Sada Williams became the first Barbadian woman to medal at the World Championships, and could very well be the first Barbadian woman to medal at the Olympics as well. The 26-year-old has established herself as a contender in the 400m (long sprint), adding Commonwealth Games gold to her bronze medals from the last two World Championships.

Jamaica

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson, and Elaine Thompson-Herah (track)
The last hurrah

They are all household names and, among them, have won 19 Olympic and 32 World Championship medals. But all things must come to an end, and Paris will certainly be the last time this dominant, iconic trio will compete together, as Fraser-Pryce (37) has confirmed this will be her final Olympic appearance. Her younger compatriots (Jackson is 30 and Thompson-Herrah 32) will likely have more history on their minds as a new generation readies to make its mark. But the entire region will be cheering for these Jamaican sprint queens, hoping their final act together will end with a podium finish.

Trinidad & Tobago

Nicholas Paul (cycling)
Redemption road

It would be unfair to put the weight of an entire nation on the shoulders of one, but Nicholas Paul (25) is used to pressure. He’s not the islands’ only Olympic hopeful, but certainly the most likely. And T&T is hungry for a medal after going without one at the Tokyo Games in 2021 — breaking a streak where the islands had won at least one medal at every Olympic Games since Barcelona (1992). Blessed with immense speed, the world record holder in the flying 200m will be hoping to convert his successes at Pan American, Commonwealth, and World Championships level into Olympic glory.

The Bahamas

Steven Gardiner (men’s 400m)
The Cinderella man

When Steven Gardiner (28) struck 400m gold in Tokyo, it confirmed he was among the elites in his discipline, especially after earning silver and gold in previous World Championships. Plagued with injuries since his Olympic success, he’s now recovered and aiming to bounce back with a second gold medal in Paris.

Grenada

Kirani James (men’s 400m)
The spice man

Can you imagine having a stadium named after you by the time you’re 25? It was a fitting tribute to the nation’s first and only Olympic gold medal winner. But at the same age, James was diagnosed with Graves disease (an autoimmune disorder). It’s been a major challenge, but that didn’t prevent him achieving athletic success. Still in his prime at 31, “the spice man” is a safe bet to continue his streak of winning a medal at every Olympic Games in which he has participated.

Dominica

Thea LaFond (triple jump)
The leaping ballerina

When you marry grace with athleticism, the outcome is something special. The Dominican ballerina (30) turned triple jumper has turned heads — especially after striking silver and bronze at the Commonwealth Games. As the first Dominican athlete to medal, she confirmed her status ahead of Paris with gold at the most recent World Indoor Championships.

Puerto Rico

Jasmine Camacho-Quinn (100m hurdles)
200%er

Despite being born and raised in South Carolina, Camacho-Quinn (27) decided to represent her mother’s native land. In Tokyo, she struck gold in the 100m hurdles — becoming the second Puerto Rican to win a gold medal and the first of Afro-Latino descent. She has since proven she’s a mainstay on the podium with silver and bronze medals at previous World Championships, and will want to defend her title in Paris.


Olympic dreaming

Here are more among the myriad Caribbean medal hopefuls to keep your eyes on.

Dylan Carter • Trinidad & Tobago • swimming

Julio César De La Cruz • Cuba • boxing

Devynne Charlton • The Bahamas • 100m hurdles

Lazaro Martinez • Cuba • triple jump

Shaune Miller-Uibo • The Bahamas • 200/400m

Hansel Parchment • Jamaica • 110m hurdles

Leyanis Pérez • Cuba • triple jump

Anderson Peters • Grenada • javelin

Wayne Pinnock • Jamaica • long jump

Jereem Richards • Trinidad & Tobago • 200/400m

Shenica Rickets • Jamaica • long jump

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