Stephen Francis, head coach of the MVP Track Club, received the highest honour of 15 individuals recognised for their service to sports at the annual Ceremony of Investiture and Presentation of National Honours and Awards on the lawns of King's House yesterday.

The others recognised for their contribution to sports, out of the 257 honoured, were Ian Forbes, Maurice Wilson, Chris Gayle, Stafanie Taylor, Brian Breeze, Simone Edwards, Theodore Whitmore, George HoSang, Khaleel Azan, Alexander Hamilton, Paul Hoo, Dr Donald Phillibert, Lloyd Pommells, and Colonel (Ret'd) Samuel Francis.

The outspoken Francis, who has guided the careers of track and field stars such as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson, Melaine Walker, Asafa Powell, Sherone Simpson, and Brigitte Foster-Hylton, among others, was appointed a member of the Order of Jamaica, the country's fourth-highest honour, for outstanding contribution to track and field through coaching.

“It's obviously a great honour,” Francis told the Jamaica Observer after being conferred with the award.

“I know that there are a lot of Jamaicans out there who say that they really like the job that we do at MVP, and what we have done over the years, so I think this is a good token for them, and it's added motivation to continue doing what we have been doing,” he added.

Colonel Francis, as well as Forbes, Gayle, Hamilton, Hoo, and Dr Phillibert were appointed members of the Order of Distinction (Commander class). Colonel Francis was recognised for outstanding contribution to the field of education, training and sports; Forbes for his service through volunteerism in the field of sports and youth mentorship; Gayle for outstanding service to Jamaica and West Indies cricket for the past 20 years; Hamilton for outstanding contribution to the horse racing industry; Hoo for outstanding contribution to the sporting industry in Jamaica; and Dr Phillibert for contribution in the field of medicine, in particular gynaecology, as well as education, sports and to the Jamaica Diaspora.


Gayle's father, Dudley, who received the award on behalf of the star cricketer, was elated when he spoke with the Observer.

“I feel great and honoured to be here collecting this award; he's such a humble guy. I'm grateful God has blessed him throughout his career. He's very generous. He's such a pleasant person, humble, loving, and kind,” he said before wishing his son continued “health and strength”.


Though absent to collect his award, Chris Gayle expressed his gratitude in an Instagram post yesterday.


“I have received many awards playing cricket all over the world. However, to receive this award from my country is an extremely special moment in my life, even more so on the day we recognise heroes and forefathers who have helped to pave the way for us. Thank you, Jamaica. Words can't explain the feeling. I will continue to wave the flag wherever I go. Congratulations to all the other recipients. One love! Sorry I couldn't be there but the #UniverseBossDad Representing. # Grateful,” he wrote.


The others were appointed as members of the Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer. Azan for his outstanding contribution to Jamaica's sporting industry; Breese for contribution to sports and nation-building; Edwards for contribution to Jamaica's women's national basketball; HoSang for contribution to the horse racing industry; Pommells for sterling contribution to the Social Development Commission and the Sports Development Foundation; Taylor for sterling contribution to Jamaica and West Indies Women's cricket; Whitmore for contribution to sports, nationally and internationally, in particular football as a player and coach; and Wilson for contribution to sports in Jamaica, in particular track and field.


For Wilson the award is an inspiration to continue the hard work.

 “It's a humbling feeling. As I was saying to my friend [just] a while ago, I never thought about this before now, so it's extremely humbling, and it just gives me a lot of inspiration to continue the hard work that I have been doing,” he told the Observer.

 For Whitmore, the two-goal hero for the Reggae Boyz in their 2-1 win over Japan at the 1998 FIFA World Cup Finals in France, it was pure joy.


“It's a privilege to be honoured by your country and the great work continues, as I will always continue to work for the country,” he said.

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