Mya Dunkley is an athlete that some people may dismiss mainly due to her size. She has almost always been the smallest competitor in whatever sport she played.
But within her diminutive body lives the heart of a champion and her trophy case is full of awards to prove it. Her award-winning sporting career began at age five on the netball court. She was encouraged to participate by her mother, Jacqueline Dunkley and cousin, Anjuli Bradshaw.
“They have been my greatest inspirations,” Dunkley said. “My mother always pushed me to get involved in any sports that were available on Cayman Brac, although at times I was the only female involved. She is my number one fan.
“I have always looked up to my cousin, Anjuli Bradshaw. A sportswoman herself, she pushed me to go the extra mile. If she ran four miles, I would run five. She encouraged me and advised me a lot. She fostered in me the true spirit of friendly competition.”
Dunkley applied a work ethic second to none in any sport in which she competed and the results poured in. First, she won the George Anderson Memorial Outstanding Swimmer Award in 2000. A year later, she was the primary division’s champion girl.
In 2006, she was netball’s senior female athlete of the year. In 2007 she won the Lion’s Club national swim meet in the 15-and-over age group. In track and field, she was the primary division’s female champion and then senior champion girl.
In 2007, she was named athlete of the year and these are just some of the highlights. She also won the senior female athlete of the year in 2008 in netball.
Merta Day, coordinator for the Cayman Islands Sports Department, selected Dunkley for Honouring Women’s Month, for her achievements and her fearless character.
Day said: “I can remember coaching Mya years back at a summer camp when she was around five. She was one of the tiniest but that did not deter her one bit. Even back then, she had amazing hand-eye coordination and a passion to do well.
“Coach Theo Cuffy (national technical director of cricket) and coach Andy Myles both expressed delight at her efforts at such a young age. Her timing in connecting with the ball, her athletic ability and her aggression were amazing.
“This we witnessed, while coaching her in a continuous cricket game, during one of the sessions at the camp that year. Mya was a huge factor in the success of Cayman Brac’s U-18 netball team that participated in the league on Grand Cayman.”
Mya tells of the moment that had her hooked for life. “I won the George Anderson Memorial Trophy for outstanding swimmer in 2002. That trophy was bigger than me,” she declared.
“I can recall the day very vividly. I was swimming breast stroke in lane two and each time my head bobbed out of the water, I heard my name being screamed by the crowd.
“When I was awarded the trophy, the crowd had loud cheers for me again. The feeling of accomplishment and the pride that goes with it are indescribable. To this, day each time I’m doing a sporting event, win or lose, the crowd screaming my name keeps me motivated.”
She encourages everyone to get involved in sports. “It has boosted my self confidence, has helped me reduce stress and made me happier. I have learnt teamwork and how to push myself in many other areas of my life.
“Furthermore, sports develop character and discipline. It helps young people to commit themselves to something and to set goals. It gives them meaningful and rewarding ways to occupy their time therefore keeping them out of trouble.”
Dunkley, 20, noted that people who participate in sports, experience a greater feeling of physical well-being than those who do not. “I would say sports create healthy bodies and minds. Girls who play sports feel more positive about themselves and their body image.
“Taking part in sports can teach girls to take risks, accept defeat, follow rules, be team players, be aggressive when necessary and accept victory with humility. These are all crucial life lessons.
Sports can help to direct people’s behaviour and can teach skills necessary for success in the work place. It teaches you to give all you have and to never give up.”
Mya is attending the University College of the Cayman Islands and is focused on sports administration. “I truly believe in the benefits of sports and subscribe to the belief that it is the way forward for many girls and boys in the Cayman Islands.
There are many that may not succeed academically, but who can excel in sports.”