Some of Cayman’s most successful athletes, its first Olympians, football heroes, and track and field stars were honored Monday as part of the annual National Heroes Day celebrations.
Long-time administrators and coaches who have worked with generations of youngsters were also among the 316 people who received honors at the event in Heroes Square.
The roll call of recipients included Cydonie Mothersill, who won a Commonwealth gold amid a host of medals in a glittering track career; Renard Moxam, Cayman’s first professional footballer with the Toronto Blizzard in the 1970s; and professional boxer Charles “Killa” Whittaker.
Frank Flowers, the founder of Cayman’s famous Flowers Sea Swim, and Derek Haines, who helped develop the sport of rugby in Cayman and more recently hit the headlines for running marathons to help raise money for local charities.
There was also a special bravery citation for a 16-year-old boy and a marine conservation officer who attempted to save an award-winning sushi chef who drowned in a snorkeling accident off North Side last year.
Beha Hansson and marine officer Alan Mackay struggled in strong currents to try to save chef Mongkol Srilamai before helping another struggling swimmer to shore during the March 2017 incident.
Several politicians were included among the heroes. Speaker of the House McKeeva Bush, also the island’s first sports minister; former legislator Lucille Seymour, a figurehead for the sport of netball in Cayman; and education minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, a track star in her younger days, all received awards.
Mr. Bush said he was proud to have personally sponsored football clubs in West Bay and, as minister for sports, helped establish many of the islands sports facilities and national programs.
Ms. O’Connor-Connolly recalled the days of the “barefoot brigade” track team from Cayman Brac who took on all comers at local and international competitions.
She also paid tribute to coach Gerry Harper, the track coach who was honored as a pioneer in sports, for bringing through several generations of Cayman athletes.
In total, there were nine honorees in the “Early Pioneer” category, 79 in “Pioneer,” and 26 in “Emerging Pioneer.” There were also 168 “Long Service Certificates,” and 34 people placed on the “Memorial Scroll.” The colorful parade to commence the day’s celebrations included the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service band, as well as detachments from the police, fire service, the Prison Service, Girls’ Brigade, Scouts, Cadet Corps and Seventh-day Adventist Pathfinders.
A stage was set up in front of the courthouse and awardees and their families watched from tented pavilions bedecked with Cayman flags as each one was called in turn to receive their award.
Premier Alden McLaughlin, in his speech to the gathering, said sports was important to build character as well as community.
He added, “Sport also transcends borders, race, gender and social status. It is a universal language that possesses the power to uplift, entertain and unite us in celebration of the human spirit.”
Health Minister Dwayne Seymour praised all the awardees and the countless others who have contributed to sports over the years.
“I offer my congratulations to every single one of you,” Mr. Seymour said. “Whether you are a competitor, coach, committee member, organizer, parent, volunteer, spectator or fan, I know how much time, effort and energy goes into supporting sports in the Cayman Islands.”
Donald McLean, who sailed for Cayman at the Atlanta Olympics and has since gone on to become president of the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee, told the Compass it was an honor to be nominated.
Also a hero in the health category for his contributions as a pharmacist, Mr. McLean said, “It feels good to be acknowledged for the work you do in certain areas.”
Also among the heroes was former Cayman Compass sports writer Matthew Yates, who was nominated for long service to sports.
He said it was a nice surprise to be included in the list and be honored among the athletes he used to interview and write about.
“It is not something I was expecting,” he said. “I’m blessed to be in a position to be put in the same category as some of my role models and some of the icons of Cayman sports.
“Many times, in the media, you are thought of as the villain, so it is good to be thought of as a hero too. It is humbling that people respect you enough to consider nominating you as a hero for doing something you love to do.”