The sporting arena has provided many achievements that have been etched in the hearts of Jamaicans and become a part of the country's national identity. Jamaica has come to embody the sporting adage of "punching above one's weight," echoed in the local expression, "we likkle but we tallawa" (we're little but we're strong), and this has been shown most emphatically on the sprinting track in recent times, but also historically on the cricket ovals, football (soccer) fields, boxing arenas, and, to add a bit of pizzazz to the diverse accomplishments, with bobsledders and aerial skiers competing in the Winter Olympics.


In an island nation with modest sporting infrastructure, track and field events have always been a mainstay in schools and communities with participants in organized events being as young as primary school age. In fact, arguably the biggest and best attended annual sporting event in the island's calendar would be the Boys & Girls Championships held at the National Stadium for the various high schools, known popularly as Champs. It is from this background that the likes of Arthur Wint, Herb McKinley and Donald Quarrie enjoy legendary status for running towards Olympic gold wearing Jamaican colors in the 1940s, '50s and '70s, respectively. Up to the present time, the little island that has come to be called the "sprint factory" has produced the likes of Merlene Ottey, Juliet Cuthbert, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-ann Fraser, Asafa Powell, and, of course, the inimitable Usain Bolt. Many gold-medalists who have run for other nations were also born and raised in Jamaica, including Linford Christie, Ben Johnson, and Donovan Bailey. No one can deny that Jamaicans have every right to consider themselves the powerhouse team on the short track.


A nostalgic remnant of British colonialism, cricket is also a ubiquitous sporting activity on any level field throughout the island. Jamaican cricketers play on the regionally federated West Indies Cricket Team (affectionately called "the Windies"), which joins the other island nations of the Caribbean sharing a British colonial past. Though the fortunes of the Windies have drastically fallen in the past decade, there was a time when they were the unmistakable rulers of the sports. West Indies cricket did not lose a single international Test series for 15 years from the mid-1970s to early '90s. It was a particular joy whenever the beloved Windies would defeat the team from England. Notable Jamaican cricketers include former Windies captains Michael Holding, Jimmy Adams and Courtney Walsh, as well as current captain Chris Gayle.


Though lacking in the historical exploits of the cricketers, Jamaican soccer players enjoy every bit of the adoration of the population. The highest achievement of the "Reggae Boyz" undoubtedly came when they qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 1998, which was held in France. Several Jamaicans, or players of Jamaican parentage, have plied their trade for clubs in the English Premier League, including the legendary John Barnes (who actually represented England as a player but was one-time coach of the Jamaican national team), and more recent players such as Deon Burton, Ricardo Gardner, Marlon King and Ricardo Fuller.


Champion boxers who have raised the Jamaican flag include Mike McCallum, Trevor Berbick, and Glen Johnson, while noted boxers Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno, although representing Great Britain, speak fondly of their Jamaican roots.