In the hit 1993 comedy film Cool Runnings, which was based loosely on a true story, a group of Jamaicans decided to try and create history by qualifying for the bobsled competition at the Winter Olympics.

On Thursday in Tacen, Slovenia, another Jamaican created sporting history. He may be only 16, but Solomon Maragh is fully aware that he achieved something no other Jamaican has ever done before.

Maragh successful contested the junior kayak qualifiers at the ICF junior and U23 canoe slalom world championships on one of the most challenging courses in the world, Tacen in Ljubljana.

The teenager got two runs on the Tacen course. He didn’t qualify for the semi-finals, but that hardly seemed important given everything else he had achieved just by getting on the water.

“I feel really proud to have represented my country, and I’ve done the best that I can do for a developing nation,” Maragh said.

“I feel very proud, and feel I have the responsibility now to set the standard for other Jamaican athletes within canoe slalom when opportunities come along.”

Maragh was born and grew up in the north of England, but has a large family back in Jamaica, from where his grandparents came to the United Kingdom as part of the Windrush generation.

“All of my family in Jamaica have sent me good luck wishes, and they were all going to watch today,” he said.

“With the time difference it will have been the middle of the night for them to stay up and watch me.”

Maragh was taught the basics of paddling by his parents at the whitewater centre in Nottingham, where next year’s ICF canoe freestyle world championships will be held. He decided to switch from wildwater to slalom paddling, and now has his sights set on one day representing Jamaica at the Olympics.

“My end goal is to win an Olympic medal,” he said.

“Now I’m just starting off, getting used to the international stage, getting ready for more races. I want to set a standard for all Jamaican athletes for the future.”

His efforts in Tacen are sure to inspire others in Jamaica to give canoe slalom a go, but that might be the least of the challenges.

Like the characters in the hit 1993 comedy movie Cool Runnings, which showed a Jamaican bobsled team competing against the odds to make the Winter Olympics, potential canoe slalom athletes in the country also face difficulties.

Finding somewhere for the athletes to ply their trade is the biggest issue. There’s plenty of water around and throughout Jamaica, but nearly all of it is not suitable for whitewater paddling.

“The rivers there are either to high or too low, and in Jamaica a lot of people use the river facilities, so you can’t really do it there unfortunately,” Maragh said.

“But we’re looking into it.”

Canoe Slalom
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