STAR Salute : Cleopatra Ebanks - you can call her Ms Sports
During the recent 2017 Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Western Primary Schools Athletics Championships in Montego Bay, the organisers made a noble gesture.
They presented renowned sports personality Cleopatra Ebanks with a special award for her 46 years of exemplary service to sports and community development.
Ebanks, a resident of the Farm Heights community in Montego Bay, is arguably the best-known face in female sports in western Jamaica.
Her enviable involvement spans player, official, administrator, role model, and mentor.
"I fell in love when I started playing netball back in my primary school days," said Ebanks, who subsequently represented St James in netball, table tennis, darts, hockey, softball, and track and field. "I was willing to try every sport, and even in those that I was not very good, I was still prepared to give my very best."
By the time Ebanks entered St James High School as a student, as a 12-year-old, she was already creating waves on the club circuit as a 'centre' to fear.
"In those early days, the vast majority of my time went into netball ... although I did a little track and field," said a smiling Ebanks. "I actually ran at the National Stadium in Kingston. I ran the 100m."
While Ebanks is best known at the national level as a top-flight track official, officiating in major track events to include the annual Boys and Girls' Athletics Championship and the Gibson/McCook Relays for over 30 years, there is absolutely no question that netball remains her first love.
"I really feel alive and special when I am working with the young netballers," said Ebanks, who has been coordinating the St James Primary School Netball Competition for several years. "I could not see myself walking away from them ... they are going to be a part of my life for as long as I am alive."
Ebanks' hard work, which includes coordinating community netball leagues all across western Jamaica, has not gone unnoticed, and her JPS award is just one of the many she has received over the years.
The ones she cherishes the most are the Sam Sharpe Award, which was presented to her by the St James Municipal Corporation; The Derrick Kellier Community Special Award for Volunteerism; the Social Development Corporation Special Award; and the Jamaica Sports, Medicine Award.
"I have received so many awards ... I don't even remember some of them. I have always been giving to sports, so it is understandable that the various organisations will show their appreciation," said Ebanks.
At present, Ebanks is an executive member of the St James Netball Association, a position she has held for many years.
She is also actively involved with the Western Basketball Association and the St James arm of the National Council of Senior Citizens.
"I am enjoying sports so much ... it has been 46 years of enjoyment," said Ebanks. "I have no regrets."