The Jamaica Olympic Association will be offering international courses in coaching development, adaptive sports and sports governance starting in January 2022. The courses will be done in conjunction with the United States Sports Academy.

When Joel Ricketts places his foot on his board in Cali, Colombia at the Junior Pan American Games later this year, he will have created history as the first Jamaican to compete in skateboarding in international competition but it will be only his first steps to representing the black, green and gold at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Since its entry into the Olympic Games in London in 1948, Jamaica has been represented at the Games in athletics, cycling, swimming, diving, gymnastics, judo, taekwondo and boxing. If Jamaica gets there, skateboarding would be the latest addition to the growing list of skills that the land of wood and water have paraded on the largest of sports’ global stages.

The gravity of such an accomplishment is not lost on the 16-year-old Ricketts.

"I'm glad that I could be given this opportunity to represent my country doing what I love. I would also like to thank the JOA and the SJL for giving me the said opportunity," he said.

Joel is an honour-roll student at Wolmer’s Boys School. The first of two children for project manager Joel Ricketts and his wife Loretta, a school teacher, Joel ran track, played football and basketball growing up but it was skateboarding that lit the cauldron of passion within him.

“Standing out vividly in my mind was the day I got a skateboard,” he said. “It was the most joyous day of my life. My passion for this particular sport led to my connection with Jamaica Skateboarding Federation and the Olympic body, Skateboarding Jamaica Ltd.

“This yearning of passion and exposure through the association has helped me to be a better team player and a more confident and disciplined individual. I am motivated and driven to excel in this sport and in other areas of my life. With the new-found self-determination and discipline gained as a result of skateboarding, this has allowed me to improve and own the skill and enjoyment of skateboarding.”

His declaration sounds like music to the ears of the Skateboarding Jamaica Limited (SJL) President Ryan Foster, who is also the Secretary-General and CEO of the Jamaica Olympic Association.

“The Junior Pan Am Games in Colombia will be historic for Skateboarding Jamaica Ltd as it will represent the first time that Jamaica will be represented in skateboarding in an international tournament,” Foster said.

“As the president, I am extremely elated that our athlete will be allowed to showcase his talent and this will be used as a stepping stone to many great things to come. Tournaments such as these are seen by the Skateboarding Jamaica Board as the beginning to the pathway to qualification to the 2024 Olympic Games.”

Joel is currently in California for a training camp courtesy of the JOA and SJL to get much-needed practice with some of the best young skateboarders in the world that Foster believes will help lay the foundation for a successful campaign towards Paris in 2024.

 “We have a core of skateboarders currently, which will form part of our Olympic squad and the board of SJL will be working with our strategic stakeholders to ensure that Jamaica will have representation in 2024 Olympics," the president said.

Meanwhile, Joel revealed that he is learning a lot in California.

“I am learning a lot, really, but what I am really working on is breaking the lines together and getting over the fear factor of skateboarding, which is falling but the basics are down so what we are working on is putting the basics together and formatting them into my trick system,” he said.

Creating history for Jamaica in the sport, he said, is both terrifying and satisfying.

“It’s a bit nerve-racking but I am also excited. I got this opportunity to do what I love, there is nothing better than that so I am just going to do the best I can,” he said.”

“To make the Olympics in skateboarding would be amazing. It is one of my goals.”

To get there, Joel has to successfully navigate a pathway filled with challenges that come in the form of qualifying tournaments across the globe. The equation is simple; do well and Paris awaits.

“You have the Street League, which is a skateboarding contest, which has aligned with World Skate and they organize contests in different parts of the world – France, Japan, Brazil and Italy sometimes. That’s where most of the points are earned and then there are other meets like the OISTU Open in Brazil,” Joel said.

His focus after the Junior Pan Am Games is getting better.

“More contests, more practice, getting better and getting over that fear and it would mean a lot to me,” he said.

“I go by the rule, ‘If it has been done it is achievable and there is always room for growth. The best is yet to come.”

The journey has begun.

History will be made at 2023 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games scheduled to take place in San Salvador where the sport of netball will be contested for the very first time, thanks to the advocacy of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA).

"Netball got, deservedly, our approval to take a seat at the regional table and with this accomplishment, the journey now begins to globalize the sport and the JOA stands ready to again play a signal role," said JOA President Christopher Samuda.

Samuda is a member of the Executive Board of Centro Caribe Sports which owns the games.

An established sport in English-speaking regional territories and now a staple on the sporting agenda of several Spanish-speaking countries, Secretary-General and CEO of the Jamaica Olympic Association, Ryan Foster, was never in doubt that the sport would transition.

 "I have the privilege of sitting on the Technical Commission of Centro Caribe Sports and from the get-go, I inked my finger and campaigned for netball for I was confident that the sport's credentials would result in a landslide victory," he said.

As the number of Olympic sports on the agenda for multi-sport games increases, the need for a non-Olympic sport to ensure that it is "first to market" becomes increasingly critical for entry to such events as the CAC Games.

 "Insofar as netball is concerned, we at the JOA understood that in order to become a resident of the household of multi-sport games of the Olympic movement, the sport had to muscle its way to first in the line and present, persuasively, credentials for occupancy,” Samuda explained.

Jamaica’s netball pedigree is well known and in the run-up to the 2023 San Salvador CAC Games, the JOA and Netball Jamaica in partnership with Centro Caribe Sports, will be hosting educational workshops and training sessions for teams from Spanish-speaking countries with a view to enhancing their skill sets and technical competencies in the sport.

"What is the value of knowledge and expertise if they're not shared in creating greater capital and opportunities for others in the sporting fraternity?" JOA Secretary-General and CEO Foster queried.

With the withdrawal of Panama City as host of the games, the Executive Board of Centro Caribe Sports moved quickly to re-start the bidding process to secure an alternative host and recently formalized the contract with the Government of the Republic of El Salvador, the municipality of San Salvador and the Local Organizing Committee.

The Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) and the Guatemalan Olympic Committee (GOC) recently signed a historic Sports Co-operation Agreement that will see both bodies cooperating in the areas of applied sport sciences, sports medicine, technology, Olympic values, anti-doping, community and recreational sport, as well as sports administration.

The agreement will also facilitate the exchange of athletes and coaches who will benefit from educational and technical programmes.

The agreement was signed during the XXV General Assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committee (ANOC) in Greece.

JOA President Christopher Samuda declared that the signing of the agreement signifies an abiding commitment from the JOA and GOC to deepen their already strong bi-lateral relationship under which athletes, coaches, administrators and member federations will benefit from initiatives of capacity building and institutional strengthening, in research, training and education, sports-specific skills and the sciences and technology of sport.

President of the Guatemalan Olympic Committee, Gerardo Aguirre, also endorsed the historic partnership in regional sporting history.

"For us, Guatemala's NOC, we identified this as an opportunity to generate a connection with sport and athletes between Jamaica and Guatemala,” he said.

“Jamaica has specific strengths in sport and Guatemala has developed others, making these useful for us all to share. Therefore, this makes the signing of this agreement a marvellous opportunity and from it can come various avenues of activities so that Jamaican and Guatemalan athletes can come together."

Secretary-General and CEO of the Jamaica Olympic Association, Ryan Foster, who announced the agreement between the two Olympic organizations, explained that both Olympic bodies understand that efforts and relationships in sport must first be athlete-centric and dedicated.

 “Then, for stakeholders' engagement and empowerment and this agreement which we have signed is written testimony of that fact and the reality that friendships and unity in sport defy language barriers and the breadth of seas and oceans," he said.

Director of International Affairs of the Guatemalan Olympic Committee, Neville Steins, emphasized the importance and high value of the agreement in the context of bringing “not only our countries together through sport, but more still, bringing together the Caribbean and Central America in eliminating the absence of communication owing to language differences through the use of sport and thus bring our countries' athletes together for the common good."

The JOA's foreign policy supports strong and strategic partnerships in providing enabling opportunities for athletes, coaches and administrators.

 "The JOA will continue to build strong partnerships across borders and continents. We started in December 2017 when we inked in Japan with the Tottori Prefecture Government an agreement which is facilitating collaboration beyond the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games as for us sport development and diplomacy go beyond events and are life-changing experiences spanning generations. We will continue in earnest as sport is an enabler, equalizer and unifier" President Samuda said.

More Sports On Board for the Cali Junior Pan-American Games

The list of sports in which Jamaica will be represented at the first-ever Junior Pan-American Games in Cali, Colombia, continues to grow with the latest additions being Skateboarding, Squash and Archery.

President of the Jamaica Olympic Association, Christopher Samuda, describes the strong showing as "proof positive that the JOA's policy of equal opportunity, parity in investment and empowering the next-generation is encouraging and having results."

Representation now stands at a historic 12 sports, by far the largest number of sports that the local Olympic movement has ever had at a multi-sport regional or international games.

This fact has prompted President Samuda to say: "For us, at the JOA, strength lies in numbers, strength lies in a wealth of talent and strength lies in the conviction that today's real-time investment is tomorrow's history-making dividends."

Preparation for Cali is on in earnest and, for the Samuda-led administration, management of games generally has become a "business of sport" undertaking.

Commenting on the new approach, JOA Secretary-General and CEO, Ryan Foster, said: "Investing in and banking on the inflow of talent, increasing the numbers on the books,  creating opportunities for exponential growth and having a professional management team to  manage flow and outflow of games is our business at the JOA."

The positive response of the juniors augurs well for the future of the Olympic movement which is founded on the fundamental principles of inclusion and allowing each athlete the opportunity to transition to the international stage where, Secretary-General Foster stated, "history awaits those who had the discipline to train and the present will to succeed."

The Cali games will be held between November 25 and December 5 and "it will provide Jamaica's juniors and those of the America's opportunities to test their credentials for the 2023 Pan-American Games with the hope of graduating to the finale in 2024 in Paris" President Samuda stated.

Jamaica will be represented in several sports at the first-ever Junior Pan-American Games which is scheduled to take place in the city of Cali in Colombia between November 25 and December 5, 2021.

Responding to the call made by the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) earlier this year, several juniors from the so-called "smaller sports" dedicated their efforts in qualifying and have now earned a coveted place at the historic games.

Among those sports, whose athletes will don the black green and gold national colours in Cali, are Taekwondo, Weightlifting, Artistic Gymnastics, Fencing, Badminton Triathlon, Tennis, Cycling (Track), Skateboarding and Squash.

In commending the commitment of member associations and the nation's juniors, President of the Jamaica Olympic Association, Christopher Samuda, said: "Our associations and federations and their juniors have responded positively and with national pride to the JOA's Cali call to action for it will be for us, 'business unusual' in Cali and for them, it will be 'signed, sealed and delivered."

The JOA boss, in expressing a well-known policy of the national governing body, further stated "the JOA is giving our young sportsmen and women every opportunity to transition and be more than gold medalists - to be standard-bearers. The JOA subscribes to this ideal and Cali is certainly embracing it."

The number of local sports that will feature at the multi-sport junior games is indeed a record for the JOA and is being interpreted by its Secretary-General and CEO, Ryan Foster, as "a clear signal that the JOA's strategy of diversification is working well and that our members are inspiring their junior athletes to be history-makers and to strive for excellence."

With the Santiago 2023 Senior Pan-American Games and the Paris 2024 Olympic Games only two and three years away respectively, the JOA views the Cali games as a critical milestone. Secretary-General Foster, in giving the context, was unequivocal. "Cali is a dress rehearsal for our juniors. If you want to be at the senior shows, you have to, from now, dress for the shows, study the scripts and be able to deliver yourself on the big stages."

The stage lights in Cali will soon be turned on to spotlight over 3,800 athletes from the Caribbean and Americas - north, central and south -who will compete across 315 events in 28 sports and "Jamaica will be their centre stage and the objective is to have a leading role in this historic event," President Samuda said.

Jamaican Olympian Toni-Ann Williams is in Belgium to begin studies in Sports Administration on an Olympic Solidarity Scholarship via the Jamaica Olympic Association.

The Amateur Swimming Association of Jamaica (ASAJ) is brimming with pride over the advances made in the discipline of artistic swimming.

For athletes heading to Tokyo for the Olympic Games, winning medals would rank high on their list of priorities. For every Jamaican athlete who medals at the Tokyo Games, there is now an even greater incentive as anyone who wins a medal will get a bonus of free insurance for one year.

This latest incentive is one of the benefits from a recent partnership inked between the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) and Marathon Insurance Brokers Limited. The partnership is valued at J$12 million and will run for the three-year period leading up to the 2024 Olympic Games.

In reference to the benefits, Ryan Foster, Secretary General/CEO, JOA, gave a broader perspective of the deal that was announced nearly one week ago.

“The JOA/Marathon partnership was centred around expanding our member services to our associations. For far too long we have looked at sport as just attending Games, but have not done enough to tap into the sport as an avenue for social change,” he said.

“One of the benefits of this partnership is for the direct benefit of our athletes for which all medalists at the Olympic Games will receive free insurance for one year. This is in addition to the comprehensive coverage that Marathon will be providing for all members attending the Olympic Games.”

Marathon Insurance has had a long partnership with the JOA, dating back to the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games. This time they will be diving further into the deal with the JOA to deliver projects that involve the Athlete’s Commission and female empowerment through the Women’s Commission.

“The partnership has gone even further as Marathon will be partnering with the JOA and the Women’s Commission and Athlete Commission on various social projects geared towards, including, at-risk girls in sport and the expansion of Olympism values in schools,” Foster shared.

“All of these initiatives will be funded under this partnership and will involve the JOA engaging in providing not just mentoring and educational activities, but will involve nutritional support, school fees and school materials for the selected young athletes."

The very successful staging of the inaugural Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA)/Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) ‘Olympic Destiny’ track and field series has arrested the attention of the global sporting fraternity in a manner that has left experts shouting "bravo".

In a publication, World Athletics stated that the series is "aptly named JOA/JAAA ‘Olympic Destiny’. The Washington Post newspaper in the United States also had the event on its radar with a report on the explosive world-leading 10.63 performance of sprint queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the 100 metres.

Performances during the series were also captured in traditional and new media entities worldwide.

Although only in its first year, ‘Olympic Destiny’ has already earned a reputation locally and internationally as a standard-bearer in track and field, which the JOA and its member association, the JAAA, intend to guard jealously.

Contemplating current health challenges and risks and looking to the future, President of the JOA, Christopher Samuda, in a post-event interview, stated that, "Olympic Destiny gave athletes a new and inspired lease on life amidst the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and the national senior trials will be the 'Olympic Verdict' as athletes vie for coveted places at the pinnacle multi-sport the Olympic Games”.

The description, ‘Olympic Verdict’, of the national senior trials, is on point as several events, including the 100m, 200m, 110m hurdles and the triple jump for both men and women, as well as the discus for men, are expected to be competitive and showstoppers.

Secretary-General and CEO of the JOA, Ryan Foster, in anticipating keen contests, remarked that "on D-day at the national senior trials, diplomacy will somewhat give way to assertive rivalry for at the end of it all there will be one verdict, which performances will deliver.”

This year's national senior trials between June 24 and 27 at the National Stadium is indeed the ‘Olympic Verdict’ as "emerging generations will meet experienced campaigners in a decider that will be healthy for the sport, thrilling for the fans and ensure succession," Foster said.

The jury will certainly not be out where the staging of future Destiny series is concerned as the JOA intends to roll out ‘Olympic Destiny’ in 2022 and beyond in athletics and other sports.

"Olympic Destiny is now a staple on the calendar as we have earmarked the summer and winter Games as dramatic watershed events of exciting times ahead of us,'' Samuda declared.

If the significant turnout of athletes and the notable performances are anything to go by, the ‘Olympic Destiny’ Series will become not only a local product of Olympism but an international asset.

 

There is much hope that the development of Jamaica’s junior gymnastics will spring to another level with the inaugural Mayberry Gymnastics Strength & Skill Testing Series.

More than 100 youngsters, aged five years and older, are participating in the first event in the series, which is scheduled to begin today (Friday, May 14) at 5:00 p.m. and run through to Sunday, May 16, at the National Gymnastics Training Centre, at 1 Slipe Road in Kingston.

The series will take place quarterly for the next four years, courtesy of a joint effort by Mayberry Investments, which have invested one million dollars, the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) and the National Gymnastics Federation of Jamaica.

“This event is the first in a series to aid in the national junior development process and will continuously test the readiness of our athletes, as part of a four-year cycle, for the Olympic programme. In other words, this series is critical to the success and growth of our budding gymnasts,” remarked Gary Peart, CEO, Mayberry Investments.

“Mayberry wants to witness the honing of this sort of talent on the local stage so that we can make a big impact on the world stage. Jamaicans are known for being ‘likkle but tallawah’ and this is just another shining example that we are a force to be reckoned with.”

As the main feature, all participants in the training event will be awarded a medal.

“Mayberry is particularly happy that all the athletes involved will be awarded medals at the end of the testing series, because we believe that all efforts are valid, from the smallest to biggest,” Peart said.

Ryan Foster, Secretary General/CEO of the JOA, expressed his delight at the partnership that will bring yet another sport to the forefront of Jamaican athletics.

“The JOA is pleased to have brokered this deal under our JOA/Mayberry partnership that was established in 2019. The sport of gymnastics will be one of the sport that will be representing Jamaica at this summer’s Olympics and we are pleased with the trendsetting work done by President Grant-Brown and her team.

“The synergies between Mayberry and the Jamaica Gymnastics Federation was seamless and one built on developing the next generation of athletes. The JOA is extremely proud of one of our key partners, Mayberry, who has truly bought into our vision of building now for the future,” Foster shared. “They have demonstrated that they are good corporate citizens whose philanthropy has no bounds. We will continue to find avenues for our athletes and members to develop."

All told there will be five sessions, which includes the first that ended at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, followed by a 30-minute awards ceremony. Sessions two, three and four are slated for 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m, 12:15 p.m.-2:30 p.m. and 3:00-5:30 p.m., respectively, on Saturday; while Session five will run from 9:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Sunday. The final half-hour in each session is reserved for awards presentations. 

Former national hockey president and now President of Gymnastics Nicole Grant-Brown praised the effort of their partners and noted the impact of their support.

“Mayberry Investments is shining a light on us that is certainly helping us to have hope. Jamaica Gymnastics is in its growth stage and like any child, we need help to grow and with a good support system we can grow big and strong,” she said.

“We are happy and elated that the vision of the Jamaica Olympic Association is wide enough to recognize that gymnastics, which is seen in Jamaica as a minor sport, requires partnerships of this nature to make it major and will one day be placed in its rightful position as one of Jamaica’s most consistent Olympic sport and most participated by our youth in this country.

“Already we have made two consecutive Olympic Games, 2016 and 2021, and the sport has not yet reached its maturity stage.”

She also noted the strategies involved in carving out this series, which marks the beginning of Jamaica’s junior Olympic programme.

“The skills and strength testing is two to three times per year, which is the base for their development. This program compares to that of the United States’ USA TOPS program, which they use to draft gymnasts as young as six years old in their National Gymnastics program. If we want to be the best, we have to adopt what works from the best while developing our own strategies based on our unique culture and natural athletics abilities,” she said.

Ten-year-old gymnast, Rihanna Williams, endorsed the series, saying: “We are the future of gymnastics. We train 5-6 hours, five days per week and it’s very hard. We do this because we love gymnastics and at the end of the day, we want to make Jamaica proud.

“We hope you will not leave us but stay with us and help us grow as we will be Olympians in the future. Thank you again Mayberry Investments, we will make you proud to be part of our family.”

A berth at this year's summer Tokyo Olympic games is undoubtedly on the radar of Jamaica's top table tennis players, Simon Tomlinson and Kane Watson, who both continue to show impressive form at the international camp in Broward, Florida, where they are currently in training for the Olympic qualifiers later this month in Argentina.

Ever since COVID-19 took real effect on the Jamaican landscape around March 2020, the local sporting fraternity has taken a battering, with the vast majority of disciplines forced off the playground and their architects, the sportsmen and sportswomen, unable to parade their skills.

Structures to advance the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) agenda for education and sport have been bolstered by a Protocol of Cooperation between the country’s apex body for sports, the Jamaica Paralympic Association (JPA) and the United State Sports Academy (USSA).

Under terms of the agreement, the Academy will utilize the institution’s expertise and resources to aid Jamaica’s national sporting effort, which is already being upgraded with the JOA Scholarship and JOA Internship Programs that were launched last year.

Due to COVID-19, the recent historic signing ceremony was – for the USSA first-time - held virtually with the Academy faculty and staff on the institution’s campus in Daphne, Alabama, while the JOA and JPA partners signed in Jamaica.

The JOA and JPA team was led by President of both associations, Christopher Samuda and JPA Director and JOA Secretary-General and CEO, Ryan Foster.

“This partnership places the JOA and JPA and USSA at the epicentre of sport and sports development, which is education,” said JOA President, Christopher Samuda.

“Education is indeed at the heart of this partnership as the JOA, JPA and the Academy work together for those who will be the beneficiaries of knowledge and understanding in the various disciplines in sport; disciplines such as sports management and studies, exercise science, sports coaching and recreation management,” added Samuda.

Within a 24-hour span, it was the second occasion marking an agreement with an international partner that was signed off by the JOA, adding to the 10-year historic Memorandum of Strategic Alliance with World Eleven Inc./Argentina Football Association (AFA), which will provide advantages offered by the AFA’s Technology Institute to the benefit of Jamaica’s football.

The USSA traditionally holds face-to-face signings with its international partners and until COVID-19 cases have declined to a safe level, the Academy’s programs will also be delivered online to students and athletes in Jamaica.

“In many ways, the event being conducted virtually is emblematic of the world of sports in 2020,” said Dr Thomas ‘TJ’ Rosandich, Academy President and CEO. “Before this past February, a signing ceremony for a Protocol for Cooperation between the Jamaica Olympic Association and Jamaica Paralympic Association and the Academy would have been conducted in Kingston (Jamaica) amidst sessions on program planning.

“We’ve all seen the changes to the sports profession at the local, regional, continental and global levels this year. However, I view this step today in signing this protocol as an affirmation of the belief that sports will recover and continue to play a major role in society in the days to come,” Dr Rosandich expressed.

 The Protocol of Cooperation marks the return of the institution’s post-secondary, non-degree programs to Jamaica for the first time in a decade.

 Samuda commented: “Cross fertilisation you may call it, cross-pollination, transfer of knowledge, however you may characterise this partnership that has come into being, what is clear is that sport has not only won the battle but the war and that we, the JOA, the JPA and the USSA are transforming qualitatively the game through education and giving sports a defining perspective of multilateral cooperation. Multilateral for this partnership will birth others in education as we here in Jamaica continue to build out the infrastructure in sport on a solid and secure foundation and create synergies across physical borders which cannot deny us the bond, which today has been established.”

Foster, the main driver behind the JOA’s Scholarship and Internship programmes, noted the JOA and JPA’s belief in empowerment through education and training and the legacy it creates for athletes, administrators and other professionals in sports.

“The opportunities that are being made available through this partnership are pioneering - never witnessed before. Members and indeed the wider local fraternity of sport will have more options to expand and broaden their capabilities through the various programmes that will be offered at the bachelor, post-graduate and doctoral levels. With trademark vision and purpose, the JOA and JPA will unite with the USSA, which has a 40-year track record in the delivery of sports education across 65 countries, in creating an enviable model of sports collaboration and development,” said Foster.

“The signal work of Dr T.J. Rosandich, President and CEO of the USSA and his team in facilitating this historic partnership; the stewardship and foresight of President Samuda in identifying and negotiating opportunities for the benefit of our membership and stakeholders; and my own passion to build viable partnerships within and beyond Jamaica that give meaning to lives in sport are motivated by service, an opportunity for which our colleagues and ourselves are grateful,” Foster added.

The Academy has delivered post-secondary, non-degree sport education programs in some 67 countries over nearly half a century. Once COVID-19 cases decline to a safe level, the institution plans to teach its programs on the ground in Jamaica.

Dr Rosandich said: “Fortunately, the Academy is well prepared to provide the quality sports education and workforce development programs that the JOA and JPA are seeking.

“The Academy is already an acknowledged leader in providing online distance education programs. As conditions change and travel restrictions in Jamaica ease, the Academy is prepared to revert to onsite, face-to-face instruction,” said Dr Rosandich.

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