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Campion's Justin Vaz riding high
Orville Clarke, Freelance Writer
Thirteen-year-old Justin Vaz has established himself as Jamaica's top junior show-jumping talent and his long-term objective is to represent his country at the Olympics.
Justin, a third former at Campion College, won category A of the FEI Children's World show-jumping competition held recently at the St. Ann Polo Club and Equestrian Centre, Drax Hall.
He partnered his favourite horse, Shabba Ranks, through the four rounds over fences.
In the past month, Justin, along with seniors Julian Hyde and Bianca Fedele (accompanied by national coach Betty Wates), represented the Jamaica eques-trian team in Puerto Rico - one of the many international show jumping contests in which he has participated over the years.
However, his days in the junior ranks are numbered. Justin will celebrate his 14th birthday on December 21 and thereafter will no longer be eligible to compete in children's events.
Despite this, he is looking forward to the challenge and hopes to make a smooth transition.
"I love the sport and providing I continue to train hard on the weekends, as I attend school during the week, stepping up won't be a problem," says Justin who is coached by Yvonne Whittingham at the St. Ann Polo Club.
Encouraged by his parents Richard and Janet Vaz, Justin, who resides with them in Lydford, St. Ann, has been associated with equestrian sports from a tender age. Over the years he has emerged as one of the most accomplished juniors locally.
Since the start of the year he has represented Jamaica in Costa Rica, Bermuda, Colombia and Puerto Rico, while locally he has won the Hi-Pro Mini Grand Prix in July and the recent FEI competition.
Justin is not only adept at showjumping but dressage as well, having represented his country in both disciplines.
He won the FEI Children's dressage competition in April 2004 and repeated the following year.
Months later he won the showjumping competition and the Hi-Pro Mini Grand Prix and Grand Prix in August 2005. He continued to progress along the right lines both locally and internationally in 2006.
Justin placed sixth out of 66 competitors as Jamaica's repre-sentative at an international show-jumping contest in Columbia back in June and, all in all, has done well at home and aboard.
Following in his footsteps is his 10-year-old brother Jonothan, who is a already a keen competitor.
Justin has not allowed equestrian activities to interfere with his school work, as he is an honours student at Campion. As he looks to the future, the sky's the limit.