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Joy in Top Coffee Grove

Community celebrates double Olympian Natoya Goule, renames road in her honour

BY KASEY WILLIAMS
Observer staff reporter
kaseyw@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — There was immense jubilation in the deep-rural community of Top Coffee Grove (Manchester Central) last Friday as family, friends and politicians honoured double Olympian Natoya Goule-Toppin.

They joyfully watched the unveiling of a new sign commemorating her 800-metre national record at the entrance to what was Overpond, now renamed Natoya Goule Avenue, which reads: “Welcome to Top Coffee Grove, home of Natoya Goule, Jamaica's 2020 800m record holder”.

The estimated cost of the project to construct storm water drainage and pave the roadway was $6.5 million.

The project was initiated following appeals by Councillor for the Bellefield Division Mario Mitchell (People's National Party) for the roadway to be done in honour of the double Olympian.

Goule-Toppin, a middle-distance runner, told journalists that her accomplishment of making it to the women's 800-metre final at the recent 2020 Tokyo Olympics is her proudest moment.

“I'm feeling really proud of this moment, because not many people can have a road named after them and to know that they [people] came together to have this special day for me to rename my street after me, which I grew up in,” she said.

“My proudest moment is making it to the final for the first time in a major championships, because I have always gone to World Championships and Olympics and to make it past the first round, but to know that I was able to do that was like the proudest moment of my life,” she added.

She expressed gratitude to her family, friends and fans for their support.

“I want to say a big thank you for all the support that I have been getting from Manchester High School days until now. [There are] persons that were there from the beginning and still here today and for those that came in afterwards, I am really thankful for all of you — my friends, family and fans — I thank you for everything you have done for cheering me on, even when I'm not winning, I just want to say thank you,” she said.

Veteran coach Jerry Holness recalled watching her stride at a primary school track meet in 2003.

“I can remember in 2003. We were out recruiting and we came upon this very little dynamic. She was a champion, one of the smallest athletes in her age group competing at the meet, but yet she was fearless,” he said.

“Natoya went through her high school career for six years without losing a single race at Champs [Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships]… She also went undefeated at the Carifta level,” he added.

Her sister, Petrona Green, reminisced about their upbringing and Natoya's swiftness from her childhood.

“You could put the pot on the fire and send her to shop before the pot start to boil, that's how she was… Today, I am really proud of my sister. To know that she has come a mighty long way and the support is tremendous,” said Green.

Manchester Central Member of Parliament (MP) Rhoda Crawford (Jamaica Labour Party) commended Goule-Toppin and Councillor Mitchell.

“We are showing the rest of Jamaica that Manchester Central has so many champions and Natoya Goule is our newest testament… I want to publicly thank Councillor Mario Mitchell for this initiative,” she said.

Mitchell used the opportunity to disclose that there are many more roads to be rehabilitated in the division.

“The tune of $6.5 million was the cost of this brand-new road, and I think it is value for money. There is a storm drain, which means that we are thinking about the longevity of the road and I think it is money well spent. There are many more to be done,” he said.

Former MP (PNP) for Manchester Central Senator Peter Bunting said that he had invested in Goule-Toppin's growth.

“It has been a long journey with Natoya. It really takes a village to make a star,” he said.

“I, along with Councillor Mitchell, we try to recognise all the extraordinary athletes who [are] from the Bellefield Division,” he added.

He marvelled at the wealth of athletic talent from communities in and close to the Bellefield division in central Jamaica.

“If you drop a pin somewhere around where Clarendon, Manchester and Trelawny meet up in the centre of the island and you draw a circle around that maybe a 10- or 15-mile radius, the amount of athletic superstars that come from that little area,” he said, listing luminaries like Omar McLeod, Elaine Thompson Herah, Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Veronica Campbell Brown, Usain Bolt, Sherone Simpson, and Janieve Russell.

Sports minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange, who arrived shortly after a break in heavy rainfall to unveil the sign, commended all stakeholders for the initiative.

“I have always been like a mentor to her and I am so proud of her. This is most deserving. I want to thank the councillor, the former MP, and the present MP for [their] support. This is about an athlete who has made her country proud and in sports [and] there is no political divide,” said Grange.