#BTEditorial – Our athletes deserve much more than lip service
“We want to see action. We have been hearing for so long; so, we want to see some movement on that. . . .” – Former Olympian and coach Harcourt Wason, speaking on Starcom Network News this week.
Wason was speaking about the need for new sports facilities in Barbados, a day after our flag was raised and the National anthem was played at Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham, London. The events leading up to this occasion were exhilarating, to say the least.
Quarter-mile runner Sada Williams had crushed a field of seven other world-class athletes and won a gold medal. Her glory followed Andrea Blackett’s incredible feat 24 years ago at the Kuala Lumpur Games.
Minutes earlier, fellow quarter mile and former classmate Jonathan Jones clinched a bronze medal in a searing run among the best in the world. The two added to the silver Shane Brathwaite had already captured, and the country left the commonwealth games with three medals – the same number of medals as at the 1998 Games.
And while we rejoice in the achievements and what it means for the athletes and Barbados as a whole, we can’t help but wonder why has it taken us 24 years? And why, after more than two decades, have we not seen medals increase?
There will be many assumptions and arguments put forward to justify the 24-year drought, but the truth is, we have no excuses. We have been and continue to be blessed with talented athletes; Unfortunately, we can’t make the world stage just because of our talent.
We applaud the loudest when we see them on the starting lines. We burst into joy as they crossed the finish line to claim a spot on the medal podium; Yet, as a country, we are not making as much effort and action to fully support our athletes on their respective journeys.
The most obvious is the lack of facilities, but while this is glaring there are many other factors. Athletes need money for a proper diet, proper equipment, to compete overseas, and the list goes on.
Therefore, in order to ensure that we do not have to wait another 24 years, everyone must be on board.
The Bajans should make it a point to ensure that they heavily attend the various athletic meets held throughout the season. Neighbors and community-minded people should be eager to donate when they hear about fundraisers and other support activities for sports clubs.
There is something we can all do, no matter how small, that can help our national athletes.
Government and business in Barbados must be actively involved. The time for gossip is long gone. Why are none of these three medal-winning athletes sponsored by an entity in Barbados?
In addition to facilities, we need a structured and well thought out development plan for our athletes. The idea that most top athletes get scholarships, train abroad and therefore a facility is not a priority should be dismissed. Adequate installation is necessary from the primary level. You cannot consistently produce world-class athletes with inferior facilities. You cannot produce world-class athletes if we continue to treat athletics as a sideshow. We need to get serious about the lucrative profession.
The trinity day reported that the Trinidad Department of Sports and Community Development would reward commonwealth games winners of over TT$1 million through its 2017-2027 Awards and Incentives Framework.
Minister Shamfa Cudjoe recently confirmed via Facebook that $250,000 will be awarded to each individual athlete who wins gold at the Games. Silver medalists will win $125,000 while bronze receivers will take home $62,500. T&T ended the commonwealth games with six medals – three gold, two silver and one bronze.
What are we doing in Barbados to motivate our athletes? Until 2018, 2009 world champion Ryan Brathwaite told the media that he had not received the title deeds to the land he was promised when he returned home after his golden run.
Olympian Obadele Thompson, speaking on Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth tonight The show on Sportsmax TV gave a candid and sobering assessment of where we are versus where we should be.
He said: “I am extremely proud to have the chance to hear our anthem and see our flag rise to the top; it’s a great feeling. It is long overdue. I’ve been saying for a long time that we have the talent. We’ve seen this before in 2009 when Ryan Brathwaite won the 110 hurdles in Berlin – setting the national record – and we’ve had glimpses of it in the past.
“The hope is that we can build on that and build with the core of athletes that we have now. There has to be strong belief, there has to be policy, there has to be funding and there has to be having a structure in place to make sure the athletes that we have are nurtured well so they can continue to do well and then there’s a pipeline established for young people coming up. . . . I think once we can do that, there won’t be a 24-year gap between what they did today and what it was the last time.
As a country, if we want more opportunities to feel that overwhelming sense of patriotism and national pride like we all did on Sunday morning, we need to challenge ourselves to do whatever we can to make that feeling the norm. It is not beyond us to realize. We must all collectively want it and act, not just talk, to that end.