Submitted by Wayne Cadogan
Four years ago after the 2012 Olympics in London, the Barbados Olympic Association stated that they have to go back to the drawing board for the 2016 Olympics after another dismal performance once again of our athletes not getting pass the first rounds in any event. This has been the norm for many an Olympics, the most prestigious event and highest level of all sports. Again this year after the Olympics, the post mortem by the President of the Olympic Association is that they have to go back to the drawing board, defending the amount of officials who went to the games, how much money it takes to prepare an athlete for the Olympics and other games; another case of same ole, same ole excuses for the non performance of the athletes.
Well, it is apparent that the Barbados Olympic association either did not find the drawing board or that they lost it with all the information that they had on it. To draw a true perspective on sports in Barbados I will go back to the sixties and come forward. Although my writing would be referring to all sports in Barbados, primarily my main focus will be focussed on the current state of athletics and why there has been no progress.
Before the construction of the current so called National Stadium, (just a pig pen) all the national sports competition in cycling, football, hockey, track and field and cricket on a local and international level took place at Kensington Oval. Of course, all the events were contested on grass and all the equipment of that era was not of the standard quality of today’s equipment. In those days, Barbados national teams were exceptionally strong in all sports and were one of the three power houses along with Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in the region. The so called small islands were not a match for any of the big tree and never figured in any form of competition against them, a far cry from today with these same small islands competing against and beating Barbados in all sporting activities today.
In the 1948 Olympics in London, Arthur Wint of Jamaica won the 400 meters on a dirt track in 46.2 seconds in shoes that weighed a ton with four one inch spikes in each shoe; with his team mate Herb Mckinley the former world record holder running second in 46.4 seconds. The 100 meters was won by Harrison Dillard in 10.3 seconds, with his team mate Barney Ewell second in 10.4 seconds and Lloyd LaBeach of Panama third in 10.6 seconds. The 200 meters was won by Mel Patton of the USA in 21.1 seconds, with his team mate Barney Ewell second in 21.1 seconds and Lloyd LaBreach third in 21.2. Sixty eight years later at the Rio Olympics, on a rubberize track that make athletes run faster, light weight shoes and air dynamic running clothing, one of our athletes (in my humble opinion, who has the potential to be our best sprinter and our next Olympic medallist) ran 21.2 seconds in the first round of the 200 meters.
At the CARIFTA level in 2007, Yohan Blake won the Boy’s Under 20, 100 meters in 20.11 seconds. In 2008 in Kirani James of Grenada won the Under 17 Boy’s 200meters in 21.38 seconds and the 400 meters in 47.87 seconds. Yohan Blake won the Boy’s 100 meters in 10.32 seconds. Nickel Meade of Jamaica won the 200 meters in 20.16 seconds. The 400 meters was won by Rondell Bartolomew of Jamaica in 46.86 seconds with Fabian Norgrove of Barbados placing third in 47.55 seconds.
The 2009 CARIFTA Boy’s Under 20, 100 meters was won by Shekiem Greaves of Barbados in 10.23 seconds and Rachad Forde of Barbados third in 10.55 seconds. The 400 meters was won by Karani James of Grenada in 45.45 seconds with his team mate Rondell Bartolomew running second in 45.48 seconds and Fabian Norgrove of Barbados placing fourth in 47.09 seconds.
The 2010 CARIFTA Boy’s Under 20, 100 meters was won by Geno Jones of Jamaica in 10.44 seconds. Karani James of Grenada won the 200 meters in 20.76 seconds and Shekiem Greaves of Barbados third in 21.29 seconds. Karani James also won the 400 meters in 45.02 seconds with Shaquille Alleyne of Barbados placing sixth in 48.09 seconds and his countryman Christopher Davis placing seventh in 48.54 seconds.
The Under 18 Boy’s 100 meters in this year’s CARIFTA Games was won by Jhevaugh Matterson in 10.42 seconds, with Mathew Clarke of Barbados placing fifth in 10.78. The Under 20 Boy’s 100 meters was won by Nigel Ellis of Jamaica in 10.16 seconds with Mario Burke of Barbados placing second in 10.29 seconds. Michael Stephens of Jamaica won the Under 18 Boy’s 200 meters in 21.43, with Mathew Clarke of Barbados placing third in 21.56 seconds and Josiah Atkins placing seventh in 22.38 seconds. In the Under 20 Boy’s 200 meters, Akanni Hislop from Trinidad and Tobago won in 20.89 seconds and Mario Burke finishing second in 21.14 seconds. In the Under 18 Boy’s 400 meters, Christopher Taylor of Jamaica won in 47.36 seconds and Antoni Hoyte-Small placing second in 48.23 seconds. The Under 20 Boy’s 400 meters was won by Akeem Bloomfield of Jamaica in 46.01 seconds.
The 2016 Barbados CARIFTA athletes have shown very little improvement in their times and placings in comparison to past CARIFTA games. The above information of the CARIFTA games between 2007 – 2009 was to give an indication as to how Barbados male athletes have progressed over the years in the 100, 200 and 400 meters events between 2007 and 2016 as well as to where those athletes were then and now on the world scene in comparison to the other athletes who competed during those years.
Okay, let’s start in the sixties where a great man named Louis Albert Lynch, a great Barbadian hero, one who should have been listed as one of our great heroes before some of our current heroes. There were no Sealy’s, Stoute’s or Maynard’s, as a matter of fact; they were nonexistent as far as athletics was concerned. I vaguely remember Stoute around cycling at Kensington with the club Brighton Saddle Boys if my memory serves me right. Louis Lynch ran things in those days as President of the Olympic Association; there was a Simmons who was part of a 13 man official’s team that travelled to Puerto Rico with three athletes, so one can see that it is nothing new with more officials than athletes travelling to meets. The precedent was set a long time ago and is nothing new.
In the sixties, our athletes were running faster times on a grass track with one inch spikes and shoes that felt like bricks on your feet than the times that our current athletes are running on a modern track. In 1966, Jamaican school boys decimated our school boys on the track in all the events as if they were competing against elementary students, with the exception of two or three athletes that held their own against the competition. There were times like 10.3 seconds in the 100 meters, 20.6 seconds in the 200 meters, 46. seconds in the 400 meters and 1.5. for the 800 meters, all on grass. One would expect that sixty years later, with better equipment, a modern track, that our athletes would be running faster.
I exited the track scene in 1968 and returned to the island to reside in 1983. The first person that I went to see on my return was one of the top administrators from the BOA and was told by this official, “we are happy to have you back, you are the most senior athlete, but we do things here or our own way”. I heeded to their comments and stayed clear until 1986, when I rocked the boat for the Presidency of the AAA’s. However a certain coach felt that I should not be the President and gang up with others to make sure that I was not, this same coach had objected to me a few years prior to pointing out to one of his athletes on a technical problem that he had. Again, there were many other athletes that had returned to the island and their assistance was not welcomed by the coaches probably out of jealousy and most refrained from getting involved and so did I. I can understand fully well why Obadele Thompson is not called upon for his input or expertise as well as our overseas University coaches.
I will now fast forward to the current multiplicity of problems facing the athletic scene and why it continues to regress. Unfortunately the major problem is a lack of a proper overall sports program, especially in athletics. In order for an athlete to progress, he or she has to be exposed to a higher level of competition rather than what currently exist locally. The last time that a world class athlete graced these shores to compete was back in the eighties. Our neighbours Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, as well as the other islands all have world ranking athletes and yet they do not compete here because of the substandard level of competition.
Another major problem is the club system and the infighting among them. There are at least ten track clubs on the island and yet when there is a track meet, in most cases there are no heats, but straight finals with four or five athletes in most instances. This is one of the reasons why the athletes when they go overseas to compete, that they have problems running heats to qualify for finals because they are not use to running heats at home. What the Amateur Athletic Association needs to do to solve this problem, is to make each club enter a minimum of two athletes or more for each event.
There is also a big problem with the coaches not wanting there athletes to train with other coaches. Most coaches specialize in a particular event and is not capable of coaching all the disciplines and should therefore allow their athletes to train with another coach who specializes in a particular event or whose strength is in a particular event. Most of the athletes locally have technical flaws in one area or another and the majority of coaches are not capable of ironing out the flaws in order to make that athlete run faster. But the problem there is that each coach is looking for glory if that athlete does excel and not the bigger picture.
The Amateur Athletic Association puts too much emphasis on the amount of medals that the country wins at the CARIFTA games rather than the athlete producing better times. Instead of having athletes competing in three events in three days of competition in most cases, specialize in one or two events, because of all the heats leading up to the finals. Over the years many an athlete was destroyed competing at the CARIFTA games by having to compete in three events, with the latest being Mary Frazer. It takes a day to recuperate for each mile raced and Mary Frazer competed the heats and finals in the under 18, 800 and 1500 meters as well as the open 3000 meters in three days. This was definitely two much of a work load for her tender age and she paid the ultimate penalty and did not make the team for the games a year later.
In order for our athletes to improve, they will need to compete against better competition and it cannot be done in Barbados. There has been a lot of foolish talk about home grown athletes, because the Jamaicans train at home. But the difference between Barbados and Jamaica is that Jamaica has a proper sports program, the numbers, top quality coaches and athletes. They train at home, but compete in the USA, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Europe as well as the fact that the Americans and other world class athletes travel to Jamaica to compete. Also the coaches in Barbados are only capable of coaching the athletes to a certain level and no more. There is more to coaching than just giving an athlete a workout and timing him or telling them to go and run a few miles. It is the technical aspect that is most important, looking for and correcting that flaw that can make an athlete run that one one-hundredth of a second faster.
The government of Barbados needs to take sports more seriously since it is the sportsmen and women are the ones who help to put Barbados on the map. The time is long overdue for a proper Sports Stadium and training facilities. What we call a national stadium is the pits and the worse in the region, all the other islands have proper Sports Stadiums and even the poorest of the islands, and that is one of the reasons why they are producing world class sportsmen and women in every field. Our public officials are always very quick to run up to the Airport when our sportsmen and women return to the island from overseas competition for publicity. One could imagine what would happen if we had the calibre of sportsmen and women like Jamaica when they arrive at the airport, it would be pure pandemonium.
It appears that the Olympic Association is a closed fraternity with the President at the helm for the past thirty years and most of its members. The President has to be the longest serving President in the world of any organization. What has the President and his members achieved and to show the country during the past thirty years other than their personal satisfaction. Thirty years and only one Olympic medal and one World Championship medal, what is the justification. Wow, Grenada has achieved more Olympic and World Championship medals than Barbados within a third of the time that Barbados took to achieve its two medals. As a matter of fact, the Olympic Association or the AAA cannot take credit for Obadele Thompson’s success, they both did very little in helping him along the way, had not for the support he received from his parents, he might not have achieved his goals. It is time for the BOA to have a change within the organization, fresh faces and more progressive thinking minds to take the organization forward. The BOA has become stymied in its way of thinking and operating. Too many false promises after each Olympics and it is the same results, Olympics after Olympics and nothing to show. At least a number of people are benefitting from the free trips to every cock fight. A few years ago, one Sports Administrator confided in me that they have seen the world at the expense of one of the organizations and that is what it is all about within all the organizations and not about the sportsmen and women.
I have always questioned why Barbados continues to send athletes to the Olympics, the highest level of athletics competition to just run in the first round, because they barely make the qualifying times. I have always maintained that if an athlete cannot win a medal at the Central and Caribbean games, how they can win a medal at the highest level against the best athletes in the world! Yes one can argue that they go for the exposure, but is the Olympic the right place to provide that exposure in front of thousands of spectators? I believe the real reason is that the more athletes that attend the Olympics is to justify the large amount of officials.
One last thing, the local sports journalist need to stop adopting and claiming every athlete that represent other countries as our own, because they have Barbadian roots somewhere along the line. Some of these athletes do not even mention Barbados and we jumping on their band wagon. What the relevant authority needs to do is to put systems in place to get our athletes to reach that standard where they can compete and win gold medals at the highest level in order that the journalist would stop trying to import one of their own double Olympic gold medallists who competes for another country to compete for Barbados.