Blame game for ObaObadele Thompson. (FP)
By Joyann Clarke | Sun, September 23, 2012 - 12:03 AM
On June 11, 2012, Obadele Thompson gave a story to the DAILY NATION newspaper stating that he expected the management team of the Sydney Olympic Games to make a protest in the men’s 200 metres race, where he placed fourth, but that they did not.
During the staging of the 2012 Olympic Games, he posted a story on his Facebook page which was carried in a St Kitts and Nevis newspaper concerning Kim Collins being thrown out of the Olympic Games in London.
Oba took that opportunity to bring up the issue again of his fourth place finish at the Sydney Olympics, complaining that the Barbados management team did not protest because of the $100 fee, and this might have cost him a medal.
He also called the Barbadian officials “incompetent, unprepared and petty-power hungry”. He went on to say that he was 100 per cent sure that had he been competing for Jamaica he would have been a world champion. The article was published in the DAILY NATION newspaper on June 11, 2012, and I responded in the SUNDAY SUN of August 19, 2012.
Oba issued a five-part series of articles.
This response will be my final one as I refuse to get into any further back and forth with Obadele Thompson.
Throughout Oba’s career, he always blamed the drug cheats for his not being a world champion, and these sentiments were expressed in public. Now, Oba finds himself in a peculiar situation where he would not even mention the words “drug cheats”, so it is now the AAA’s handling of him that would have cost him his gold medal.
I have asked Leroy Harper, a top chief photo judge here in Barbados to read the two photo finish pictures that Oba is referring to above and give his expert opinion. If Oba is still not satisfied with a Barbadian reading of the photo, he can send it to Tim Layden (the expert who analyzed the photo of Felix and Tarmoh). This is Leroy Harper’s findings.
“Based on that image, with Ato Boldon and Obadele Thompson there is a clear separation of torsos for third and fourth place. Unless an infringement had occurred, it’s my opinion that a protest would have been in vain. A greater challenge would have been presented in Ryan Brathwaite’s World Championship win in 2009 where 0.01 seconds separated the top three.
“In the case of the image with Felix and Tarmoh, one hashline covers both torsos. It would be extremely difficult to separate them even with magnification.”
Obadele gave the public the impression that he struggled financially in order to win an Olympic medal for Barbados.
Steve Stoute, president of the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA), speaking on the Starcom Network’s Sportswise programme, stated that Obadele Thompson was well provided for whenever he competed under the umbrella of the BOA.
Mr Stoute said on the programme that the BOA went out of its way to cater to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games bronze medallist. He went on to say: “Certainly, whatever Obadele Thompson asked the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA) for through the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA), he was provided with.
“Many times he wanted his own personal masseur; he wanted his personal coach. These things we went out of our way to facilitate – certainly, funds for training and so on – whatever it was, within our budget.”
Still, Oba gives the public the impression that he sacrificed so much for Barbados, and I still maintain he got more than what he gave. Perhaps when he makes his revenue statement known to the public, we will know for sure.
One issue that I addressed is that Oba never took his national duties seriously and tried on many occasions to get out of coming to National Championships, CAC and Pan Am Games. Oba wrote for two days and six pages in the NATION to show why he could not come to these meets.
At the end of the day, all athletes are required to come to Nationals, CAC and Pan Am, etc, so these events should be slated into the athlete’s schedule for the year.
Some of Oba’s excuses had to do with injuries or commitment to another meet in Europe.
In 1999, the AAA selected Oba for the Pan American Games. He said that he had outgrown Pan Am. It is worth noting that Claudenel Desilva from Brazil won the Pan Am 100 metres that year and went on to win the silver medal at the World Championship in Seville, where Ato Boldon won gold. Oba was fourth.
Oba charged that I failed to mention that top athletes [from] Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and The Bahamas did not go to these meets. I also failed to tell the public that Oba lined up himself alongside of top Caribbean athletes like Ato Boldon, but look at Boldon’s progress at major meets.
At 18 years, Boldon was World junior champion in the 100 and 200 metres. In 1995, Boldon won his first World Championship medal, and in 1996, his first Olympic medal. All this time, Oba had not won any major medals.
Prior to the Sydney Olympics, Andrea Blackett was Barbados’ star athlete after winning a Commonwealth Games gold medal and breaking the record in the 400-metre hurdles.
Oba won a bronze medal at the same Commonwealth Games. Andrea never missed a meet that the AAA of Barbados asked her to compete at. Even when at times she was not expected to compete due to injury, Andrea was there ready to go. That is an example of a selfless athlete with true national pride.
Oba would like to play down the fact that I am constantly talking about him not wearing his Barbados uniform on the medal podium in Sydney. His excuse was that he forgot it. Oba said that all other occasions he wore the uniform, but at the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia, Oba also went to the medal podium without the Barbados uniform and I can recall officials running to get one to him before he got on the podium.
Oba should have been dressed in the Barbados uniform before he left his room in the games village.
The athletes’ contract from the BOA includes the following: “To wear the official team track suit (jacket and trousers) at any medal ceremony in which I am involved.”
Oba used a picture in his Barbados competition uniform holding the flag to show the public that he wears the Barbados uniform, but this is one area that is closely monitored so he had no choice, and the team manager ran to the track side. I still maintain his actions on both occasions were deliberate and it should have at least been addressed by the BOA and the AAA of Barbados as I consider it a very serious offence.
In my response to Oba’s accusations, I recalled that during the time that Oba should have been warming up for the 200 metres, we were told by an athlete that he was in the massage room. This is when we tried to get in contact with him, and by Oba’s own admission “no one was coming in there – no one”.
The Barbadian officials were not friends or fans. We were officials representing Barbados, who should have access to all of our athletes when necessary.
This was Oba’s response: “We decided on an abbreviated warm-up routine so that I could preserve my body and what little energy I had left. Part of that warm-up was to take place on the above ground warm-up track and the other part on the 60 metres underground track during the 45 minutes or so of processing that occurs before athletes compete in the main stadium.
“Perhaps Ms Clarke and Mr Lynch did not understand what was happening, but it is laughable to believe that a coach of Mr Pfaff’s calibre would allow me to enter into an Olympic final, where I had an excellent chance of medalling, without any sort of warm-up. As it was, I trusted implicitly in his judgment on the matter.”
If Oba had informed the Barbados management, who were ultimately responsible for him, that he had some problems, and what his plans were, we would have had no reason to look for him or even to be concerned.
Could you imagine Oba not showing up for his race because something went wrong and the Barbados officials were not aware? We would have the public to deal with. But Oba did not think that he had any obligation to communicate with the Barbadian officials.
Oba launched a personal attack on me in the final article of his series on Sunday, September 11, 2012.
He said: “I wish to ask Ms Clarke to tell Barbados and the world how much she has given back to the country in terms of what she has received from it. I understand that she was on an athletic scholarship at Eastern Michigan University.
“Please ask her to tell Barbadians at what championships she represented the country and what medals she won. Let her tell us in which Hall of Fame, either local or internationally, her name has been written in the athletic sphere or any sphere.
“Where is her name recorded in the annals of Barbadian sports on the walls or anywhere else in the Barbados Olympic Association’s museum?
“Of course, I am asking for all this information but not expecting anything substantial to emerge from my quest. Indeed, I don’t even expect her to reply to this query; but she may surprise me.”
Here is my response. I won four CARIFTA medals for Barbados. I stood on the medal podium in my Barbados uniform as an Under-17 athlete between Juliette Cuthbert, of Jamaica, and Eldece Clarke, of The Bahamas, both of whom went on to become Olympic medallists. All three of us had run the same time, but I was given second place. I still hold all four of my medals today.
As an Under-20 athlete, my coach in the USA would not allow us to attend CARIFTA Games. I attended one CAC Games but did not compete because of an injury, and in my day, we had to pay our way to the Barbados Olympic trials.
The AAA paid and brought Oba and the other athletes home for trials. My athletic career ended at 21 years of age because I, along with many of our athletes, had to come home and work. Maybe if I had the resources that Oba had I too, might have been an Olympic medallist.
However, I had four outstanding years at Eastern Michigan University, and I was notified recently by the university I will be inducted into the Eastern Michigan University Hall of Fame in 2013. I will be sure to send Oba a personal photo.
I am not the one complaining about my achievements, and I have no hang-ups about my short but powerful athletic career.
I have served as a coach at the Alleyne School identifying and preparing athletes like Ronald “Concorde” Thorne, a World junior finallist (May he rest in peace) and Nikkisha Maynard (CARIFTA gold medallist and record holder) to compete for their country.
I was the official starter for many of the races that Oba would have competed in at the National Stadium. I sat on the committee which organized the Inter-School Sports where Oba would have competed.
I was a member of the executive council of the AAA for ten years, preparing Oba’s entries for competition.
I can recall one occasion when I had to leave my job during the day to attend to a situation involving an overseas query involving Oba, and I was a member of the Barbados management team at many international meets that Oba competed in, including World Championships, the Commonwealth and Olympic Games where he won his bronze medals.
Oba did not go to sleep one night and wake up an Olympic medallist. Oba needs to look down and see whose shoulders he is standing on – mine are included, because I was not paid for any of those services that I performed.
I still sit on the Inter-School Sports committee and only a few days ago, was elected vice-chairman of an interim committee to set up a P.E. Teachers Association.
You do not have to win world class medals to make a contribution to your country. Oba’s statement about me is an insult to 95 per cent of Barbadian athletes. He needs to give God thanks that in spite of his five-part series and ten pages of challenges he is still an Olympic medallist.
Many of our athletes prior to Oba, and since him, have had challenges getting to the top, but they don’t complain for years after the fact. I trust that Oba can put this bitterness behind him and come home to help if that is his choice – don’t sit around and complain that no one asked you to help.
I just came home and helped and no one asked me.
• Joyann Clarke is a former secretary of the Amateur Athletic Association of Barbados and was assistant manager of the national track and field team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
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