Long hard road to the goldBarbados Olympic Association President Steve Stoute. (FP)
By Mike King | Sun, August 12, 2012 - 3:05 PM
The Barbados team is heading home from the 30th Olympiad in London empty-handed.
The six-member team, hurdler Ryan Brathwaite apart, did not even come close to making the finals in their events and were non-factors, a disappointment for Barbados, especially as Grenada, a Caribbean neighbour, smaller in size, returned home with a gold medal earned by impressive teenager Kirani James in the men’s 400 metres.
President of the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA), Steve Stoute, attended his 12th summer Olympiad and shared his views on the team’s performance via telephone link-up with Senior Journalist Mike King.
Stoute said he believes there is some light at the end of the tunnel, but admitted it will be a long, hard road with top-class competition and coaching required to take this country closer to the next level.
RYAN BRATHWAITE, the 2009 world champion and this country’s best hope of gaining a medal, had to settle for fifth place in the men’s 110 hurdles. Are you satisfied with the level of his performance, considering he was the world champion in this event only three years ago?
Stoute: If things had gone his way and with a little piece of luck, he would possibly have medalled, but I am pleased with his performance. You can say he has redeemed himself. He still has a bright future. He is still quite young and I am sure he will make his presence felt at any of the major competitions.
There were more let-downs from the small team than positives. We looked outclassed and in some cases not quite prepared for a meet of this magnitude. What do you think of the overall performance?
Stoute: Shane Brathwaite, who I think is a promising athlete, met bad luck in his heat in hitting the first hurdle. This was Greggmar Swift’s first outing and I thought he performed well. This was Bradley Ally’s third Olympics and during the year [he] did have some problems that affected his training.
We were hoping that he would have got to finals, but that was not to be. Bradley will have to assess his situation as to whether he goes on from here because he has been campaigning for quite a while.
We are always disappointed when we come without a medal but, considering we had a very small team, overall I am pleased with the team performance.
Where do we go from here?
Stoute: From an Olympic perspective, apart from Trinidad and Tobago, I don’t think there is any other Olympic committee that does more for its national federations or athletes than us. Most definitely we need to examine what is happening and what is going wrong and why some of the other islands, Grenada in particular, are doing so well.
Kirani James is in the United States, but that does not detract from the fact that they have a gold medallist and we do not. Grenada, in fact, qualified more athletes for these games than we were able to do.
I know that certainly in track and field Grenada has initiated a rigorous physical education programme in most of the government schools which is reaping dividends. I think we are still deficient in this regard in many of our schools. Grenada is spotting the talent and they have been able to utilise it.
Unfortunately, we seem to lose quite a bit of our talent after the completion of our inter-schools sports and this must be something that we need to explore with the Amateur Athletic Association. What can we, the Olympic Committee, do to assist them in ensuring that these young people don’t fall through the cracks?
What are the plans in place to take us forward?
Stoute: There have been discussions [involving] trying to develop a top-level training centre where the Olympic Association spots these individuals and starts a rigorous programme, but I am not sure if we have the coaches in Barbados to take the athletes beyond a certain point.
I have to say again that there is no other Olympic committee outside of Trinidad that is doing more than we are doing. From the Jamaica perspective, the Jamaica sports programme is run by the Amateur Athletic Association.
At the high-quality Inter-School Championships, top-flight coaches can take the talent and work with it from there on and this is all controlled by the Athletic Association of Jamaica. The Olympic committee there really has no say until it comes to Olympics, Pan-Am Games or whatever.
Does the Barbados Olympic Association need to play a bigger role on the ground level?
Stoute: When we provide funding for athletes, the BOA has little control over the training programme or the training initiatives. The BOA can only listen to our national federations and follow their recommendations and analyse the various requests for fundings.
As to dictating what type of training to be put in place, we really have no say at this point of time. Leading up to the Olympic Games, we were motivating our boxers and other affiliates to get our people out so that they can get international experience.
We can recommend these things but if the national federation is not receptive, then, of course there is not a whole lot we can do.
Is Barbados just not good enough?
Stoute: Some people feel we don’t have the talent. I don’t adhere to that perspective. I believe that the talent is there, but we need to find it and nurture it and when we spot it we need to ensure that these young people remain in the system and receive the adequate training necessary.
We have been performing well in the number of medals we have been obtaining at Central American & Caribbean (CAC) Games but beyond that level such as the Pan-Am Games, Commonwealth Games, we are struggling.
I believe the talent is there but we [may be] deficient in motivating the young people to continue.
I have tried to indicate in the past our whole culture is not one of aggressive sports development. We need to try and develop that culture in all levels.
Is the Olympics a bridge too far?
Stoute: Of the 204 countries that participate in the Olympics, maybe 50 per cent qualify athletes; others are given wild cards so that every country can participate. For Barbados to qualify athletes is a major achievement. I wouldn’t adhere to the philosophy that the Olympics is beyond small countries. Guatemala, a country with 14 million people, won their first Olympic medal at these games, a silver medal in the walk race, and they are not the only one.
Cyprus won its first medal, too, and these countries are much bigger, better developed and a lot richer than ourselves. I wouldn’t go along with the talk that the Games are a bridge too far for the small countries.
I think for a small country, we do well with the resources we have at our disposal.
Are the various national federations utilising former top stars? The Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) has taken flak for not using expertise of Olympians such as Elvis Forde and Obadele Thompson. Seibert Straughn has complained that in recent years the AAA has not made use of his skills.
Stoute: I would agree it can only be a good idea to have some of them on board. Certainly, in many of the other countries, their stars of yesteryear have come back and are playing a part in the development of the various sports. I think it is kind of lacking in Barbados. I do not know why these people are not motivated to come back and play a role.
Obadele Thompson has written recently that he has been let down by the support he has had from officialdom. Oba said he has had to endure inadequate gear, struggles to find the national flag in the Olympic stadium and be faced with many unprepared officials. Is it a fair criticism?
Stoute: I think Oba’s comments are a little unfair. Certainly, in relation to the Olympic Association, whatever Obadele asked for, he got from us.
His bitterness comes from somewhere else, certainly not from the Olympic Association.
Is track and field the only sport where we have a chance of making an impact at the Olympics?
Stoute: It is possible in swimming. It is possible in a number of other sports. I think we could win a medal in boxing. We have the talent in boxing to win a medal but the conditions have to be right.
We didn’t qualify in boxing at these games but the BOA was trying to get the Boxing Association to send the boxers out for two or three months, which we would have funded to prepare for the qualification process because, certainly at home, we don’t have the competition. I am not sure whether we have the coaching competency to take the athletes beyond a certain level.
Is there any light at the end of the tunnel? Can we expect the Rio Games of 2016 to be any different?
Stoute: We have the talent and, if given the opportunity to develop that talent, we can medal at Olympic Games.
Top-class coaching is a vital component, but there is also the competition element. In order to reach Olympic standard, you have to be exposed constantly to competition of a certain standard and that competition most definitely is not available in Barbados.
What about the organisation of these Games? You have travelled to a dozen Olympics. How does London compare to the others you have visited?
Stoute: This is my 12th summer Olympic Games and I would have to say that the organisation is of a very high standard. The key thing standing out is the support of the public. The public is filling the stadiums and while they are giving their support to the British competitors, they are cheering everyone, especially the underdogs.
To see a sold-out morning session of track and field is unique. I think that from many perspectives, they have done a fairly good job. Like any other games, they have had glitches here and there, but I am happy with what I have seen.
- Editor's Choice