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A THORNY ISSUE: Boxers not up to scratch

Andi Thornhill

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The jury was out on the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships and now the verdict is in after ten days of deliberation.
To begin with, the average Bajan would have focused on the performances of our boxers.
There would have been great disappointment in this respect as none of the four made it to the second round.
Some experts like former champions Hurricane Jackson and Christopher “Shaka” Henry would say I told you so and they would be justified.
We know the reason why the girls were under-prepared. Besides being handpicked, they didn’t face any competition prior to the championship and were placed at a serious disadvantage.
They were like lambs to the slaughter and the local association must take full responsibility for their showing. This was no way to prepare a team, especially when competing at home. All of their weaknesses were cruelly exposed by more experienced opponents.
My impression is that but for the intense Road To Barbados training programme it would have been worse for the local boxers.
Someone has to be held accountable for this obvious error in judgement.
I will concede that some other local athletes travel to major tournaments under-prepared, but I think we outdid ourselves this time with the boxing.
Preparation lacking
Truth be told, the boxers were very enthusiastic and willing to give their all for the country, but vital preparational support was lacking.
I remember the determination of Kimberley Gittens to get in the ring even after she had a lower back injury during the first week of the Road To Barbados sessions. She felt like she had a date with destiny and nothing was going to stop her fulfilling that dream.
The big question is whether we would have been represented if the championships were held elsewhere. I think not, but as hosts we felt obliged to enter boxers whether they were ready or not.
Ironically, we had the opportunity to showcase someone who would have done us proud as he had done at the men’s championship. It is confusing why our only internationally accredited referee, Anthony Jones, didn’t get the opportunity to officiate in his homeland.
Would this have happened in any other jurisdiction? Again, somebody must be held accountable for Jones’ omission from doing duties in the ring. He deserved more than being just an ordinary member of the local organising committee.
To his credit, he took the high ground and rose above his snubbing and put country before self.
The poor attendance on most nights could be put down to two things. It would have been a turn-off to the average person if there was no prospect of any Bajan doing well and that played out naturally because of the results.
Low-keyed build-up
The other major point had to be the rather low-keyed build up to the championships and this points to the marketing arm of the local organising committee.
The overwhelming evidence seemed to suggest that it was a last-minute rush job to put things in place for the start. Remember that admission to the first day of competition was free. This was as a result of an official announcement which said they weren’t able to get tickets out to box offices on time.
I was also shocked that very little was done to attract more schoolchildren to the championships. As part of the legacy it may have been possible to induce greater interest in the sport among the youth if more than a handful had been able to attend. Sports Minister Stephen Lashley stated that some complimentary tickets were set aside for schools. Unless they showed the same public tardiness in getting out to the games, I wonder if the intention ever became a reality.
From the outside looking in, I would suggest that things began to smoothen out around Day 3. The team was determined that Barbados’ good name at organising big events would not be tarnished.
Team Barbados gave its greatest performance when there was a major water issue on the south coast which affected hotels where the boxers and officials were staying. They worked expeditiously to resolve an issue which was not of their making by relocating the officials from one hotel to another in quick time and using tactful public relations skills in reassuring those who didn’t move that everything was going to be fine.
The volunteers and the security forces played their roles in the effective, responsible manner associated with Bajans at similar events. They were very courteous and helpful in their respective roles.
My overall verdict is that we got a passing grade for hosting, but because of what happened in the ring to our girls some may even find my assessment questionable.
You see, unless there were huge administrative blunders that threatened the continuation of the championships, the lasting memories of John Public would relate to ring activity.
And what transpired there from a Bajan viewpoint wasn’t a pretty sight.
• Andi Thornhill is sports editor of the caribbean broadcating corporation.