HOT SPOT – Move over Barry!
The great Pele had to do it.
Muhammed Ali had to do it.
Even Michael Jordan, though it took him three chances, had to do it.
These great athletes, all who dominated their sports and became global household names, had to decide when to call it a day.
Barry Forde, one of Barbados’ household sporting names, may soon have to make that decision as well, when it comes to being the recipient of financial support from the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA).
It’s not rocket science that Forde, easily the best cyclist this island has ever produced, is clearly now at the sunset of his career.
That is, unless he can stun the world in two years, and win a medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. That is, if he’s even in London.
Earlier this year, Forde couldn’t even win a medal at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Puerto Rico. And Barbadian sports fans know that five years ago, winning a CAC medal was easier for Forde than taking candy from a baby.
After all, this is an athlete with plenty gold medals from the Pan American Cycling Championships, as well as the CAC Games.
In fact, what Barbadians have been waiting for from Forde, is an Olympic medal.
But last week, his career took another hit, when he bowed out meekly in his pet event, the keirin, at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India.
Now, let it be known, I’m a huge fan of Barry Forde.
I was in Carson, California, five years ago, when Forde stood on the podium at the World Track Championships, with a silver medal around his neck, and the Barbados flag flapping proudly at the Home Depot Centre, home of David Beckham’s LA Galaxy.
President of the Barbados Cycling Union, Keith Yearwood, and Barry’s dad Colin were also there, and it turned into a teary-eyed, emotional ten minutes of fame for the country’s most decorated cyclist. It was arguably Barbados’ best cycling moment.
Barry was at his fastest, and his best in California, taking out higher ranked riders and blazing a trail for the Broken Trident, only to miss out on world championship gold medal by a half a wheel.
He had put so much effort into winning that medal for his country, the next day he could hardly pedal, and had to give up the dream of adding a match sprint medal as well.
Still, he came home a hero, with many expectations for the future.
Forde was 28-years-old then, and the world was at his feet.
But that was a long time ago.
Since then, as Bajans would say, the pickings have been slim from Forde, who turned 34-years-old exactly a month ago.
In fact, its now fair to say that young Darren Matthews is probably the future of cycling in Barbados.
In his first major games, Matthews went to India and showed at the Commonwealth Games what he has to offer, with extremely credible performances in the points and scratch races, making the final of both.
Staying the course
Five years ago, Forde had to deal with being suspended for high levels of testosterone. He never gave up, and credit should be given for staying in the game at a high level, in pursuit of a dream.
The question the Barbados Olympic Association now has to ask itself, is, where should it direct its developmental funds as far as cycling is concerned.
Forde should not have to throw his bicycle in a corner and simply give up the sport he loves and has earned fame through. But the fact remains, it may be time for the BOA to place its funds elsewhere.
Now a regular on the European circuit since he is based in Berlin, Germany, Barry still wants to compete at the highest level. He still wants to earn an Olympic medal.
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. He’s still a young man in a sport when athletes in their 30’s have excelled.
But what he may have to do, is earn that medal by continuing to work hard, but not at the BOA’s expense. Every athlete has a shelf life.
Obadele Thompson and Andrea Blackett, two of the athletes who were the recipients of the BOA and corporate Barbados’ financial assistance for many years, also had to decide when to move on.
Thompson won a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Blackett earned a Commonwealth Games gold in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia in 1998.
Forde, for all his massive accomplishments in the Western Hemisphere, has yet to bring home an Olympic or Commonwealth Games medal. He was expected to. In fact, Barbadians thought he would have.
His World Championship silver is of immense quality, but what are the real chances of bettering that as he gets older?
Barry’s father Colin, a former Olympic performer himself, has been with his son every step of the way, and remains dedicated to the sport of cycling, and this country’s young cyclists.
Even though blood is thicker than water, he too should realise his son’s chances of bringing home a major medal are getting thinner by the minute.
Both Fordes, father and son, have brought glory to Barbados, and should be commended and praised.
But its time to step aside. Another man wants to take over.
That man should be Darren Matthews.