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Still way off target

Mike King

Still way off target

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The 2011 World Athletic Championships is further proof that Barbados is out of its depth in international sport.
Ryan Brathwaite, Andrew Hinds, Ramon Gittens and Kierre Beckles, were mere passengers in Daegu, South Korea, over the last week, failing to make an impact in their respective events.
It’s a waste of time sending sprinters to an event such as this, who can’t clock under 10.2 secs in the 100-metre dash while Beckles looked like a novice racing across the line at the back of the field in 13.44 secs in the 100 metres hurdles where the best in the world were dipping under 13 secs.
It is no surprise that the United States, Russia and resurgent Kenya, dominate the medals table, but what is worrying is that tiny islands such as St Kitts/Nevis  and Grenada could be forces to be reckoned with while neighbours Barbados put in wretched performances at every turn.
The area of the twin-island state of St Kitts/Nevis is just 101 square miles yet they could collect a bronze in the 100-metre dash by way of the durable Kim Collins and another bronze from the men’s sprint relay team.
Hurricane-ravaged Grenada, an island of 131 square miles, has the fastest quarter-miler in the world and he has just turrned 19. Kirani James took gold in the 400 metres and what’s more they had two men in the final with Rondell Bartholomew, placing sixth. The spice isle took just three athletes to the World Championships and delivered a gold.
Barbados sent four athletes including a defending world champion and returned home empty-handed.
While Grenada are celebrating James and Bartholomew, Barbados have not made a mark in the 400 metres at a global meet since Elvis Forde reached the semis at the Los Angeles Games in 1984. Michael “Abu” Worrell, Terry Harewood, Ronald Thorne and Wilan Louis, have been outstanding juniors but none of them made the next step while Seibert Straughn left the Seoul and Barcelona Olympics empty-handed.
No Barbadian has won CARIFTA gold in the 400 metres since Worrell’s triumph at the 1984 Games in the Bahamas. While we have been struggling, little Grenada, has unearthed two world-class quarter-milers.
The truth is, we are likely to just admire the infrastructure in London next year where only Brathwaite and swimmer Bradley Ally deserve to go. And even for them, it may prove a bridge too far.
The last few weeks would not have been encouraging. Ally didn’t make a strong enough splash at the world swimming championships in Shanghai, China, while Brathwaite’s inadequate 13.57 second clocking meant his early elimination.
Brathwaite has struggled badly over the last two seasons and has much to prove if he is to match the world’s best toe-to-toe in London. This will be a test of his mental character more than anything else as he seeks to rediscover the formula for success.
Major meets like the World Championships, Pan Am Games and the Commonwealth Games, have often been a tough ask for Barbados. Weightlifter Blair Blenman and athlete Andrea Blackett are the only Barbadians to strike gold at the Commonwealth Games. Blenman won in the middleweight category at the 1958 Games in Cardiff, Wales, and Blackett in the 400-metre hurdles in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1998.
In other words, we had to wait 40 years between our first Commonwealth Games gold and the second one. Not good enough.
If London is to have happy memories for us, we have to ensure that in the interim our sportsmen and women are well prepared in every sense for the major challenge that awaits them.
Smaller countries that are able to target and focus their resources on a relatively small number of sports/events can compete for medals on the international landscape.
There are lessons to be learnt for this country. There are too many sporting organisations competing for a slice of the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA) financial pie. Clearly there are several sports affiliated to the National Sports Council (NSC) and the BOA that don’t have a hope of an international medal, that think they are entitled to hand-outs.
The time has come for hard, tough decisions to be made and that means pouring funds into sports and sportsmen who can go to the next level. International sports is about big bucks and Barbados must prioritise its limited budget.
The future doesn’t look bright. London looks like another lesson in failure.