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Give Shanikah a break

Ezra Stuart

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Two wrongs don’t make a right. But sometimes you have to right the wrongs.
Mistakes should always be corrected and it is always necessary to keep those who don’t follow the rules and guidelines on the straight and narrow path.
But these days, in several sports, it appears attendance at practice session or meets matters more than the level of performance.
While I admire and all but agree with the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) in principle following its rules as it relates to selection for the CARIFTA Games team, I still can’t fathom why they would take this unyielding stance by excluding promising Grantley Adams Memorial javelin thrower Shanikah Haynes from the squad.
On the one hand, you set a standard for qualification that athletes are supposed to reach if they want to gain selection. But when several athletes fail to make it, you are flexible enough and take more than a dozen non-qualifiers.
On the other hand, you also say that athletes must compete at the CARIFTA Selection Championships, unless they get medical exemption, to be eligible for selection.
A few athletes don’t compete at this meet, but reach the qualification standard at another meet, and still are not afforded the same luxury. Isn’t this a double standard, especially when some of these same athletes are carrying injuries?
However, what president of the AAA, Esther Maynard, and the selectors – whoever they are, as it appears to be a big secret – should do is be more considerate and caring in such situations.
It is not that you are setting a precedent where every year you would bend the rules, but in life there will always be exceptions to the rule.
With the Powerade Barbados Secondary Schools Athletics Championships coming after the CARIFTA Selection Meet and someone who wasn’t in the frame making the standard, then I believe the AAA should move to have an audience with that athlete and seek to find out why they didn’t compete at the mandatory qualifying meet.
After all, one of the AAA’s objectives should be spotting and developing raw talent and an athlete like Haynes, who I don’t know personally, seems to fall into that category. It is noteworthy she also won the shot put in her age group.
In the same way that the rules are relaxed for those who didn’t reach the qualifying standard, then there should be an element of flexibility for a hitherto unheralded athlete.
There will always be some students who do not take athletics seriously but would go out there and represent their schools with pride and passion for points to boost the final position in the standings.
These students, who may be diamonds in the rough, should be encouraged, not discouraged, and every effort should be made to get them into the national set-up.
Sometimes the fault in competing at the CARIFTA Selection Meet is not of their own making and may be that of their coach, physical education teacher or come from some other form of neglect or simple ignorance of the requirements.
“I have always wanted to go to CARIFTA, and feel very good that I have now qualified,” Haynes said in an interview last Thursday, obviously not aware that she wasn’t in line for selection.
In my experience as a journalist for the past two decades, things like these always seem to happen to athletes from the newer secondary schools, and whether we want to admit it or hide it under the carpet, they occur in most cases at those newer secs less noted for sports or academics.  
While if you really don’t meet the qualifying standard, you don’t really have an argument, the AAA must be lauded for the vision shown in investing in some promising athletes who were consistent throughout the season and were just short of the mark in their respective events.
Maybe The Lodge School’s diminutive Under-17 sprinter Tamal Atwell could also have been selected and it was probably a tough call not to take victor ludorum Rivaldo Leacock and a couple others. But is it too late to have a second look at the Shanikah Haynes’ situation? Let’s give her a chance and she may return from Bermuda with a gold medal.