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Let’s unite to build athletics


Andi Thornhill

Let’s unite to build athletics

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Joyann Clarke told her side of the story.
Obadele Thompson’s reply was compelling.
Public reaction was mixed.
The cold soup was reheated when Thompson commented recently about Barbados’ performance at the London Olympics and referred to how he perceived local athletes were treated, drawing references to his own circumstances when he was representing the country.
It was not the first time he had crossed that path or the first time Clarke was responding to some of his assertions which emanated from his experience at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when he won an historic bronze for Barbados.
He was the first Bajan to win an individual medal at the Olympics. Jim Wedderburn also won a bronze but as part of the West Indies 4×400 metres relay team that represented us at the Rome Games in 1960.
Trouble is that neither can change the past and it’s time to move on. In fact, if it were possible, I would suggest that they bury the hatchet in spite of what seems to be the bitter tone of their submissions.
I would concede in the first place, though, that if wrong information is being planted in the public domain it is an individual’s right, if they so desire, to correct it. Therefore, in the name of clarification to protect one’s reputation,Thompson and Clarke can exercise that option.
However, it seems to me that there’s still some bad blood from the Sydney Olympics that is fanning their verbal flames.
It is not ideal.The only winners will be those who find pleasure in the details, charges and counter-charges from what seems to be scenes in a soap opera.
What we should be focussing on is what we need to do to get another Barbadian Olympian on the podium instead of quarrelling over spilt milk.
To achieve this, we need to pool our resources and try to come up with a road map that would lead us there.
The ideas of Thompson and Wedderburn would form a vital part of this think tank as they know what it is like to taste Olympic success. Very often we refuse to use our own expert resources in matters of national interest and development. I made reference to this kind of behaviour two columns ago in respect of amateur boxing.
Was Thompson or Wedderburn asked to make any input from relevant sporting bodies before our athletes went to London?
The question can also be asked whether either volunteered to impart words of wisdom to the team. If they didn’t, I might understand because I have heard too many former sportsmen complain that once their careers are over they are put on the back-burner. Others don’t want to be seen to be forcing themselves in situations where they haven’t been invited. A former Prime Minister once reminded us “that ever so welcome, wait for a call”.
The point I am making is that we must make a concerted effort to create a winning culture among our athletes otherwise we will continue to be cheerleaders for the rest of our neighbours while our representatives come back home empty-handed from major games.
I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t be happy when other Caribbean athletes succeed, I am merely saying that we could put our time and minds to better use in devising ways that would make it possible for Bajans to be celebrating our own achievements too, instead of appearing to be fussing and fighting.
I truly want the time to come when I won’t have to hear that our coaches don’t share information with each other or that administrators think they know it all.Those seeking individual glory are not cutting it and I would urge them to distance themselves from sports. Selflessness rather than selfishness holds the key to Barbados producing their next Olympic medallist.
Public sparring will only lead to greater divisions at a time when we ought to be plotting attainable success. Together.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced award-winning freelance sports journalist.

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