Name Stadium after Oba
WITH?THE?COUNTRY seemingly in renaming mode of some institutions I wonder when, not if, Obadele Thompson will be considered for such an honour.
He deserves more than a passing mentionin the annals of our sporting and national history. I honestly can’t understand why it has taken so long for the powers that be to do the honourable thing for someone who has contributed so much to our national sporting landscape.
Just for the record he is our first individual Olympic medallist, a bronze won in the 100 metres at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. That alone deserves more recognition than he got previously.
It was reported then that under the Barbados Labour Party administration he was named as a sports ambassador. However, I remembered a few years after Thompson complaining that he never received any official instruments in respect of the intended accolade. A public explanation is still required about what went wrong in that situation.
It is instances like these that turn off our several national athletes from contributing to their sport in a meaningful way after they have retired. We must implement some kind of national policy where our sporting icons are afforded better treatment once they have retired.
Over the years, Mike King and I have been trying to highlight the fact that what might appear to be minor in the eyes of sports administrators and the general public in respect of athletes, become major for them as they feel they have been alienated and not fully appreciated for their contribution.
Many of them still carry a heap of baggage about the way they have been mistreated by the system and their general view of Barbados at times isn’t very encouraging or inspiring.
I don’t know if any of the above applies to Thompson who now lives in the United States but I am sure that he deserves a lot more recognition for his contribution to Barbados as an individual who benefited from what the system had to offer in terms of education and other social amenitie. He also kept his part of the bargain by representing us with pride and a high degree of excellence most of the time when he was fit.
Some of his on track accolades include being dominant during his CARIFTA Games career and being awarded the Austin Sealy Trophy for his outstanding efforts in 1994.
In 1996 he joined an elite list of those who did the sprint double at the NCAA outdoor championships in Indiana.
In an eventful year he became the first man to run 9.69 seconds, albeit wind-assisted at a meet in El Paso,Texas. Twelve years later American Tyson Gay clocked 9.68 seconds at national trials but like Thompson it was wind-aided and not recognized as a world record. In fact, the first legal 9.69 seconds was accomplished by Jamaican legend Usain Bolt at the 2008 Olympics.
Thompson’s fastest legal time in the 100 metres is 9.87 recorded in South Africa representing the Americas in the IAAF World Cup in 1998 and he has a best of 19.97 in the 200 metres in 2000. No other Barbadian has come close to replicating or surpassing these marks yet.
Not fully recovered from a serious hamstring injury months before the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, he placed a commendable fourth in the 200 metres which was won in a record time of 43.29 seconds by the great Michael Johnson and he made the semi-finals in the 100 metres, an event won by Canadian Donavan Bailey in the then world record of 9.84 seconds.
Sydney, of course, became his career highlight with the bronze medal and a disputed fourth place in the 200 metres where he and Trinidadian Ato Bolden were given identical times but on review Bolden was placed third.
His Olympic swansong was in Athens in 2004 when he again got to the 100 metres final but only managed seventh position.
Several of Thompson’s critics say they thought he should have achieved more based on his natural talent and I honestly believe he would have delivered more silverware if he had remained fit consistently. It remains debatable, too, whether more weight training would have aided him in his quest to be number one in his craft but not many people can suggest with strong evidence that he didn’t compete with his opponents under all circumstances.
Notwithstanding he was also asthmatic, I think that all things considered Thompson attained much during his time as an amateur and professional athlete.
While at Harrison College he learnt the art of sprinting under the expert eyes of Orlando Greene while Frank Blackman and the late Tony Lovell also played a role in his early development. From Harrison College, he attended the University Of Texas in El Paso and graduated with an honours degree in economics and marketing.
Honestly, I think I have made my case for greater recognition and something more tangible to safeguard Thompson’s legacy so that coming generations would know about his exploits particularly on the track.
How about renaming the National Stadium after him or the Barbados Olympic Association affixing his name to their headquarters?
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning freelance sports journalist. Email [email protected]