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Athletes need support, not talk

Sherrylyn A. Toppin

Athletes need support, not talk

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MANY MORE ATHLETES could do well for Barbados, but investment needs to be made into track and field and other sports so that real returns can be reaped.
This is the opinion of Michael “Fatman” Linton, coach of Barbados’ newest silver medallist Tia-Adana Belle, who said both the government and private sector needed to give more financial support.  
“If we get two or three medals at the Olympic Games, people will start asking what such a small country is doing and they will start coming. That can generate foreign exchange.
“The free ads you get from sports, Government can’t pay for. Gone are the days that people should be asking which part of Jamaica Barbados is.”
Linton is also peeved about the number of people who will jump on board in the wake of Belle’s medal-winning performance in the 400 metre hurdles at the IAAF World Youth Championships in the Ukraine and the promises that will be made.
Linton said they would “jump up and keep a lot of noise after the fact”, but those same people would also baulk at Government taking 50 cents a month from the salary of every public sector worker (through a levy) to fund preparation for Rio 2016.
“You can’t win a medal without spending money,” he said.
He would also like to see the hand-picking of athletes from an early age and directing them to specific events instead of “going all over the place” because swimmers, gymnasts, footballers and tennis players all specialized from a young age.
 “As soon as you can see which event the athlete is better in, you need to start working on technique because technique is about 60 per cent of it. If you are running the 100, you have to work on the acceleration and drive phases. You don’t just get up and run.”
He pointed to the example of Mario Burke who also attended the championships in Ukraine, placing fifth in the 100m final.
“Mario Burke ran at NAPSAC (primary school championships) in 2008. Right now, who else from that NAPSAC is competing?” he queried.
“We should start taking the best out of NAPSAC and work with them and their parents. When they get into secondary school, parents want to divert them from sports to the books. They can combine both.”
Linton, who is a mason/carpenter/tiler by profession, said athletes had the ability to earn more in a year than most people sitting behind a desk and still have their academics to fall back on.
Sponsorship and endorsements could help pay for education, he said, citing 20-year-old Grenadian Kirani James, the world and Olympics 400 metres champion as an example.
Linton called on the coaches to work together, while admitting he had never attended a single coaching session and still had no official qualification.
Indeed, Linton revealed, his lack of papers was a hot topic of conversation when he began coaching Belle.
“I am not about doing coaching courses. I am interested in hearing the Barbados anthem play. I am tired hearing the British and American anthems.
“I am not tired hearing the Jamaican, Trinidadian or Grenadian anthems, but we have to start hearing ours. It has played only once at the senior level, only once at the youth level and it has not played yet at the junior level, but you will hear it next year at the junior level,” he promised.
The anthem was played when Ryan Brathwaite was world champion in 2009 and Shane Brathwaite a youth champion in 2007. It also played for Andrea Blackett in 1998 at the Commonwealth Games.