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Give sporting giants their due

Mike King

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In?2011, not a single sportsman was recognised in the National Independence Awards. Last year, the same thing happened.
Now, we wait over the next few days with baited breath to see if those entrusted with the responsibility for honouring some of this country’s finest in their field of endeavour will remember our sporting stars.
It would be a crying shame if this injustice continued.
Both governments, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP)?and the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), have much to answer for in this respect. In 2006 and 2007, under the BLP?administration, sportsmen were shut out of the awards, now the DLP has followed suit by ignoring sportspeople in back-to-back years.
Sportsmen and entertainers are the biggest stars in the world. Michael Jordan, Ronaldo, Usain Bolt, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Sachin Tendulkar and Michael Phelps are proof of that. They make more impact than the paper shufflers in the office.
Every year we champion the efforts of those in the judiciary, the medical fraternity, economists, retired public servants and businessmen.
We remember entertainers every now and again, and we tend to forget the sportsmen too often.
It is a sad reflection on this country, or more so the decision-makers, when year after year those who have excelled in the field of sport are ignored. Who are these people hidden from view who are responsible for these monumental omissions annually?
If sportsmen are ignored again, Government will seriously have to entrust selection to those who have an overview of the process.
If the awards are for meritorious service or achievement, track and field darling Lorna Forde, tennis ace Martin Blackman, cycling wonder Ken Farnum, and hockey star Ralph Holder more than fit the criteria.
Forde, a Pan Am Games bronze medallist in the 400 metres, dominated the United States indoors circuit between 1972 and 1983 and pioneered Barbados’ entry to the European circuit.
She stamped her supremacy on the 440 yards indoors; was undefeated indoor national champion for six years and held the world record for that distance. She startled the United States track scene in 1978 when she won the national championships there with a record 51.04 run, defeating Olympic medallists in the process.
Blackman, a son of former Central Bank Governor Dr Courtney Blackman, is Barbados’ most accomplished tennis player to date, having played professionally on the international circuit in the 1980s. He formed a formidable partnership with Richard Ashby, the two leading Barbados to rare Davis Cup victories over strong teams such as Bolivia.
Farnum was a household name in Barbados during the 1950s when he brushed aside all local challenges for several years without tasting defeat.
He created history in 1952, becoming the first Barbadian Olympian when he rode at the Helsinki Games. The “Farnum to Finland Fund” was created to cover expenses to allow him to take part in the 15th Olympiad.
Through public subscription and help from the Government, Farnum was able to ride but could not do so in national colours because Barbados did not have Olympic status. Finland was a mind-blowing experience for the 6ft, 2in, 21-year-old, from Peterkin Road, Bank Hall. Now 82, Farnum has paid his dues and deserves to be recognized sooner rather than later.
Ice-cool and unruffled, Holder was an automatic choice in every national hockey team throughout the 1980s and early ’90s. A keen student of the game, Holder employed subtle stickwork to bamboozle defenders. A member of the CAC bronze medal-winning side of 1982, Holder had at one stage accounted for one-third of this country’s goals.
Not only sportsmen have been marginalized. Revered songbird Wendy Alleyne is a national treasure on the same tier as the Mighty Gabby, Red Plastic Bag and Sir Don. She is so fine. However, for too long, the queen of song has become a standby love for those entrusted to select the creme de la creme of this country.