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Tough task ahead

Mike King

Tough task ahead

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The biGGEST sporting stage in 2014 for this country’s sportsmen is the Commonwealth Games slated for Glasgow, Scotland, and there is every chance that once more, it may be a bridge too far.
At the last Commonwealth Games in India in 2010, the Barbados contingent came home empty-handed while back in 2006 in Melbourne, there was just a bronze and in 2002 in Manchester, a bronze as well.
Producing top-class athletes is never easy, especially for a tiny Caribbean island where the talent pool is limited and sport for the most part gets little support from the corporate sector.
Medals at major meets such as Pan Am, the World Championships and the ultimate, the Olympics, can’t be won on sheer natural talent.
They are achieved through a solid sporting structure, monetary investment from both the Government and private sector, and the will of the individual athletes to go the extra mile.
The motto of the 2007 movie release Transformers: “No sacrifice, no victory” goes beyond the boundary of alien robots.
Barbados Olympic Association (BOA)?Secretary General Erskine Simmons, told MIDWEEK? SPORT, that sometimes expectations for medals must be realistic.
“The public expects that whenever a team leaves Barbados we must medal but at the same time, we have to realise that there are only three spots, gold, silver and bronze. Many of our athletes who take part are competing against athletes who do this for a living. Our atletes do this as a part-time.
“We don’t have a system that speaks to, getting up on mornings and training, taking a break and then resuming training. Our athletes are often competing against full-time professionals so that whenever a Barbados team manages to do well, it should be commended because we are facing countries who have greater financial and human resources,” Simmons said.
BOA?president Steve Stoute, said it is unfortunate that the local Olympic organisation gets blamed when national teams flop at the major meets.
“In terms of preparing athletes, that is the role of the national federations. Right now, we are trying to work with boxing, we are trying to work with track & field, what we can do to get these people ready but we have no control. In the final analysis, we get blame when teams don’t perform well,” he said.
Weightlifting and boxing are the only sports where Barbados has a semblance of a chance in Glasgow. Our last two medals came in the boxing round by way of Junior Greenidge and Anderson Emmanuel while weightlifting has accounted for four of the 11 medals that Barbados has won at the Games.
Ivorn McKnee and Brian Best, captured medals last November at the Commonwealth Weightlfting Championships in Malaysia and followed up with more hardware from the Criollo Cup in Puerto Rico.
McKnee and Best have a proud tradition to emulate. The first three Commonwealth Games medals all came from weightlfting with George Nicholls taking silver at the 1954 event in Vancouver, Canada that was followed by gold from Blair Blenman and silver from Sylvanus Blackman in 1958 in Cardiff, Wales. Pocket Hercules the late Anthony “Mango”?Phillips took the fourth weightlfting medal for Barbados, a silver, at the 1970 Games in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Simmons was the view that weightlifting could be our best hope.
“Coach Andrew Callender was very optimistic the team will do well bearing in mind the success of Malaysia and Puerto Rico. He is optimistic his team will do well at the Commonwealth Games so if there is a medal hope, that’s one sport we are looking forward too,” he said.
There will not be a hockey team in Scotland and that was because the sport was now facing challenges such as the lack of proper training facilities coupled with a tougher qualification route.
Simmons said there was now a ranking system on the sport so that only the top countries in the commonwealth make the grade as oppose to just having “a geographical participation exercise.”
“They are six regions – the Caribbean, Americas, Oceania, Europe, Africa and Asia. Unfortunately the only Caribbean team doing well in hockey is Trinidad &?Tobago. The local game has had its challenges in terms of the astro-turf and finding places where they can train, so right now hockey is in a rebuilding exercise.”