A bridge too far
Not cutting it. Before a single squad was announced, I knew the 2014 Commonwealth Games would be a bridge too far for the various Barbados teams competing in Scotland.
And so it proved.
The Commonwealth Games is now history and the first question for sports planners here in Barbados is what are the lessons to be learnt from Glasgow.
The most obvious lessons is that for the most part we were out of our depth.
It is hard to understand why a tiny Third World nation with a modest record in international sport, sent 61 athletes in 12 different sports to a competition of the calibre of the Commonwealth Games.
At the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, all we had to show was a bronze in boxing. In 2010, we left Delhi, India, empty-handed. Had it not been for Shane Brathwaite’s bronze in the men’s 110 hurdles, we would have suffered a similar fate in Scotland.
So who were the bright spots from Scotland. Brathwaite stands tall with his bronze but it is clear that his namesake, Ryan, is a shadow of the man who won World Championship gold in 2009 and fifth place at the 2012 Olympics.
Ramon Gittens made it to the final of the men’s 100-metre dash while Kierre Beckles will be heartened by her sixth place in the women’s 100 metres hurdles.
The judo fraternity flashed a few smiles as two 19-year-olds Onoh-Obasi Okey and Asa Weithers won their opening fights. Okey, a former Alexandra and Queen’s College student, who is of Nigerian parentage, made it to the quarter-finals of the women’s 48 kg class.
Elsewhere, it was mostly downhill and it is clear the time has come for us to wake up and smell the coffee. We are not going to win medals at world-class meets in badminton, netball, rugby, shooting, triathlon, table tennis and with the exit of Barry Forde, you can add cycling to that list.
Javed Mounter is the fastest man on two wheels in this country, but that means nothing if he hardly rides against the best in the region. In the last six months how many bouts did Anderson Emmanuel, Cobia Breedy and Ricardo Blackman have? How many table tennis matches did Kevin Farley and Anthonette Riley play and how many quality swim meets were Lani Cabrera and Alexis Clarke exposed to?
Rugby sevens and netball had it particular rough. The rugby boys were mauled 68-5 by Canada, and were hammered 56-0 by Scotland and 59-0 by New Zealand.
The netballers didn’t win a single pool B match but it has to be noted that they were grouped with Australia, England, South Africa and Wales, all teams rated above them.
The one match they could have won, was against rivals Trinidad &?Tobago, and were beaten by one goal 38-37.
The difference between our showing now and in 2010, was that our group in Delhi included lesser lights such as Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea.
That team which included ace goal shoot Lydia Bishop, who has since retired, were able to overcome both of them and in the classification match, Barbados beat Trinidad 60-59. So we defeated Trinidad by one goal four years ago, and they have turned the tables.
Coach Anna Shepherd should not despair, but it is clear we will stagnate if huge funds are not invested into netball and other sports.
The truth, Barbados lacks the financial muscle to expose teams to regular top-flight competition or afford top quality coaching expertise.
Medals at major meets such as the Pan Am Games, the Commonwealth Games, the World Championships and 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 athlete to go the extra mile. The motto of the 2007 movie release, Transformers: “No sacrifice, no victory,” goes beyond the boundary of alien robots.
Meets such as the Commonwealth Games are about silverware and not personal bests. It has been 60 years since we first attended these Games – our first appearance coming in 1954 – and all we have to show after all this time is 12 medals, just two of them the colour of gold.
It was refreshing to read Glyne Clarke’s acknowledgement that selection of Barbados teams has to be rethought.
In an interview with Justin Marville, the Barbados Olympic Association’s (BOA) operations manager, did not hide his disappointment with the returns from Scotland.
“At the end of the day, we have to evaluate the sport, the performances and the athletes, and we have to pay a lot more attention to that,” he said.
Clarke echoed what we all knew and what I have been preaching for many years, and that is, we have to send only those who are serious medal contenders.
At the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games, which is the bottom of the major league, we don’t even dominate, so why should be punching above our weight. At the last CAC Games in Puerto Rico in 2010, swimmer Bradley Ally (2) and hurdler Ryan Brathwaite, were the only ones to strike gold with Barbados securing just ten medals and 11th place in the medal table.
Ally has retired and Brathwaite is on the decline as we prepare for the 22nd CAC?Games to be held November 14-30 in Veracruz, Mexico. A stern test awaits us.