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A THORNY ISSUE: CAC – Back to square one

Andi Thornhill

A THORNY ISSUE: CAC – Back to square one

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So we are back to square one after another so-called disappointing showing at a major hemispheric games. This time it is the recent Central American and Caribbean Games staged in Mexico.

We managed a mere four medals and the national debate has resumed on whether we are good enough to compete even at what is considered to be the lowest rung of international competition.

The four medallists were Levi Cadogan, Kierre Beckles, Greggmar Swift and the squash mixed pairs team of Gavin Cumberbatch and Karen Meakins.

The CAC Games has that perception because many of the countries falling under this umbrella usually send their emerging athletes to gain experience and to see if they are ready for the next step up the ladder.

Still, against this background our own emerging stars find the going tough and some interpret this to mean that our future looks dim in several of the disciplines.

Craig Archer of the Barbados Squash Association was quick to conclude that while we complain about our lack of greater success we tend to forget that several of the athletes we compete against are virtual professionals or train like them.

The inference here could be that we are still preparing our competitors like amateurs but that might be the problem and if we don’t solve it, we will be singing the medal blues for a long time to come. That is, of course, if we only judge success or progress by the amount of medals we achieve.

Realistically, we are in a catch 22 situation because some will argue that despite the fact that we don’t get enough medals to satisfy the majority, we don’t do too badly either comparatively speaking considering that our preparation in most cases is not even a quarter of what it should be.

A pertinent case in point is the hockey teams.I think when you place at the top of the equation that they don’t have a proper facility to train at nor play any warmup matches against foreign opposition, their performance in Mexico was very credible.

I wouldn’t consider that as failure but as an indicator that if given better tools to get the job done, it is probable that their returns would be better at the CAC level for sure.

How many squads or individuals that represented us in Mexico can boast of having regular competition against people of the same or superior quality in the year leading up to the CAC Games?

Let’s face it, we have a lot of talented sportsmen and women in the various disciplines but they are being held back because many of whom they compete against are miles ahead in the way they prepare for battle.

You could build a case that if we don’t have the means to ensure thorough methods to equip our athletes for major duels, then we shouldn’t be going only to participate and then to rekindle old debates about our weaknesses over and over  again when it is really the same cold soup we keep warming.

I believe that in a lot of cases medals or top-class performances are achieved before the event because it is only a matter of executing on the day what you were trained and drilled to do. Earning a spot on the podium is just the icing on the cake.

It is in this context that I think our representatives in most cases give of their best with the little they are given to prepare .

This doesn’t mean that this should remain the benchmark. We must find ways of funding preparatory projects that will have our sporting ambassadors at the level which will give them a better chance to make us proud.

The Barbados Netball Association made a grand effort in this department in the past year and I am sure if they continue to go that route leading up to the World Cup in Australia next year, they could spring some big surprises.

One of the issues we have to accept is that it is always going to be difficult  to have enough cash to spread around even  with the proceeds from the lottery, support from Government and the Barbados Olympic Association when a country our size has over 50 sporting organisations who seek assistance at various times.

Granted all of them aren’t Olympic sports and won’t be treated like those who are, but each of them thinks that their sport is the greatest and their expectations should be met too. Sentiment can sway even the tight-fisted at times, especially coming with strong arguments.

In essence, the ongoing debate can’t be simplistic in any form because it’s not a straight case of black and white.We have to navigate our way through a myriad of pros and cons, peaks and valleys and hope we reach a consensus on how we can reach the summit.

I submit, based on feedback from the CAC Games, that we aren’t even close to this point so we will probably be still at square one after the next major event.

• Andi Thornhill is an experienced,award-winning sports journalist. Email:[email protected]