Whole lot of holes
Like many roads in Barbados, the track at the National Stadium has deteriorated so significantly that there are now potholes in some of the lanes, according to a local coach.
This situation has now become extremely worrisome for coaches and athletes with the prestigious National Athletics Championships fast approaching, June 22-24, at the Waterford venue.
As many as six lanes – 2 to 7 – in the area by the start of the marquee 100 metres, are showing signs of deterioration. There is also a big hole just behind the long jump board by the take-off area.
Most of the coaches, including Michael “Fatman” Linton, who spoke to WEEKENDSPORT blamed the lack of maintenance for the depreciation of the relatively new track which was laid in 2013.
Linton said debris, like dirt, gravel and fine stones have contributed to the wear and tear of the track, which has also suffered from the generally hot climate in Barbados.
“I don’t think this track is going to last another two seasons at the rate it has been deteriorating over the last couple of months. It has gotten brittle at the start for the 100 metres, with the rubber flaking up from lanes two to seven. The tear has started to expand like the potholes in the roads. Barbados seems to be a country of potholes as even the track got potholes now,” he declared.
Linton said the 100-metre sprint is the event which will affect the athletes the most, but it won’t be smooth sailing in the 200 either.
“When you put down the blocks, the rubber there is so brittle that when you push off the blocks, the spikes in the blocks are going to tear through the rubber and you will lose your footing at the start.
The long-standing coach said athletes would be forced to get assistance in holding their blocks.
“At Nationals when some of the guys from overseas come in and really want to perform at their best, they are going to have to use somebody to hold the blocks because those guys are going to move those blocks,” he said.
“The parts of the lanes which are worn out at the start line of the 100 and right into the path of where you are running coming off the curve into the straightaway, so it is going to become a problem if you step exactly in one of those spots because you are going right down on the asphalt that is under the rubber,” he asserted.
Former CARIFTA Games athlete Joshua Walcott, who had a training session on the track on Wednesday, said athletes now have to shift their blocks from the centre of the lane.
“In preparing for the 100 metres, you can’t set the block straight because of the hole in the middle of the lane. Basically, you have to carry across the block a little bit to the other guy’s lane,” he said.
“In the last meet [Barbados Olympians Classic], the guy next to me took his block, like close onto my lane because the hole was affecting him on the track so based on that, it was affecting me mentally when I was driving out [drive phase] of the block because the guy was so close on me,” Walcott noted.
Walcott also said the holes in the lanes were worrisome during the 200 metres.
“If you are in an outside lane coming around the curve, stepping in the hole would off-set the rhythm in your stride,” he said.
Physiotherapist Andrew Simpson, who is also a coach, said it was disappointing how the track has deteriorated over the years.
“To put things in perspective, the overall Stadium plant is on its way down, so I guess in the scheme of things, because of the lack of maintenance of the overall plant, the track in itself has suffered,” he said.
“What we are seeing here is just symptomatic of how the overall Stadium has been managed over the last ten or so years. As it stands right now, there are a few areas on the track that are unacceptable.
“I am not so sure that in the short space of time [before Nationals] that they can be rectified . . . but I know it is going to be challenging especially for the athletes who are going to run the 100 metres in placing their blocks, seeing that there is a lot of wear and tear in and around the start line,” Simpson said.
Another coach, Keith Thornhill, said there was a need for better management of the track by both the Athletics Association of Barbados (AAB) and the National Sports Council.
“I think it is just poor management of the Stadium that the track could fall into such a condition. It is the only track that we have, so we work around it and do the best that we can, but if the AAB is going to be holding meets on it all the time, then they got to hold the Sports Council accountable,” he said. (EZS)