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Smaller team for games

EZRA STUART, [email protected]

Smaller team for games

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Plans to take the usual 40-member Barbados contingent of junior athletes to next month’s 17th biennial Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) Games in Bermuda have run off track because of funding and visa problems.

It was a false-start for parents and athletes when they were brought up to speed with the damning development at a meeting to announce the team on Wednesday evening at the Barbados Union of Teachers’ (BUT) Merryhill, Welches, St Michael headquarters.

Shockingly, only a mere 18 athletes, who will be accompanied by five officials, have been named for the July 13-14 CUT Games being held in Bermuda for the first time.

Originally, the BUT had earmarked 40 athletes and ten officials at a budget of $160 000 but according to vice-president Richmark Cave those numbers had to be significantly scaled down through a combination of lack of funding and late visa applications as the athletes have to travel to Miami en route to Bermuda.

“We would normally take 40 athletes but because going to Bermuda is extremely expensive, we decided we would carry a smaller squad rather than not go at all, like a number of countries who pulled out because of the expenses,” said Cave, who is also chairman of the National Primary Schools Athletics Championships (NAPSAC) and the BUT’s sports committee.

In fact, Cave, who was joined by new BUT president Sean Spencer at the meeting, said securing seats to get to Bermuda was another hindrance as parents were told of the importance in making early visa applications while he also wrote to the US Embassy seeking to have them expedited.

“To get seats into Bermuda was a problem as the flights are heavily booked. We called a meeting to explain the difficulty in getting flights as 150 seats were blocked with a travel agency, so even if we had all the money, we still won’t be able to take a full team,” he noted.

Cave said the cost per athlete is between $2 200 and $2 300. 

While at least six parents volunteered to pay to accommodate extra athletes, several others, whose offspring were shortlisted among 42 selected athletes, who had met the selection criteria were not in a financial position to pick up the slack.

Hence, those concerned parents are now making a last-ditch appeal to the new Mia Mottley-led Government, through Minister of Sports John King to assist the young athletes. 

“This is our flagship meet for junior athletes and I feel it is a failure on our part as adults that we find ourselves in this position given that we had two years to plan for their participation in this meet,” outspoken parent, Renee Coppin, told said yesterday.

Calling for a greater level of investment from the Government, Coppin has appealed to the private sector and other agencies involved in sport development to provide any amount of funding to assist the young athletes.

“The sad reality is that many of these athletes are not in a position where their families can afford to undertake this cost at this time. The children have worked hard and earned the right to represent their country as they went through the entire trials process. They shouldn’t have to suffer for our failure,” she asserted.

Because of the structure of the team, Barbados won’t have relay quartets in any of the four age groups.

But Cave did not rule out the possibility of additional athletes, who qualified for selection, making the trip if they receive the funding, secure visas and seats become available.

More than 400 junior athletes from at least a dozen regional countries are expected to compete at the Games.

Jamaica controversially retained their title at last year’s Games in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, with 516 points after earning 45 medals which included 25 gold, nine silver and 11 bronze.

Barbados finished second on 512 points after gaining 55 medals which included 17 gold, 21 silver and 17 bronze medals. (EZS)