“ON THE BALL: Give elite athletes more”


Well, it’s almost a year into her term now. And we’re still waiting to see if Sandra Osborne truly plans to restructure the Barbados Olympic Association’s (BOA) athlete funding programme.

Forgive me if I come over as a tad hasty here, but I publicly said in March that the BOA should consider giving the country’s elite performers a greater share of the pie in order to improve our chances of winning medals at major meets.

And I did so only after the BOA boss said it first in light of Barbados’ drastic decline at the Central American And Caribbean, Commonwealth and Pan American Games.

Yet, it seems I’m the only one who’s still stressing the point months after even though the evidence shows that our elite athletes really do need more financial support.

I’m not even talking about Darian King this time.

Talented cyclist Joshua Kelly won a medal at the regional level for the sixth year in a row during last weekend’s Caribbean Elite Road Race Championships.

I don’t think I have to tell you how incredible a feat that is, but I can say it wouldn’t have been possible without the even greater personal and financial sacrifices his parents Alan and Carol Kelly had to make.

And Josh is one of three sons they have who ride for Barbados.

So consider that for each of those three boys they’ve probably spent US$12 000 on a quality time trial bike and another US$10 000 for a second bike to compete in road races.

This, of course, has nothing to do with other equipment, helmets, gear, coaching, travel, accommodation, food and supplements.

Yet, somehow, we think that the $3 000 a month the BOA gives our elite athletes is enough to sustain them so they can break through on the world stage?

Yeah, right.

I can see why anyone would be lulled into such a false sense of security when you take into account how much our top athletes have achieved with so little support.

This year alone, Sports Personality Of The Year favourite Shane Brathwaite copped gold in both the sprint hurdles and 4x100 relay at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Colombia.

Let’s not forget the bronze and silver medals he bagged at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Championships in those same events.

And Brathwaite is a man who has already delivered third-place efforts at the Commonwealth and Pan Am Games to go along with a World Championships finals appearance.

His medal-winning relay teammate Mario Burke owns a World Juniors bronze medal in the 100 metres.

Chelsea Tuach is the first Caribbean woman to surf at the highest level of the WSL Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour. She has wins across the globe to show for it too.

Triathlete Jason Wilson has an Olympic Games appearance under his belt while King has already qualified for the main draw of a grand slam while beating no fewer than three top 60 tennis players.

It’s not like we don’t have the sportspeople to give us the performances we want.

They simply don’t get the money to consistently deliver them.

Something just has to give because we apparently want $1.2 million to ably support 70 athletes and get us world-class performances too, when history and experience have taught us otherwise.

I’m not exactly sure how many more times I must write that Great Britain spent something like £4.1 million for each of the 67 medals they won at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I understand the catch-22 situation facing the BOA because the same Kelly, King, Brathwaite, Tuach and Wilson were all once junior and emerging athletes who needed the funding to become the elite performers they are today.

If we put all of our money into them, we risk losing the Meagan Bests, Danielle Tituses and the next generation of elite athletes.

But $1.2 million doesn’t allow us to have it both ways. It’s either high performance or sport for development.

Sooner or later, sacrifices have to be made.

Just ask Alan and Carol Kelly. (JM)