National Track and Field team returns home empty-handed – Again!

Image: Saint Lucia CARIFTA Team 2014 won - 1 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze in Martinique 2014 (Photo: Anthony De Deauville)

AS expected, Jamaica finished top of the medal table at the 2018 CARIFTA Games, held at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas. The Jamaicans extended their winning streak to 34 consecutive years following a dominating performance.

At the end of the three-day championship, the Jamaicans collected 80 medals, six fewer than last year in Curacao. In fact, the Caribbean powerhouses had more gold medals than the rest of the teams total medal count.

Image: Saint Lucia CARIFTA Team 2014 won - 1 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze in Martinique 2014 (Photo: Anthony De Deauville)
Saint Lucia CARIFTA Team 2014 won – 1 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze in Martinique 2014 (Photo: Anthony De Deauville)

But it was not good news for Team Saint Lucia, as they failed to mount the podium for the third consecutive year.

The 13-member squad returned to the island empty handed, but to a certain extent they should be proud for giving it their all against some of the region’s best, especially athletes from Jamaica, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.

So, the question is: where did it go wrong for team Saint Lucia? It seems strange that a country of just about 175,000 people, for the last three years, cannot return home with a medal of any colour — something has to be wrong.

Now, don’t misquote me. I am talking about the CARIFTA Games, as one may jump and say, last year at the same venue Julien Alfred captured the gold medal in the ladies 100 metres at the Commonwealth Youth Games championship.

There is nothing wrong winning today and losing tomorrow — after all, she is human. But I can argue too that she was exceptional at the CWG in the Bahamas, which is of an international standard. I guess she had better prepared herself. Hats off to her.

It would be untrue to say that Saint Lucia does not produce good sportsmen and sportswomen. I can safely say in cricket, the country’s passion, it has Daren Sammy and also the national under -15 cricket has come to the fore and in the process Saint Lucia captured the Windward Islands under -15 championship for four consecutive years only to be beaten by Grenada this year on a technicality where points were awarded to improve fast bowling within the four islands.

Youth cricketers and West Indies players at the ICC Under -19 World Cup in New Zealand, Kimani Melius and ICC Women’s World Cup in England, Qiana Joseph; also in swimming Katie Kyle, Naima Hazell, D’Andre Blanchard, JayhanOdlum – Smith and three time Olympian who happen to be one of the island most decorated athlete by far Levern Spencer — just to name a few.

Our well of talent is overflowing at the brim. We are certainly not short, but do we have the cutting edge to go out there and compete consistently like some of our Caribbean sister islands. But for this to happen, those in authority must put their money where their mouths are and stop taking our sportsmen and sportswoman for rides and pretend as if all is well, when they return via the George F.L. Charles or Hewanorra International Airports.

There is no doubt that Saint Lucia has sporting talent, so why does it fail to translate this into sub regional, regional, the Olympic and World Championships success?

The time has come where the so called bright minds in this country throw away their egos and come together for the betterment of our young sportsmen and women. Most, if not all, have failed to pinpoint one major factor — which is, we need to look deeply into all national sporting teams and give them the assistance of a sport’s psychologist to work in the minds of these young men and women.

I believe that traditionally, sport has always taken a back seat and as an independent nation after 39 years it’s time to spend the money on our young resources.

We need to get rid of favoritism and bad management among sports’ governing bodies. It’s a turn-off to the young sportspeople. However, I believe that while Saint Lucia still has a long way to go, things will someday look up.

The next question is: Are we still in the developing phase? No!! Absolutely not. We have been to the Summer Olympics Games six times (1996 – 2016) over 24 years. Tokyo, Japan 2020 is just around the corner. Fair enough, our young Saint Lucians are given the opportunity, but the facilities and opportunities are not enough. We still have to improve a lot.

Some say things are changing now and are changing for the better. Really? Well, if that’s the case, I need to see an improvement in the performances of our athletes at the Commonwealth Games presently taking place in Australia and stop depending solely on Levern Spencer in the hope that she wins another medal.

I have several reasons for optimism. Saint Lucia’s medal count moved from two last year to five at the CARIFTA Swim Championship. I am not expecting miracles, but success breeds success. If Saint Lucian heroes do emerge from the CWG in Australia, rest assured there will be at least 25 youngsters ready to try and emulate them.

Why 25? It’s just the reality of life in Fair Helen.

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