Reigning Sportswoman for the Year Levern Spencer is in the spotlight once again, but this time not on the European or American circuit competing as she always does representing Saint Lucia at an IAAF meet.
Spencer who will be 35 years old on June 23rd is the guest of honour tomorrow evening at the Sandals Grande St. Lucian Beach Resort & Spa (Pigeon Island) where she will be treated to the heart-warming, sumptuous, congratulatory dinner hosted by the Government of Saint Lucia.
By all reports, attending will include members on both sides of the House (Parliament), including Saint Lucia’s Governor General Sir Neville Cenac, Spencer’s family, her local manager Gregory Dickson, other/specially invited guests and members of the media.
This is not a welcome back home affair, remembering when she finished 6th place overall at the Rio Olympic Games, Brazil 2016 and then went onto win Saint Lucia’s first Gold medal at the Senior Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia 2018. Upon her return to the island after her marked accomplishments, Levern was given a Hero’s welcome at the Hewanorra International Airport. That Hero’s welcome fell flat, with not much being done to support the athlete in the aftermath.
In Saint Lucia’s setting, Friday evening’s event is simply to show appreciation for all the sacrifices the highly devoted World ranked high jumper has endured during her 20 unbroken years representing Saint Lucia. Her career began with the Windward Island Schools Games, then to the Carifta Games, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States Track and Field Championship, the Commonwealth Games, the Pan American Games, the Central American and Caribbean Games, the North Central American and Caribbean Games, the CAC Championship, World Youth, the Continental Cup and the list goes on.
Some of her major achievements are: a record 15 times Sportswoman of the Year; Commonwealth Games Gold medal – first place 2018 Gold Coast, Australia; Bronze medal – third place 2010 Delhi, India; Bronze medal – third place 2014 Glasgow, Scotland; Pan American Games – Gold medal – first place 2015 Toronto, Canada; Bronze medal – third place 2007 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
At the Central American and Caribbean Games – Gold medal – first place 2010 Mayagüez; Gold medal – first place 2014 Veracruz; Gold medal – first place 2018 Barranquilla Columbia; Bronze medal – third place 2006 Cartagena, Columbia; CAC Championships – Gold medal – first place2001 Guatemala City; Gold medal – first place 2005 Nassau, Bahamas; Gold medal – first place 2008 Cali; Gold medal – first place 2009 Havana, Cuba; Gold medal – first place 2011 Mayagüez; Gold medal – first place 2013 Morelia; World Youth Championships – Bronze medal – third place 2001 Debrecen, Hungary; and Continental Cup Bronze medal – third place 2010.
Surely, during the evening gala there will be lots of sincere words from well-wishers, commendations such as, “congratulations” and “well done, you made us proud”. The athlete will as usual be commended for her strength, determination, fierce face against the odds and for her confidence. She will again be told that the nation counts on her success and promises of support will ring out; but deep down, one must question, do the people with the most flowery words really mean what they are saying? Your guess is as good as mine.
In a previous Sportlight dated Tuesday 12th February 2019, I stated categorically that Spencer, who has served us for 20 consecutive years, sometimes under trying circumstances, deserves better. Twenty years is equal to four terms in parliament in our democratic system and after serving two consecutive terms a politician can enjoy a pension most of the time having done little to nothing to improve the lives of people in general.
Those past and present at the helm of the Saint Lucia Athletic Association, the Saint Lucia Olympic Committee and the Department of Youth Development and Sports know all too well what she has been through, but have they remedied Spencer’s nightmares so potential athletes coming along the way can sail smoothly? Not at all.
On Friday evening, there will be lovely speeches from the podium and some may well be hypocritical because as a country we have failed in so many ways to give her the much needed support along her journey. Athletes like Levern deserve more – the days for handshakes and “thank you” are no more. It is time to present Spencer with something of consequence, something tangible, something worth living for from the Government and people of Saint Lucia, and there is no better time and place to do it in her honour.
Levern has given more than half her life to her country of birth bringing joy to the hearts of many. I can recall when she went under the bar in Rio. She was torn apart on the airwaves by her own country men and women, but interestingly for those who knew better they gave her comfort and it is that same comfort and love that keep her going and going to bring more joy to Fair Helen.
So Mr. Prime Minister, dig deep as Minister for Finance, the ball is in your court. I did not serve an Ace, it’s a long volley and the longer it takes I expect something special in an envelope – any colour and size will do. Now, I am not talking about a dinner for four or a weekend for two for the champion high jumper. Levern deserves the honour of a lifetime, something truly worth living for.