It was an evening with a difference on Friday 29th March at the Sandals Grande Beach Resort & Spa located at Pigeon Island as fifteen-time Sports Woman of the Year Levern Spencer geared up to receive another much-deserved award for her years of service to Saint Lucia.
The overseas guests present (one must give them thumbs up for being in Saint Lucia to celebrate with a genuine, loving and God fearing young woman!) included President for the North American, Central American and the Caribbean Confederation Victor Lopez; Vice Presi
dent/Executive Producer, Sports Max – Lance Whittaker; also Levern’s coach at the University of Georgia, Wayne Norton.
The audience of well-wishers also included Saint Lucia’s Governor General, Sir Nevel Cenac and Lady Cenac; acting Prime Minister, Ezekiel Joseph; Youth and Sports Minister Edmund Estaphane; Saint Lucia Olympic Committee Inc. President Fortuna Belrose; acting Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports Liota Charlemange; Levern’s sponsors – Sam Augier and representatives of FLOW; Saint Lucia Athletic Association President – Cornelius Breen; former coach, Gregory Lubin; Levern’s immediate family, Gregory Dickson and family; members of the media and other invited guests.
Making the announcement as to what the Saint Lucian government was rewarding Spencer with for her 20 years of service was acting Prime Minister Ezekiel Joseph. The gift list included a specialty postage stamp, a motor vehicle, a Glass Globe designed to fit into a trophy, and a bouquet of flowers. The event also featured the unveiling of an Iconic Image of Spencer when she jumped 1.98 meters in Athens, Georgia in 2010.
According to acting Prime Minister Ezekiel Joseph, there are other forms of recognition that they are discussing with Levern Spencer and her manager Gregory Dickson including the naming of a sporting facility after her, but they have not yet decided as to which one.
Master of Ceremonies for the evening Terry Finistere said the Iconic Image will be put up at every school on the island depicting the 1.98 meters so one can truly get the sense of how high the Commonwealth Queen went over the bar. The image is also meant to serve as a source of inspiration.
Like everything else which takes time to be acted upon, the gala dinner for Spencer does not show up on the list of activities to celebrate Saint Lucia’s 40th anniversary of Independence from Britian. One might speculate as to whether or not it was an afterthought.
Eighty-eight days shy from celebrating her 35th birthday, the IAAF World Ranked high-jumper has been dubbed Saint Lucia’s “most decorated female athlete of all time”, with 20 years of unbroken service on the global stage. Not an easy feat.
Putting Saint Lucia on the map in every corner of the globe and leaving her footprint behind by making several podium calls, Levern has brought joy to our hearts and put smiles on our faces.
As an individual, Levern Spencer stands tall. Her longevity, commitment, loyalty, discipline and hard work is living testimony.
Let’s shift into high gear. According to acting Prime Minister, Ezekiel Joseph, the Government of Saint Lucia will also bestow upon Levern the title of Official Youth and Sports Ambassador for Saint Lucia.
The question that must now be asked is this; will Spencer’s reign be the shortest as Sports and Youth Ambassador with retirement now staring her in the face? Not only that, although it is not cast in stone, a Youth Ambassador according to the United Nations can only be up to 35 years old.
The Acting Prime Minister further announced the decision by the Government of Saint Lucia to issue a Commemorative Postage Stamp to recognize Spencer’s achievements. By the look of things, and the way we do business, postage stamps may soon be obsolete.
The Government would further honour Spencer with the donation of a motor vehicle. At Friday’s event, details on whether the vehicle was new or reconditioned were not made available. Considering this event might have been rushed, one cannot help wondering!
We all want that extra cash as we close in on our twilight years, so it gives me reason to believe the Commonwealth Queen would have been a happier person on the night if a monetary award equivalent to the so-called car, something worthy to finally wipe the sweat off her eyebrows, would have been more ideal.
We may agree to disagree, but the facts of the matter are that for one thing, Levern spends almost 100 percent of her time away from home. How useful will this car be to her?
Sometimes we need to call a spade a spade and say it as it is.
All I am asking for is to respect the hard work she has done. She has set the bar; treat her well so the young ones coming up can take a page from her book knowing that they too will be treated well if deserving. We take our sportsmen and sportswomen for nothing in this country. We treat them like dirt. Why do you think so many of our sportsmen and sportswomen have left our shores never to set foot again on this rock they once called home? Think about it for a minute.
The naming of a sports facility in her honour is one of the worst pronouncements ever made and those that sat around the table to decide such should know better; it simply tells you how we think of our very own.
For one, as a country, we have failed miserably when it comes to maintaining sporting facilities of any kind in Saint Lucia. This is a woman of honour and grace and she must be respected for what she has done for her country.
The dilapidated George Odlum Stadium in Vieux Fort is a typical example. The last major event was the 2009 Carifta Games. The Vigie Multipurpose Sports Complex, the Marchand Grounds and the Mindoo Phillip Park (MPP) are all at their lowest conditions. At one time the MPP was our best-loved cricket facility. These facilities have all gone to the dogs.
Anyway, at the recent event, Minister for Youth Development and Sports Honourable Edmund Estephane shared some touching words directed at Levern, “Your service to country has not gone unnoticed and it is for these very reasons that you have achieved that measure of success. That spirit of excellence, that passion, the will to succeed and your determination are the vital ingredients for building a better Saint Lucia and we all can take a page from your books. We thank you for the exposure you have given to Saint Lucia and for bringing attention to our country.”
One of the most heartfelt parts of the evening was when the Sports Minister said, “We have cause to apologise also. We apologize for the times when the Saint Lucian public was not so nice with their criticisms when we did not get the result that we wanted. As a true champion, you have remained graceful, loyal, motivated and steadfast. Over the years you have given us time and time again reason to celebrate.”
Saint Lucia, we must respect this individual for staying loyal to country; the young sporting talents we have coming up will not tolerate nonsense and mediocrity from those who refuse to give them what they truly deserve. I doubt very much they will want to stay in the sport for that long. We were fortunate to have the high jump Queen of the Commonwealth representing us for 20 unbroken years in spite of the many challenges she faced along her journey. Let us continued to honour her while she is still here.