THE Prime Minister’s residence in Vigie was a hive of celebration last week when Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet recognized a number of Saint Lucia sportsmen and women for their outstanding performances at recent regional and international events.
Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, Sports Minister, Edmund Estaphane and Saint Lucia Olympic Committee President Fortuna Belrose all echoed similar sentiments when they took to the lectern to address the gathering.
In special focus was the National Under 14 girls’ team for placing second in the CONCACAF Under 14 Women’s Football Tournament held in the Cayman Islands.
Then there was the National Women’s Under 20 team (playing in Group A) which finished in second place and advanced to the Round of 16 in the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship.
The National Under 15 boys team also received praise for winning the CONCACAF Under 15 Division 2 Tournament in Miami, Florida.
Special mention was also made of Saint Lucian athlete Levern Spencer who successfully defended her Pan American high jump title by winning gold with a height of 1.97 meters, and male javelin thrower, Albert Reynolds who took home a bronze medal with a throw of 82.19 meters.
At the event SLOC President, Fortuna Belrose expressed, “It’s great to be here. The amount of energy, the positive vibes that come radiating because of your success is tremendous. The beautiful thing about sports; it prepares you for life. Once you master the art of playing sports there is nothing in the world that you cannot conquer.”
She added: “In sports you learn to strategize, plan, practice, and work towards achieving the goals that you want. I want you to remember after today, anything you set your mind to do, you can do it because you’ve been through the valley of sports, nothing is impossible.
“We went to the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru, knowing that we have a defending champion in the person of Levern Spencer. Levern stood tall; she knew her game, she got there and being the champion that she is, she worked the maths and was able to retain the gold medal for Saint Lucia. That is a significant accomplishment in the whole continent of this hemisphere from Canada down to Argentina. Levern Spencer is the best high jumper that this continent has seen in a number of years, and we want to commend her for that achievement.”
According to Belrose, the reigning Sportsman of the Year Albert Reynolds had many challenges before he went to the Pan Am Games. She said, “We sat him down and he told us his plan, and what we did was support that plan. You are here young people because the people around you are supporting you through sport. You need that supportive environment to be able to achieve what you want to achieve. For Albert, he was able to get that assistance he needed to drive him to the next level. Today Albert Reynolds stands tall as being the proud winner of a bronze medal at the Pan American Games”.
According to Sports Minister Edmund Estaphane, “The Vice President of the Saint Lucia Football Association mentioned that the SLFA wants Saint Lucia to qualify for a world cup at any level during the executive’s lifetime. That is not what we are aiming for as a government; we want to work with each and every sporting association in Saint Lucia so our standard can get so high that if it doesn’t get there we will be crying.
“We want to be qualifying in every event at the highest level in this world. That is what the government is setting its foot forward to achieve. I know the job ahead is not easy, the collaboration between all the sporting associations has to be strong, the presidents, executive and managers of the various sporting associations have to work with us, the parents and athletes have to put in their bit.”
In closing the Minister left the following ingredients with the athletes present, (1) God, (2) Hard work and (3) Commitment.
In his speech at the event Prime Minister Allen Chastanet stated, “I think someone said earlier that we want to be able to bottle July/ August of 2019. I want to put it differently. I want to put an asterisk next to July/ August of 2019 so that forever your names will be established in the history of Saint Lucia, particularly the Under 15 boys football team who has accomplished something we have never accomplished before. By doing so, they have set a new standard for us to go by. For anyone out there who doubted that a little island could produce champions, events over the last years continue to remind us how incredible Saint Lucians are.”
With the success of Levern Spencer and Albert Reynolds (both from Babonneau), the prime minister suggested naming one of the roads in the area, “Medals Drive”.
PM Chastanet was also impressed with the efforts Saint Lucia was making with swimming.
“The way the various clubs have managed their affairs is to be commended,” he said. “I am really hoping and encouraging more of the sporting associations to come up to Rodney Bay and see what’s going from an organizational point of view. When we stand here and we say it requires more than just the efforts of the young athletes participating, and that it requires the efforts of the family, I want you to go as community members and see the level of effort put in by the family members to make that facility an area of excellence in Saint Lucia.”
The prime minister said it was out of that experience at the Aquatic Centre that his government had embarked on a programme to rebuild clubs in Saint Lucia.
“We had to make a tough decision as to what extent we are going to keep sports in schools, or whether we will develop after-school sports,” he said. “I think the decision was we are going to focus our attention on clubs and after school. While there will be sporting programmes in the schools, the emphasis will be on what we are going to do with clubs.”
Chastanet announced what may well be a windfall for sports.
“With the legal changes we are making, we are converting and putting the lottery from regulatory authority into the gaming. We are establishing a new Youth and Sports Authority; an entity in which all the lottery money will be going into. We will now be seeking the support of the private sector to make sure we have regularly scheduled tournaments; meaning football, basketball, track and field, and swimming, every year at the same time. We are in the process of building world class facilities; for young footballers, the new artificial turf in grandeRiviere, Dennery. Desruisseaux, Micoud, Denney, and Soufriere are also included. We are now putting artificial turf in all of those facilities of a higher quality than what you are now seeing in Grande Riviere, Dennery”.
With the festive season just a few months away, the prime minister presented two gifts to the young, deserving sportsmen and women. The Under 14 Girls team received day passes to Coconut Bay the Under 15 Boys team will enjoy a day trip on a Catamaran.