Founded in 1979, the Saint Lucia Athletics Association (SLAA) was at one time the most talked about National Sports Federation (NSF) on island. It is the only national federation in Saint Lucia to have participants in all six Summer Olympic Games dating back from 1996 when Saint Lucia made its first appearance at these games in Atlanta, USA.
A total of 13 athletes under the SLAA banner have represented the island at the Olympic Games, with high jumper and reigning Senior Sportswoman for the Year Levern Spencer the only finalist to date, at Rio de Janerio 2016.
It was a big plus for the SLAA when they hosted the Carifta Games at the George Odlum Stadium (GOS) in Vieux Fort, since then the GOS has been home to the St. Jude Hospital following a mystery fire in September, 2009.
Like any other sporting discipline, track and field was not spared by the coronavirus. The last organized championship held was the National Juniors/ Carifta Trials which took place in March 2020, and then came the total shutdown; it’s been one year and absolutely no competitive track and field meet has taken place since then.
This reporter spoke to the SLAA Newly elected Public Relations Officer, Makeba Alcide about some of the challenges facing the organization. A former student of the University of Arkansas and Senior Sportswoman for the Year 2013 in Saint Lucia, Alcide had this to say about a working relationship with Corporate Saint Lucia / sponsors and what’s it’s like amid the COVID-19 pandemic along with other matters:
“Yes we do have a very cordial working relationship with Corporate Saint Lucia, when we need support we get it; but yet again our financial assistance usually comes from the Saint Lucia Olympic Committee”.
How do you see sports at the moment with COVID-19 still flashing its ugly head, do you see things returning to some form of normalcy at the soonest?
“In my mind I want to say yes, because what I am seeing with some of the athletes is a lot of commitment than before. Some are still unsure as to what is happening, or when a track and field meet is going to take place. They do appreciate the moment more than ever. They want to train, because they haven’t since last March”.
With respect to athletes who want to call it quit do you have any advice for them?
“It is not an isolated case, it is happening to everybody across the world and people are trying to stay motivated because COVID will not be around forever. Just keep at whatever you doing and stay motivated”.
Can you bring me up to speed as to the SLAA latest initiative, the monthly Newsletter and the idea behind it?
“We have a public relations team in place; it’s quite a bit of work as we source the history of track and field in Saint Lucia. Knowing the history of any national federation is a great thing. We are a great sport in Saint Lucia but there is nothing documented. Now the task is to source the information from the minds of individuals who have been there before and get it on paper. Also we are currently working on the website so all track and field information will be available at your finger tip”.
When will the SLAA see it fitting to assist athletes with footwear/ running shoes to compete?
“I am not sure of the change in that aspect, I don’t think that will be financially feasible for the SLAA. I think athletes who have done well for Saint Lucia and are in the ranks who can and able to help should help in the development of the sport. They could donate some gear to the SLAA to be handed out.”
“I got my first pair of spikes from Cuthbert Modeste (coach), and when I was in college in the USA, what I did, I collected a box of sneakers/ spikes and send them to Saint Lucia to be distributed amongst those in need. A lot of our athletes are not well off and cannot afford. The little that we can do and are passionate about the sport is to give back something”.
“The participation in numbers has dwindled over the years, the once ever popular Individual Track and Field Championship dubbed “The M&C Games” recorded the most number of registered athletes, 795 over two days of competition, nowadays its nothing close to 350 registered athletes for a major championship in Saint Lucia.”
Track and field athletes leave to join other sporting disciplines, but no one from other sporting disciplines comes over to track and field, any particular reason why?
“I believe it has dwindled considerably, we have not changed nor have we adjusted with the times. We are dealing with a different set of individuals. The younger generation, they’re a bit different, so the team sports look more attractive. On a track you cannot hide behind anybody, is either you win or lose. In a football game you could mess up by squandering a goal, or mess up in the defense and still win the encounter because you have team mates and support”.
“The other sporting disciplines are looking more attractive and one of our goals is to fight to get our sport back in the forefront and get people more interested, not just in participation but also coming on board as technical persons / officials, because we need all hands on deck, we losing just not the athletes, but everybody”.
“In terms of officials/ volunteers to assist at the various championships this is a sad story. Now you have to beg people to come and give a helping hand.”
Why has that area deteriorated so badly? What is the relationship with past athletes?
“I am still here, I am a past athlete. People should be passionate about track and field and their sport and come and give back to the sport that made you who you are today”.
“For track and field, officials can be divided into four main groups: field judges, track judges, timekeepers and starters.
“Running: You have sprints, middle distance, long-distance, relay races and hurdling. Jumping has, long jump, triple jump, high jump and pole vaulting. Throwing: Shot put; discus throw; javelin throw; hammer throw and combined events.”
“The Saint Lucia Athletic Association has produced the highest number of Olympians, thirteen altogether. In order for us to represent Saint Lucia at the highest level, we need your support/assistance in anyway you can, please reach out,” Alcide said in a special plea to the members of the public.