September 6, 2011
Use sporting triumphs as inspiration

Tue, Sept 6. 2011

The Caribbean cannot really complain about the events of the past two weeks. The storms which built up in the Atlantic bypassed our shores, giving us at least more breathing space, so sorely needed, given our socio-economic problems. That provided us with an atmosphere in which we could passionately enjoy that great love of ours, sport.{{more}} There were two major international arenas for us to savour – the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, Korea, and right here in St. Vincent, the West Indies/Pakistan four-match Women’s One-Day International cricket series. A third international sporting front has just opened up in the preliminaries for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Those two concluded events have given us, collectively, a lot to cheer about. Beginning at home, the Caribbean women did a lot to erase the bad taste left by their male counterparts in the corresponding series against Pakistan, a mere few weeks ago. Women’s cricket is steadily advancing, not only in popularity, but in quality as well. This was emphatically borne out at Arnos Vale. As we congratulate our women cricketers, it is more than relevant to ask, should we not be paying more attention to, and placing more emphasis on, the female side of the sport in the region?

In Daegu, whether it was the gold-plated performances of the giant Usain Bolt and his Jamaican colleagues, the Grenadian teenager Kirani James, or those of the athletes from tiny St.Kitts and Nevis, the smallest sovereign state in the region, or even those athletes who, though they did not win a medal, put in personal best performances, the Caribbean took away a lot of credit from the Games. The determination of the 35-year old veteran Kittitian, Kim Collins, who powered his way through a field of athletes many years his junior, tells us much for dedication and total commitment, qualities which we have not been displaying to the full in recent years.

In the aftermath of those successes, tongues are wagging all over the region. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines in particular, much debate has been generated as to this country’s seeming decline in sporting development as compared with our neighbours. This country was once a regional powerhouse in sporting terms. We produced the first professional cricketer from the Caribbean to play in England, Charles Ollivierre; the first Windward islander to play Test Cricket in Alfie Roberts; our netballers once went toe-to-toe with today’s Caribbean Amazons, Jamaica, and we competed equally with Trinidad and Tobago at the height of its netball glory. Our early successes in CFU football are well documented and we made our mark at the Commonwealth Games(once Empire Games) more than 50 years ago.

Naturally, the questions are being asked as to why we have not progressed further. Kirani James’ success in Daegu is not being treated only as an inspiration to our youth, it makes us ask what are our neighbours doing right, that we have failed to grasp so far? It must be remembered though, as a leading coach in Grenada reminded us, Kirani’s gold medal was the reward for a 10-year investment. We should reflect on such matters, be inspired by our regional triumphs, but now go back to the drawing board and plan for the future. That plan must include the long-proposed National Stadium, not as a white elephant, but as a fulcrum of athletics development.