Why does it always have to reach this stage?
Shafiqua Maloney crossing the finish line. (Internet photo)
February 23, 2024
Why does it always have to reach this stage?

The Shafiqua Maloney situation on the eve of this country hosting our biggest-ever International Conference, the CELAC Summit, our government and people faced a potentially damaging situation surrounding one of our leading international athletes (see stories in the midweek SEARCHLIGHT, Tuesday, Feb 20).

They revolve around female middle-distance runner Shafiqua Maloney of Marriaqua, who is currently ranked No. 2 in the world over the 800 metres indoors and has qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Coming from tiny St Vincent and the Grenadines, you can hardly go bigger than that. It certainly matches our rising international profile, and we should all congratulate her, and other outstanding athletes such as Handel Roban whose performances have made our country proud.

But if Shafiqua had wished to bask in her glory as she prepares for next month’s World Indoor Championships in Scotland and the Paris Olympics, the biggest global sporting event, she has no such luck. Two weeks ago, the Jamaican-based sports television company, SPORTSMAX, aired an explosive interview with Ms. Maloney which made those Vincentians watching it, virtually sit up in horror.

In it, as the SEARCHLIGHT stories detailed, the young athlete gave a tale of horror threatening her participation in both World championships, and even her continued presence on the world stage. Fundamentally these have to do with lack of financial support which is critical to her participation at the elite level. One cannot believe that we have an athlete ranking No.2 in a world of over 8 billion people, and her participation on the world stage is threatened by the lack of financial support, and that she is in the uncomfortable situation where if she leaves the USA where she is based, she may not be able to re-enter because of visa issues!

What is even more puzzling, comments from some local athletic and Olympic committee officials gave the impression of not being very sympathetic to her cause, much more supportive. This must be crazy! Are local issues clouding us to the importance of the opportunity for not just Shafiqua Maloney, but St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a whole? Shouldn’t her situation be one calling for “all hands on deck” to ensure she gets the priceless opportunity to stamp this country’s presence firmly on the athletics map?

Why then does the matter have to fall into the lap of Prime Minister Gonsalves to find a solution? Couldn’t we have mounted a national campaign to mobilize all the resources necessary to support Maloney, Roban and company, not just to participate in global championships but to be able to live, train and study in a situation which allows them to give their best?

All praise to the ECGC for its initiative to assist but isn’t it time that the local private sector, including the oft- forgotten financial sector,step up to the plate and make their contribution? We cannot carry all our burdens and rest them at the feet of the Prime Minister.

Jesus Christ he is not. Once again he has saved the day but, we too must contribute.