On Target
September 13, 2013

Taking stock of our athletics talents

Much has been said and done about Track and Field here in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Much has happened, a lot is happening, but are we satisfied that the investments are paying the dividends?

Track and Field, over the years, has been the beneficiary of various technical development courses, geared at sharpening athletes, coaches and administration alike.{{more}}

So, there is no shortage of paperwork and trained personnel to take the sport to that level of achievement and eventually stardom.

But, unfortunately, despite the emergence of young athletes on the local front, the chapter and verses seem to be repeating themselves year after year.

This is not entirely new to that discipline’s operations, but there is a time when you have to stop and take stock.

St Vincent and the Grenadines’ recent outing at the World Championships in Moscow may be the signal for a re-directing of our resources.

At the championships, representation came from Kineke Alexander and Courtney Williams, both senior athletes.

Alexander, who has been to several international meets over the past nine years, was able to reach the semi-final of the women’s 400m. Her times in both heats and semi-final were 51.62 and 51.64 seconds.

At age 27, Alexander ran her personal best in the same event seven years ago, when she did 51.35 seconds.

Before going to Moscow, she ran 52.81 at the Central American and Caribbean Championships in Mexico, which gained her a bronze in her pet event.

Alexander though, clutched gold in the 200m, the first such medal for St Vincent and the Grenadines.

In the case of Williams, he clocked 21.98 seconds in the 200m at the Moscow championships, which was not good enough to get past the heats.

Comparably, such time is being bettered here by the Boyde twin brothers, even on grass surfaces such as the Arnos Vale Playing Field.

Whilst no one expected Alexander and Williams to be on the podium in Moscow, at least one should have seen some improvements in their times.

The focus on the two is against the backdrop that they were on Olympic Solidarity scholarships of US$1,000 per month in preparation for the London Olympics.

Alexander dropped out of the 400m, with no plausible explanation given.

Additionally, Williams’ time in the 100m heats could barely get past a woman’s effort over the same distance.

So, it begs the question what has their coach, Kittitian Eric Francis, been doing with them in terms of getting them prepared sufficiently for championships of such magnitude?

Francis, obviously, is no Billy Button and must have been remunerated for his association with the Vincentian athletes from the coffers best sourced by the local track and field body.

But what is most disturbing, and a million French men cannot be wrong, is that there is a chorus of allegations which point in the direction of Francis.

Will St Vincent and the Grenadines continues to tag him to its name on the international scene and turn a blind eye to the allegations and leave them as malicious propaganda spread by some persons and do not carry out an integrity audit of Francis?

Was it not the same Francis’ Elite Performance Track Club that Williams and Alexander were part of when the drug scandal involving Kittitian Tameka Williams broke at the London Olympics last year?

Despite the heavy clouds hanging over his head, Francis is revelling at the big shot games, while others here are being sidelined.

While it is not the first time that non-Vincentians have had the task of coaching our teams, the situation is different in this case, as Francis has labels taped around him.

But stocktaking must be done also on the local front, as it may be high time that resources directed at those based overseas can be invested here.

But it must be reciprocal, as the non-participation of the Boydes at the Pan American Juniors in Colombia last month was disturbing, to say the least.

Whatever the reason(s) for them opting out, such happenings should never reoccur, as there is a scarcity of competition for homegrown athletes.

The crossroads have been reached; the detour sign should be erected and a new course of positive intent be chartered.