On Target
August 13, 2021
Do we have an Olympics podium plan?

FOR THE PAST two weeks, the world over was glued to the television sets and other devices, as the belated 2020 Summer Olympics came off in Tokyo, Japan.

Indeed, it was an Olympic Games with a difference; an intended quadrennial event which was deferred by a year amidst the threats of the pandemic. As such, the Games were characterised by lots of restrictions, inclusive of no spectators, regular testing and compete and leave, among others.

Whilst the less than normal set up prevailed, the Games were held and for the most part, the various disciplines were competitive and enjoyable to some extent.

But within the Vincentian context, the Games for most, are a spectacle and a wishing well. This, as not many are seemingly habouring the thought of this country excelling at one of the editions of the Summer Olympic Games.

Therefore, does anyone envisage hearing the St Vincent and the Grenadines anthem or seeing this country’s flag hoisted at a Summer Olympic Games in the near or even distant future?

Rhetorical it may be, the above question is pertinent, as for nine occasions, St Vincent and the Grenadines has been part of the Summer Olympic Games. This has been the case since the country made its debut back in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea.

Indeed, we have participated and that has been the operative word.

Save and except the efforts of Eswort Coombs, who in 1996 at the Atlanta Games in the USA, reached the semi-finals of the men’s 400m, Vincentians, again have merely been attendees.

This is not to say that there have not been some encouraging achievements, such as swimmers Nickolas Sylvester and Shane Cadogan winning their heats, at the Rio 2016 Games and the Tokyo Games, respectively.

In between, though, some representatives have achieved their personal bests.

So, are we satisfied with just the mandatory universality places afforded to Swimming and Track and Field? Are we just contented with achieving the baby steps, the small milestones which our representative Olympians have returned over the years?

There however were some moves to buck the trend that had become the high point of excellence, when just about four years ago, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee rolled out its Long -Term Athlete Development (LTAD) programme.

Certainly, this was an undertaking which showed some semblance of structured development and timelines in reaching set goals.

The LTAD with its own framework, underscored that success is not a fly by night attainment, but a chartered pathway.

Unfortunately, this well intended programme has lost its way, as some national sporting associations have been blurred in their vision and are gleeful with the bits and pieces of success which are few and far between.

Regrettably, since the initial launch of the progammme, many of the said associations which promised to follow the footsteps as laid down by the LTAD, have lost their way and gone back to their old ways. The hype, the full embrace and enthusiasm have all evaporated.

It is therefore imperative that the St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee (SVGOC) revisit its surveillance of its constituent associations, and whilst they don’t have the wares and resources in abundance, better can be done.

Getting better results at the Olympic Games is not easy as kiss hand. It takes years of planning, commitment and vision. More than anything else, success doesn’t come by just speaking it. In essence, gaining success in sports is a costly exercise.

So, as St Vincent and the Grenadines ready itself for the 2024 Paris Games, a clear and decisive route must be pursued to have our representatives showing that they belong there. It cannot be too far fetched if someone is identified, with the aim of at least making one of the standards.

Again, it is not an easy road, but getting out of the blocks early is critical. If we are to start with 2024, with parallel programmes at semi-final berths in 2028, surely, we can say that we are on to something.

Just letting things evolved would not cut it. Instead, we need scareful and methodical planning, coupled with investments, a vigorous talent identification plan, and the will for success, then St Vincent and the Grenadines indeed can one day mount the podium at the Olympics.