Award top athletes schols
GEORGE ALLEYNE Wednesday, August 8 2012
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Special guests: From left are Minister Louis Farrakhan of the US, Lisa Hanna Jamaican Minister of Youth and Culture, former US Secretary of State Coli...
The failure of Trinidad and Tobago to secure the hoped for basket of medals in the current 2012 London Olympic Games should not be viewed in a negative light, but rather there should be an examination of not only our methods of training, but the level, generally, of our athletes’ participation in regional and international competitions.
Strategies should be developed to encourage optimum private sector sponsorship of our sportsmen/women in a bid to obtain required funding both for training and taking part in overseas meets. In addition, there should be enough money for the adequate provision of funding of an athlete’s living expenses and those of any dependents.
This, of course, would have to be within the framework of guidelines laid down by the governing body for the Olympic Games, where this is applicable.
Meanwhile, although at time of writing Trinidad and Tobago has won only one medal at the 2012 Olympics, through Lalonde Gordon in the men’s 400 metres sprint final on Monday, all of our team, with perhaps only one exception, performed creditably, whether in athletics, swimming or cycling et al. What should be clearly understood is that our sportsmen/women were not only competing against the best in the world, but were themselves of the best in the world.
The performances of Lalonde Gordon, Njisane Phillip, Richard Thompson, George Bovell, Kelly-Ann Baptiste, Semoy Hackett, Michelle-Lee Ahye, Rennie Quow, Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, Cleopatra Borel-Brown, Andrew Lewis, Kai Selvon and Jehue Gordon will long be remembered and saluted.
Unfortunately, there were many Trinbagonians, who were not merely disappointed that their favourite stars did not win medals, but made unkind and unjustified comments. Nonetheless, there are Trinbagonian Olympians, and I may add for the record Jamaican and Grenadian athletes, most of whom had never been exposed to the level of training and ongoing competition as did their fellow Olympians of, say, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and Canada, who won gold, silver and bronze in turning in superior performances.
While it may be argued that some of the region’s athletes had enjoyed a level of exposure to training in North America, they shone more brightly in the sprints than many a competitor from the North.
In the meantime, while Caricom Member States will not be able to send a combined team to Olympic Games, inasmuch as we are not a politically federated entity, nevertheless we should seek to work out a common development policy with respect to the training and nurturing of the region’s athletes. Admittedly, in large part this will involve the question of funding. Nonetheless, the question of financing such a project will be of far less significance than the rewards it will reap.
Understandably, Trinidad and Tobago with its natural gas-based economy will be expected to make a far greater contribution than any of the other Caricom countries. While the continuing international financial crisis and Trinidad and Tobago’s reduced access to traditional non energy markets has resulted in a fall off in Government revenue and foreign exchange earnings, nevertheless a regional athletics development programme could be started on a smaller scale than would have been otherwise possible. Failing this, however, Trinidad and Tobago’s private sector should be encouraged to contribute to the development of sport to the Olympics level through a programme of tax incentives.
Meanwhile, promising athletes should be awarded scholarships to the University of the West Indies, University of Trinidad and Tobago, the University of the Southern Caribbean, COSTAATT and other leading tertiary institutions. In addition, athletes who are taking part in the 2012 London Olympics, and who have not been to tertiary institutions should also be offered the opportunity to upgrade their efficiency. The programme would mean that after the sporting days of the athletes are over they would have professions and/or degrees on which to fall back. Persons qualifying for these awards, however, will need to possess standard entry requirements to the tertiary institutions.
Failing this, grants should be given to them to pursue courses of study aimed at their acquiring the needed qualifications. These scholarships, in addition to covering the cost of books and stationery, should be such as to adequately take care of expenses for transport, room and board and incidental expenses.
This column had referred earlier to the issue of funding for training.
This raises the question of putting in place up to date facilities for training which would be of an appreciable standard, with highly capable national, regional and/or international coaches and relevant personnel on contract.