Leading Athletes Stunned By Level Of Track Damage

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Hurricane Irma left extensive damage at the A. O. Shirley Grounds, much to the surprise of athletes

By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway

After becoming the territory’s first finalist in an International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships where she placed seventh in the Long Jump, Chantel Malone was looking forward to her return to the territory in mid September. Her plan was to use the break to relax, recreate and rejuvenate before returning to her Florida training base to prepare for the 2018 season, that includes the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, England in March, followed by the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

Hurricane Irma disrupted those plans and she didn’t get home until Chief Coach Dag Samuels’ funeral on Oct 21. While she had heard about the devastation, seen video and images, getting a first hand look at the aftermath was a different story.

“Coming to a place where you used to train, you don’t recognize the surroundings, it’s just so bad,” Malone said. “I can’t even imagine what it was like when it just happened. Looking like this now and and it has been over six weeks I was shocked. I was really shocked to see everything that was going on and how bad it really was. It looked like a war zone—like a bomb when off in certain areas.”

Malone said her hope is that it can be up and running so that the kids that are here can continue to train and make the BVI proud. “I think it’s going to be a long road,” she stated. “But we have to keep it going.”

Kala Penn who joined Malone as the only Triple Jumpers over 13m said she was heartbroken when she first saw the damage.

“They put so much time and money resurfacing the track and everything just went to waste, it was destroyed,” she said of the work that was completed in November 2015. “I was in shock. I wasn’t expecting to do the damage that it did. It was really heartbroken because this is where I trained and got my start.”

Kyron McMaster who returned to the territory on Aug 31 after competing in the IAAF World Championships, Diamond League meetings and the IAAF World Challenge Series was stunned by what he saw of the facility where he trained and recorded the fastest time run in the world in 2017 over the 400m Hurdles.

“This is home to us and seeing this mind blowing and breathtaking scene, the pavilion gone, the light poles down, walls broken and track destroyed, makes you wonder what’s the next move right now,” he said, noting he came by the track on the north side and saw the wall blown down. “I think my first words were like OMG, I can’t believe this, like wow. This is something you’d never expect.”

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