SPORTS 2017 • The Year in Review

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The wall on the north side of the A. O. Shirley Grounds crumbled; the pavilion roof was blown off; bathroom facilities doors were blown off, light banks fell, stands moved and the track was torn up

The Belle Vue Gym entire structure collapsed

The Jeffrey Caines Arena on Virgin Gorda was ripped apart by Hurricane Irma. Photo: Gloria George

Stands at the Ellis Thomas Downs were a twisted rubble of steel following Irma

Irma’s destruction of facilities overshadowed great year of sports

By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway

(Note: This is the first in a series of Islands Sun Sports reviews of 2017)

Just three days after the BVI Softball Association completed a men and women’s weekend tournament in honor of Raymundo “Mundo” Boynes, involving teams from both St. Thomas and St. Croix, the first such tournament to be held in the territory in years, the sporting landscape dramatically changed with the passage of Hurricane Irma on September 6.

Up to that time, it had been a great year for sports, with several team sports, including Softball, where women returned to Pan American competition; Football, where an U15 team competed in a CONCACAF Tournament and Basketball fielding a U17 Women’s team in FIBA competition for the first time over the summer.

Among individual sports, swimmer Elinah Phillip qualified for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games at the FINA World Championships; Kyron McMaster, Chantel Malone and Ashley Kelly all qualified with the IAAF World Championships, with Malone placing seventh overall in the Long Jump—the territory’s first finalist since the championships began in 1983; Kelly advancing to the 400m semis. While McMaster advanced to the 400m Hurdles semis, marking the first time in our history that three athletes had mane the semis, he was subsequently disqualified.

He returned later in August to win the IAAF Diamond League Trophy in his pet event—the first BVI athlete to do so—and joined Grenada’s Kirani James as the only OECS athletes accomplishing the feat. McMaster also ended the 2017 season with the fastest time run over the 400m Hurdles this season, when he stopped the clock at 47.80 seconds in Jamaica on May 20—to become the No. 28 performer on the IAAF All Time List—and ended up running three of the four fastest time of the year.

But on the morning of September 7, like everyone else, sportsmen and sportswomen woke up to a new reality, with all the facilities they used to hone their skills, severely damaged or completely destroyed throughout the entire territory.

The bare uprights of the Anagada Basketball court after Irma. Photo: Shirley Vanterpool

The attack on facilities began with the Jeffery Caines Arena on Virgin Gorda, where basketball and Volleyball is played. Irma ripped apart the entire structure, leaving just the steel frame and tore up the court. She also blew away the stands on the Valley Recreation Grounds.

On Anegada, the Irma blew away the tiles on the basketball court and ripped off the backboards.

Then she began working on Tortola, turning up part of the new football turf in the East End -Long Look community, that was laid in late August. Irma took the goal posts, cutting one to the ground. She then went on the Greenland Recreation Grounds, blew away the stands and the concession area used for Cricket and Football and also the Basketball/Volleyball court. She ripped apart the softball backstop, leaving it in a twisted ball of rubble and fell a light bank on Darkies Bar, on the other side of the road.

She continued her pathway by leveling the Bell Vue Gym, bringing the structure’s steel frame to the ground and piercing the wooden floor, which it decimated.

Irma ripped off a segment of the Multipurpose Sports Complex roof and dropped about three inches of water on the court, leaving a porting of the parquet floor under the western basket, warped, which eventually disintegrated.

 She seemed to be quite upset with the A. O. Shirley Grounds. She blew down all but two banks of the light poles. Uprooted stands and blew segments on the Festival Village Grounds, ripped off the Pavilion’s roof before decimating 400 feet of the perimeter wall. Irma wiped out the bathrooms, gym and medical room and put holes in on the blue Mondo track.

Irma also took the life of reigning Coach of The Year Dag Samuels, who coached Kyron McMaster to the fastest time in the world in 2017. Samuels would have easily retain Coach of The Year accolades.

Further over, she systematically decimated the recently renamed E. Walwyn Brewley Softball Park, formerly the Old Recreation Grounds. Stands were dislodged, so was the backstop. All but a small segment of the outfield wall was leveled. Only the scorer’s booth was somewhat intact but the concession stand was completely demolished.

In Sea Cows Bay, Irma did a number on the Ellis Thomas Downs. Stables were blown away, save for the recently constructed one made of blocks. All horse carriages were overturned. Inside and outside rails were ripped out with galvanize strewn about them. Ellis Thomas’ statute was ripped off its base and he was thrown off his horse, which laid on the right side of the wall bearing his name. The newly purchased gates were overturned by the 7 Furlongs start. Most noticeable from anywhere, was the contortion of steel which were the stands that was a twisted rubble.

Irma knocked out the fall sporting calendar. Plans for the School’s Football League, the Wendol “Poto” Williams Knockout Cup and the BVI Football Association 2017 League, have were scuttled. The last three races of the Ceres Juices 10K Series were wiped out. The series effectively ended with the July 19 race. The annual College Classic Series that began on Oct 19, 1996, never got off the ground. A fun run was held on November 25 keep the event’s streak alive.

Sail boats were overturned, masts broken and several sunk. Boats to be used for the Back to School Regatta, were damaged and destroyed and other races planned including the annual Interline Regatta, were cancelled.

The 12th BVI Sunrise Half Marathon, while it came off as scheduled on December 3, was scaled down and run on a two loops course. It also marked the first time since the first race in 2006, that no St. Thomas runners participated.

Irma’s destruction of facilities had set sports in the territory back several decades and will dramatically affect the 2018 season. All facilities will have to be rebuilt. Sports faces a mammoth task.

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