By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Two months and two days after winning the territory’s first medal in its 28-years Commonwealth Games history, as well as having its most finalists ever, BVI top athletes were celebrated with a motorcade last Thursday, then a Friday afternoon parade and a festive ceremony at the Tortola Pier Park, where rewards were also doled out.
It was the first time that 400m hurdles gold medalist Kyron McMaster, veteran sprinter Tahesia Harrigan-Scott and Long Jumper Chantel Malone were home since the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
On Friday afternoon, the overseas based trio reunited with teammates twin sisters Tynelle and Trevia Gumbs who returned earlier and squash player Joe Chapman, and along cadets, cheerleaders, athletes, school children and two drum core, took a lap in honor of late Chief Coach Dag Samuels around the A. O. Shirley Grounds, to kick off a parade to the Tortola Pier Park.
From the track, the parade meandered to its destination via Waterfront Drive, as hundreds of residents lined the streets and snapped images of the smiling and flag waving athletes.
“We’re not just proud of you because of your athletics prowess. We’re proud of you because you have been very good ambassadors of this country,” Sports Minister Myron Walwyn said, after reflecting on the words of former late Chief Minister H. Lavity Stoutt, that it was “an auspicious occasion” to celebrate the territory’s athletes for their achievements. “I cannot recall hearing none of your names called with anything anywhere in the world. We hear about anti-doping and all other things people are doing. I have not heard one single ill word of our athletes who leave the territory of the Virgin Islands to represent us.”
Joined by Acting Premier Hon. Mark Vanterpool prior to presenting a $30,000 check to the territory’s first Commonwealth Games gold medalist, Walwyn said McMaster broke the glass ceiling for everyone in the territory.
“Not just the glass ceiling in athletics, but you’ve also said to all of us, that whatever you strive to do, whatever you want to do, get up and do it because you have the greatness inside of you. And I want to thank you so much for that.”
Walwyn then directed a moment of silence in honor of McMaster’s former coach, Samuels.
McMaster said while everyone was excited about his victory, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in preparing for competition and the thanked his new coach Lennox Graham and all those who supported his development.
“Winning this medal wasn’t only about winning it for me and my personal reasons or for coach (Samuels). We went through a tragedy in the hurricane and this medal is basically dedicated to everyone that we lost in the hurricane,” he said to cheers, before presenting his Commonwealth Games participation medal to Samuels’ daughter Xavyerna and his sister Althea. “There’s a lot that we don’t shine the light on but, the hurricane was very difficult. I’m sorry for those who lost family and friends in the hurricane. If my winning brought a light to you, I’m happy that I could have done that for you.”
Malone who became the BVI’s first IAAF World Championships finalist since the territory began competing in the event in 1983, placed seventh in the long jump last summer in London. She then finished fifth in the Commonwealth Games and during her brief remarks, said the road to being an ambassador is not easy. She recalled her start at the Althea Scatliffe Primary School, before moving to Elmore Stoutt High, then began representing the territory in regional and international competitions.
She recalled seeing McMaster run in Gainesville, Florida, and told Samuels that he has such a calm persona like she had. Then he went on to run a world leading time in the 400m hurdles.
“From then you have inspired me so much. I was at the runway in Commonwealth and say you won gold and I automatically looked up and I was like that one’s for you coachie (Samuels),” she said as athletes called him and before receiving $15,000. “And I said that he would have been so proud of you and I am so proud of you and thank you for inspiring me.”
Malone also thanked Harrigan-Scott—who was also recognized by Walwyn for her years of stellar ambassadorial representation—for being there when she needed someone to talk to.
Following the event, McMaster said winning a Commonwealth Games medal had to be done at some time and glad it was him. He said the BVI always has his back in track and field.
“But, I didn’t know it was this heavy,” he said noting the large turnout. “Now that I’ve seen it, it actually motivates me more to go out there and be the best ambassador I can be for the country.”
McMaster’s manager Norman Peart said he will return to action in the IAAF Diamond League meet in Paris on June 30, followed by another competition in Lausanne, Switzerland on July 4.