By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
The performances of our swimmer and track and field athletes at the Tokyo Olympic Games, highlighted where we are at this point in time in our sports history. Before our athletes competed, former athlete and Chef de Mission Taheisa Harrigan-Scott surmised it best: “We aren’t here to spectate,” she said. “We’re here to perform operational tasks.”
At the end of the Tokyo Olympic Games, BVI Olympic Committee President Ephraim Penn said: “We’re knocking on the door.”
The question before us now is, how do we help our athletes get in?
In Tokyo, we had the fastest 50m Free swimmer in the Caribbean in Elinah Phillip—the territory’s most decorated Carifta Games athlete with 10 medals.
On the track, Kyron McMaster and Chantel Malone, both went in and came out with the 4th best marks in the world in the 400m Hurdles and Long Jump respectively.
Let that sink in for a moment. Our track and field athletes have recorded the fourth BEST marks in the ENTIRE World in 2021!
In order for our athletes to deliver the goods, we have to ensure that they have the requisite tools to do so and be prepared to pay the costs, so they can focus solely on training, without worries of which treatment they’ll skip, which supplement they’ll skimp on or which bill they’ll focus on paying instead of putting their attention solely on training for the task at hand. That is what separates them from those ahead of them, plain and simple. Their opponents have NO worries. Their focus is on preparation.
The difference between Kyron McMaster’s 4th place finish and being on the Tokyo Olympic Games podium, was 0.36 seconds.
From now on, we have to ensure that our athletes have in place at all times—from training through competition and recovery—access to a physio, chiropractor, a massage therapist and doctor they can go to at a minimum, without worrying about the associated costs. Here is where our business community can make an invaluable contribution to sports and not just those at the top, but every athlete at every level training to represent us. The seeds must be planted NOW in order to reap the benefits in competition.
We’re already in the 2024 Olympic Cycle, as Covid has changed the landscape, forcing the cancellation of 2020 events and the already crowded international sports calendar, is now filled with championship events through the Paris Olympics 2024. Swimming has its Worlds Short Course Championships in December and it’s Long Course Championships in 2022.
In 2022, the World Athletics Indoor and Outdoor Championships, Commonwealth Games and CAC Games are on the horizon and in 2023 ,another World Championships and Pan Am Games.
Malone surmised the challenges—which they still face—after winning Pan Am Gold.
“If I’m completely honest, one of the disadvantages of being from a smaller country is that we don’t get the same opportunities as others,” Malone noted during the 2019 award ceremony recognizing her Pan Am Games Long Jump victory where many promises were made yet again. “In order for us to compete on the same level as our competitors, we need to even the playing field. We need access to treatment and recovery options without worrying about whether or not we can pay for it. You have no idea the relief it gives the athletes, when all they have to focus on is training and competing.”
Malone said they aren’t going to meet just to be there—a sentiment also echoed by McMaster and Henry.
“We’re going there with the intent to make our mark and put our country on the map. In order for us to do that, we need to stand behind our athletes and give us the best shot at bringing home a gold medal,” she continued. “We need to find a way to ensure our athletes have whatever it needs to become successful.”
McMaster, who like Malone competed in Tokyo with pre Games injuries, is currently looking at putting a team together, which includes a doctor, massage therapist, physiotherapist and chiropractor—this of course depends on available finance to achieve this. Their All Time Ranking in the Top 100 in the World in the history of their respective events—McMaster’s 47.08, No 8; Malone’s 7.08m (23’2¾”) =No 41 and Henry’s 21.47m (70’5¾”), =No 87. If our top athletes aren’t being taken care of, what is there for others to strive for when they see what’s happening?
Malone, McMaster and Eldred Henry, all face rehabilitation that slowed them. At the levels they compete and the rigors they put their bodies through for the marks they have laid down, what are the costs they face if they are getting the full services they really need?
To ensure our athletes can be competitive with their peers and get in the position we’d like to see, it will take $100,000—$125,000 annually, to meet those costs without worries. These fees include: Coaching, living accommodations, massage therapy, acupuncture therapy, chiropractor, physiotherapist, supplements, training camps, travel and injuries recovery.
Our athletes have shown the possibilities. Now, let’s help them turn those possibilities into reality.