BY Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Pan Am Games long jump gold medalist Chantel Malone was paraded through Road Town before being rewarded during a Friday afternoon ceremony at the Government’s Central Administration Complex, where she called for greater support for the territory’s athletes.
Malone who said she wanted to quit several times because of poor performances early in the year, received $30,000 and 0.475 acres of land from the government as part of its athlete’s awards scheme. She was joined in the parade and ceremony, by the BVI’s top athletes—Eldred Henry, Kyron McMaster, Ashley Kelly and Tahesia Harrigan-Scott.
“This was awesome. I was kind of worried in the beginning with the turnout but it ended up being good,” Malone said, noting she was surprised by getting land. “Land is new—I wasn’t expecting that. We all work hard towards the incentives that are put out there and I wasn’t surprised with that, but the land, I’m very appreciative.”
Malone said one of the disadvantages of being from a small country, is as athletes, they don’t get the same opportunities as others, she noted during her remarks. She said order for them to compete on the same level as their competitors, they need to have even the playing field. Malone, McMaster and Henry, had Top 15 marks in the world in their respective events. She noted that when she steps on the track in a BVI uniform, she represents the people the country’s resilience, determination and heart. She said winning gold was her way of letting the world know that the BVI is small, but they’re mighty.
“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 do is focus on is training and competing,” the territory’s first Pan Am Games medalist said. “This is our jobs. We are athletes for the BVI. The athletes of the BVI are no longer going to meets just to go and say we’re there. We’re going there with the intent to make our mark and put our country on the map. In order for us to do this, we need to stand behind our athletes and give us the best shot of bringing home that Olympic gold medal. This includes fixed financial support, access to physios, sport psychologists etc.”
Malone added: “Let me put it this way, we need to find a way to make sure that our athletes have access to whatever we need to become successful. There are no guarantees that our efforts will result in a gold medal or even a medal at all. But at least we will be given the chance to show armed, with the proper armor and be prepared to fight the battle.”
Premier Andrew Fahie who presented Malone with the document for the 0.475 acers of land congratulated her and also thanked former long serving BVI Athletics Association and Olympic Committee president Rey O’Neal for his work with athletics, noting that in the early days of the sports development, he spent his own money to send athletes to competitions to represent the territory.
“Mr. O’Neal sacrificed quite a lot for us to be here performing how we are performing in athletics,” the Premier noted. “Mr. O’Neal, we are forever eternally grateful and may generations to come, study the legacy of what he has done and we thank you sir.”