Sports return, Olympic Games highlight 2021 Year in review (Part 1)

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Elinah Phillip, Kyron McMaster and Chantel Malone, had the best performances in BVI Olympic Games history 

By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway

Although disrupted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Softball and Basketball had their first seasons since Hurricane Irma, the performances of Swimming and Track and Field athletes at the Tokyo Olympic Games and the debut of the territory’s Baseball players with Great Britain in the European Baseball Championships, highlighted the 2021 sports year.

Softball and Basketball league openings planned for 2020, were canceled by the pandemic. When their respective seasons began in 2021, they also had interruptions but were able to complete their seasons.

Synergy swept defending champions That’s Ya Problem for the Women’s Division title.

“This is a sweet victory,” Synergy’s manager Neville “Sheep” Smith said. “That team is a very good team—no question about it. Once they’re on their P’s and Q’s, nobody can’t beat them.”

Power Outage successfully defended their 2017 title against debutants Storm in game four with a 12-2 victory—despite a three months break between the third and fourth deciding game which wasn’t played until October.

“It’s been a long ride. Covid caused us to close the league for quite some time, especially when we had the surge where we lost a lot of lives,” Power Outage Coach Roy Barry said. “It was difficult (returning from the break) I know most of my guys were rusty because we didn’t practice that much, just relied on talent coming out here tonight. It’s always great to be a champion.”

Skelton elected 9th President

Rhodni Skelton was elected the 9th President of the Virgin Islands Softball Baseball Association since it was founded in 1952, during elections held on October 27.

“I would like to see softball and baseball, something going on, on that field just about year round,” Skelton said. “We should not have these lulls of three, four, five months when nothing is going on.”

Joining Skelton on the executive are: Vice President, Glenford “Chappy” Maduro. Allen “Woodrow” Smith, President of Softball Affairs and Josh Ridgeway, President of Baseball Affairs. Secretary General, Bria Smith. Assistant Secretary, Darier Malone. Treasurer, Joi-Ann Thomas. Assistant Treasurer, Patricia Hodge. Compliance Officer, Sarah Potter-Washington. Public Relations Officer, Shamora “Molly” Penn-Maduro. Players Representative, Jamal “Lefty” Allen. 

Basketball

The BVI Basketball Federation League returned with a District League format following a 3-year absence. No one will ever know if the Virgin Gorda Bayside Blazers would have won both divisions of the inaugural championships, after Game five of the Jr. Bayside Blazers and Jr. Skillful Ballers game was recorded as a forfeiture and the championship awarded to Jr. Skillful Ballers

Bayside Blazers overpowers A’s

MVP Kimron Telemaque and Stephano Paul had 18 points respectively, in helping Bayside Blazers—who won the 2017 title as the Mystics but are using the Blazers’ name under a sponsorship agreement—overpower the A’s, 98-74 for the senior division title. It marked the second time in the league’s 47 year history that a team had won the title using two different names in back to back championships. Hurricane Irma and the pandemic affected the last three seasons.

“Man, it feels so good to be back in the winner’s circle ,” Bayside Blazers Coach Rhennie “Gumba” Phipps said. “They (A’s) messed up our blank slate—we wanted to go (through the league) undefeated, but we still came through. It’s a big win and we’re excited about the win.”

Olympics/Track & Field

Kyron McMaster made the British Virgin Islands a part of Olympic Games history, when he finished fourth in the Tokyo 400m Hurdles final, in the fastest race ever run over the 10 barriers in event history.

McMaster was fourth in 47.08 seconds—shredding his May 9 personal best from 47.50 and moved to No 8 from No 19, on the All Time List. His time is the 5th fastest ever run in Olympic Games history. In the process, he improved his BVI National Record, OECS Record and Caribbean and Central American Records.

“In this day and age, 47.08 doesn’t get you a medal at the Olympics,” said McMaster, who won his preliminary in 48.79 and his semi in 48.26, becoming the first BVI athlete to win both in an Olympic Games.  “When you have three runners’ personal bests of 46, then you have two, three other guys banging on 47 consistently, you can expect fantastic stuff when all those guys are focused on one thing—execution and getting a medal.”

Malone 1st Olympic Games finalist

Entering the competition, Chantel Malone—who had the 4th best Long Jump mark of the season at 7.08m (23’2¾”)—became the territory’s first Olympic Games finalist after cutting the sand at 6.82m (22’4½”), on her third attempt. The finals berth atoned for the major disappointment of not qualifying for Rio 2016.

In the final, she opened with a leap of 6.50m (21’4”). She stopped inflight on the second jump that measured 4.73m (15’6¼”). Her third and final attempt cut the sand at 6.48m  (21’3”), well shy of the 6.82 (22’4½’) mark she laid down in qualifying for the final, which would have had her placing eight—but instead had to settle for an unlooked for 12th place finish.

“I know you guys are proud, but I’m super disappointed,” Malone said afterwards. “I’m in the best shape of my life and my intention was to go out there and at least execute and I wasn’t able to, that’s the disappointing part.

Brathwaite wins NCAA 60m bronze

Indiana’s Rikkoi Brathwaite sprinted into history, becoming his school and the territory’s 1st NCAA Division I Indoor Championships male sprint medalist, when he stopped the clock at 6.56 seconds—.001 off his personal best—to claim 60m bronze.

Before NC’s, Brathwaite made his third successive Big 10 Conference Indoor Championships finals his most memorable one with a record victory run. Leading from gun to wire, Brathwaite buried the 60m field, by beating defending champion Wasee Williams of Purdue and shattering his 6.58 seconds championships record from 2020, when he stopped the clock at 6.55 seconds.

School Sports

Lettsome, House 1, won its 10th overall title by preventing defending champions Flemming, House 3, from attaining their historic third 3-peat victory since their first between 2002-2004, during the Elmore Stoutt High School Inter-house Track and Field Championships, with a resounding 44 points victory.

Lettsome amassed 330 points to win the one-day version of the 49th edition of the championships that’s traditionally held over two days. Flemming fended off hard charging Carlisle, House 4, by a mere four points—286-282 for second. O’Neal, House 2, rounded out the competition with 226 points.

JSPS upsets ASPS

 Joyce Samuel Primary School Stingers’ meteoric rise to a jaw-dropping 8-point dethroning victory over perennial Inter Primary Schools champions Althea Scattliffe Primary School Striders, sent seismic shockwaves across the territory’s sporting community.  It was their first defeat since their 1983 formation.

“Sweet victory. I’m super proud of my eight athletes, my coaches, my PE Teacher who has been consistently preparing our students for today, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” JSPS Principal Orlandette Crabbe said.  “We made history today, unseating my school, the Althea Scatliffe Primary School, the Mighty Scatliffe, so it’s a sweet victory for me.”

Swimming

In her 2nd Olympic Games, Elinah Phillip had a 2nd place finish her 50m Free competition with

a personal best and national record sprint of 25.74 seconds. She was the fastest among Caribbean swimmers and was 34th of the 81 competitors.

“I had a pretty hellish year leading up to this and I know it’s a miracle that I’m here—not because of the pandemic—but because of so many other personal reasons,” an emotional Phillip said. “I’m just so proud of myself. That’s something I don’t say often, but I thank everybody in the lead up to this. I went through a lot. I made it and I’m just so happy.”

Baseball

Kennard Dawson became the first BVI Baseball player on a Great Britain U23 team in the European Baseball Championships and helped them to a 4th place finish.

“It was exciting to play for a bronze medal because Great Britain had never played for a bronze medal before in the U23s age group,” Dawson noted. “We were the first to make it out of bracket play and I was proud to be a part of that.”

Dawson then joined the Sr. team along with Nateshon “Shadow” Thomas, Shamoy “Shrimpy” Christopher and Demoi “Ben Up” Hodge and helped GB to a 6th place finish, its highest since a 2007 silver medal. “To have three players from the BVI—four on the roster and three in the lineup—for me it’s a special opportunity,” Coach Drew Spencer said. “They worked hard and this is what they could achieve.”

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