2016 – a year of mixed fortunes for Vincentian sport

We are at the end of 2016 and we would do well to reflect on the performances of the respective national sports associations and what these tell us about where we as a nation stand in respect of sport development.

From my vantage point I would give the nod to swimming for outstanding performances in 2016. The main factor that facilitated this recognition is the association’s hosting of the first OECS Swimming Championships to be hosted in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The hosting of the event with 184 participants from around the sub region – Antigua and Barbuda, BVI, Grenada, Martinique, St Lucia, Saint Maarten, Sint Martin and St Vincent and the Grenadines – was a remarkable achievement.
In the lead up to the Championships the Swimming Association engaged in significant facilities upgrade on its own initiative. This included the construction of a warm-up pool and extensive renovation of the Shrewsbury House to accommodate change rooms for participants.
Of note also must be the tremendous amount of work undertaken to ensure that there was a large and competent enough cadre of volunteers available to realise the championships in the midst of inclement weather.
Swimming is a relatively new competitive sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines and hence it is expected that it would take some time for the overall standard of competitive performance to reach the level of the majority of our OECS neighbours, to say nothing of the wider Caribbean. Nonetheless, the local team gave good account of themselves at this year’s edition of the championships as follows:

  • 11 Vincentian athletes won a total of 49 medals over the four days of competition. The national
  • team won 16 more medals than on its previous outing to these championships one year earlier.
  • The Vincentian team’s medal tally stood at 16 Gold, 17 Silver and 16 Bronze.
  • Team SVG ended with a total of 597.5 and 5thplace in the overall standings.
  • Outstanding Individual performances were:

Shne Joachim: Overall age group champion in Girls 15-17; 5 new OECS records; 7 Gold medals
Kennice Greene: Second place overall age group Champion in girls 8 & Under; two Gold medals; three Silver and one Bronze.
Alex Joachim: Second place overall age group Champion in boys 11-12; Three Gold medals; seven Silver and one Bronze.
Other medallists include Nikolas Sylvester, Shane Cadogan, Tavonte Forde, Jamie Joachim, Gerard Geowarsingh, Elonte Leonard and Mya De Freitas.
Of course, credit must be given to all 34 athletes that comprised the Vincentian national team and to the coaching staff, led by Kyle Dougan.
It is unfortunate that the government did not see or understand the important sport tourism benefits from our hosting of such a major event.
During the year Shne Joachim continued to show herself to be the single most outstanding swimmer in the country.
Shne and Nikolas represented the country at the Rio Olympics.
Swimming has been one of five organisations that have thus far completed its draft project under the Olympic Committee’s programme for Physical Literacy and Long Term Athlete Development.
During the year under review track and field athletics emerged with successes at different levels.
The implementation of the first phase of the Olympic Dividend Programme saw stocks of track and field equipment being procured and handed over to the National Sports Council for distribution to two communities, Layou and Sandy Bay. This programme runs for another three years with two communities being each provided with equipment and outfitted with a long jump/triple jump pit and a throwing area for discus and shot in each of the years.
The focus of the TASVG Olympic Dividend Programme is to compensate for the absence of a synthetic surface by emphasising field events training and competition.
Kineke Alexander once more carried the national flag around the world. She was outstanding at the OECS Track and Field Championships and the Trinidad and Tobago Nationals.
Kineke was unsuccessful at the Rio Olympics.
On the road Linda McDowall showed that her consistent training had transformed her into one of the Caribbean’s most formidable competitor. She won the CARICOM 10K and the NACAC Chatoyer International Endurance 10K in fine style and placed in almost every regional event in which she competed.
Interestingly, in the Chatoyer 10K, she was involved in a sprint to the finish with Pamenos Ballantyne who finished seventh in the event.
Junior Ashton upstaged the field to cop the champion’s title in the Chatoyer 10K in the men’s division.
The drop off of sponsorship led to a decline in the number of road races held during the year.
Several athletes were recipients of scholarships to the US.
Athletics has also completed its draft project under the Olympic Committee’s programme for Physical Literacy and Long Term Athlete Development.
The year ended with 19 successful participants in the IAAF Level #1 Coaches Education Certification System (CECS) convened at Arnos Vale.
For yet another year the Thomas Saunders Secondary Schools was successful in it participation amongst small schools at the annual Penn Relays.
Football continues to be the nation’s most popular sport.
During the year the football fraternity did much better at home than abroad.
At the international level Vincy Heat faltered in the World Cup Preliminaries.
At the national level the competitions were conducted with some bright sport emerging from some young players with talent.
The sport continues to show immense potential but the absence of a designated home of international stature negatively impacts the capacity of the national association to host teams and competitions of a regional and international nature.
The procurement of its own headquarters is most welcomed and should serve to lift the overall presentation of the organisation to the Vincentian sporting public.
Football has also completed its draft project under the Olympic Committee’s programme for Physical Literacy and Long Term Athlete Development.
Other sports
Netball, the nation’s most popular sport for girls and women faced several challenges.
The national team finished second in the ECCB OECS Under 23 Tournament hosted here. Credit must be given to the Netball fraternity for their successful hosting of the Tournament.
The Vincentian team did not however as well prepared as has been the case in the past.
Squash continues to do well at the OECS level while the wider Caribbean poses many challenges. The organisation benefits from its own home and there is every reason to believe that it would continue to grow in the country.
Table Tennis continues to make strides in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The development of a Table Tennis Foundation by Georg Silberschmidt in Bequia has already begun to yield significant results and we can expect to see some new starts emerging in the game.
During the year a number of training boards have been provided to schools and communities, all of which should allow for gradual development to impact the sport most favourably.
Rugby has had the benefit of a programme sponsored by Olympic Solidarity and the St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee that focused in the development of a national sport structure.
While the national Rugby team has not fared well in international competition the leadership of the association continues to spread the sport around the country, including the nation’s schools.
A Gymnastics Association has been formed here and is functional. During the year the organisation benefitted from assistance from the United States Olympic Committee and the SVGOC. A development pathway is in train and we should see significant improvement in the future.
Cycling continues to host several events locally and has had mixed results at the regional level. There may well be reason to have the best cyclists exposed to medium and long term training at a higher level in the coming period if they are to mount serious challenges in the future.
This country’s leading boxer, Keithland King, attended Olympic Qualifiers in Argentina and again in Azerbaijan. In both instances he was unsuccessful although reports indicate that he gave good account of himself.
Boxing has however been plagued by several issues that has negatively impacted the development of the sport at the local level.
Tennis had experienced mixed fortunes as well but the national body once more hosted the ITF Junior Tournament and attended the legs in St Lucia and Tobago. Individual coaches continue to introduce youngsters in the sport.
The Grassroots Tennis organisation has had to be relocated and consequently, attempted to work out a relationship for use of the Tennis Centre at Villa. However, the arrangements have apparently not been found favourable to the authorities.
Grassroots however continues to bring the sport to scores of Vincentian children and it may well be in the broader interest of the future of Tennis in St Vincent and the Grenadines that some amicable agreement be reached between the association and the latter organisation.
The National Lotteries Authorities (NLA) has apparently taken responsibility for the maintenance of the facility at Villa.
Taekwondo continues to work on the development of the sport and has thus far completed its draft project under the Olympic Committee’s programme for Physical Literacy and Long Term Athlete Development. It is hoped that once the final document is prepared the sport’s leadership would have a guide to guarantee the systematic development of the sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
2016 could have been a much better year for sport had there been a greater level of collaboration amongst national associations and also amongst coaches in the different sports practised here.
The well-being of the nation must always be primordial and this means working together.
St Vincent and the Grenadines remains one nation and we need to keep that focus in mind at all times.
2017 will offer us all yet another opportunity to make good on our commitment to doing well in sport. We crave an understanding that it takes time to create elite athletes. Patience is important. Professionalism is essential.