Mixed fortunes characterised 2012

There is little doubt that sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines enjoyed very mixed fortunes during the year now nearing completion. We take some time to reflect on some of the features of 2012.
The London Olympic Games
Perhaps the most disappointing feature of Vincentian sport for 2012 was the performance of the Vincentian athlete sat the quadrennial summer Olympics in London.
None of the three athletes, Kineke Alexander, Courtney Williams and Tolga Akcayli, performed up to par. There were no personal bests achieved, much to the disappointment of the team’s management and all of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The fact that we were only represented in Athletics and Swimming resulted from the fact that none of our athletes qualified from their preliminary competitions in Football, Boxing, Cycling, Table Tennis and Basketball. The NOC facilitated participation in all qualifying competitions for the aforementioned sports. Athletics and Aquatics benefitted from the agreement between the International Olympic Committee and their respective international federations – IAAF and FINA.
The international Federation responsible for water sports has long since changed the name of the sport in the Olympics as Aquatics. Swimming in only one of the several disciplines involved in Aquatics.
The St Vincent and the Grenadines Amateur Swimming Association (SVGASA) has been reorganised and the year 2012 marked a new beginning for the sport in this country.
Admittedly, the deficiency in the actual length of the pool should have been corrected prior to its official opening but this was not the case and the organisation and the swimmers pay the penalty for this.
The National Olympic Committee (NOC), in recognition of the efforts being made by the current leadership of the SVGASA to put the sport on a sound footing, immediately offered the organisation a long-term course under the Olympic Solidarity sponsored, Development of a National Sport Structure Programme. This saw Dave Farmer of Barbados being the designated expert to work with the governing body here.
The programme began in July and will conclude in mid January 2013. While working with the association Farmer has assisted with firming up its administrative operations, facilitated a new coaching and coaches development structure, encouraged the development of a grassroots talent identification programme and promoted the importance of regular competition at home and abroad.
Indeed, Farmer has encouraged the association to invite swimmers from neighbouring countries to compete here instead of always looking to be going out. This will serve to stimulate further interest in the sport here.
The youngsters involved in swimming participated in the OECS Championships in the latter part of the year, where Nicholas and Shne Joachim emerged the nation’s top performers in their respective categories.
In early December the country was represented at the FINA World Short Course Championships in Istanbul, Turkey where the competition was not in age categories. From all accounts the athletes tried their best but were outclassed. To their credit however there were some personal bests achieved at the Championships.
Given the progress being made by some of the young athletes there could only be improved performances in the years ahead. Next year’s Carifta Swimming Championships should see some of our athletes making finals and possibly bringing home medals. Such a feat will certainly place them in good stead for the 2nd Youth Olympic Games scheduled for Nanjing, China, in 2014 and the Commonwealth Youth Games one year later in Samoa.
The fact that the sport has a home, however limited it may be at this juncture, the assistance in excess of $30,000 US provided by the NOC accessed from Olympic Solidarity has offered the SVGASA a foundation on which to build in the next year in particular.
Success will depend on the strength of the leadership and the support of the members. There are numerous challenges involved but already there seems to be a relatively good level of support from parents.
It is important however that the association seeks to attract people from all social classes from the very beginning, offering scholarships to those who are talented but whose parents may be unable to afford the fees. The grassroots talent identification programme could yield immense benefit to the fledgling organisation.
The sport of football has been consistent with its approach to participating in the various competitions in the region.
At the local level there have been challenges with the different competitions but the game continues to be played with much enthusiasm all around the country leaving it still the nation’s most popular sport.
The national team’s performance at the recent regional competition in Tobago was bitter-sweet. The team drew the first two games, which should have been their most difficult, levelling with both Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago but rather disappointingly went under to the weakest team in the competition, Surinam. Many fingers were immediately at the national federation for having allowed the departure of the coach from the team before the conclusion of the competition. Some seem to suggest that the remainder of the team’s technical and managerial corps could not keep the level of enthusiasm of the players high enough o match their earlier encounters.
The senior national team returned home a disappointed lot.
At the level of human resource development the local federation has been aggressively pursuing courses to raise the overall competencies. The most recent programme was an Olympic Solidarity course facilitated by the NOC. There were 30 participants with whom the expert, Anton Corneal, was very impressed.
The successes of the athletics fraternity came at the regional level. Nadia Alexander won gold in the Shot Put at both the St Kitts/Nevis National Championships and the OECS Invitational held in the same country.
Kineke Alexander achieved the same feat – double gold – in St Kitts/Nevis.
Alexander placed fourth in the Shot Put at the Trinidad and Tobago National Championships while Alexander finished third in the 400m.
At the local level Brandon Parris dominated the 400m through to the 1500m at the annual Inter Secondary Schools Championships even though he had to play second fiddle in the overall standings to Slyford Lampkin, while Nicky-Ann Stephens got the better of young Shafiqua Maloney to cop top honours amongst the females.
No team attended the annual Carifta Games in Bermuda because of inadequate preparation occasioned by the denial of access to the Arnos Vale Playing field during the period November 2011 through to February 2012.
On the road, Pamenos Ballantyne, still perhaps the nation’s leading distance runner,  found the going tough as he succumbed to successive defeats at the hands of Junior Ashton of Sandy Bay in the LOG Enterprises/TASVG Road Race series.
TASVG hosted the 2nd annual International Round D Town Relay Classic with teams from Grenada, Dominica and St Lucia taking on the Vincentians. Grenada won for the second consecutive year with St Vincent and the Grenadines taking second place and St Lucia third.
For the first time St Vincent and the Grenadines hosted the final leg of the NACAC 10K Series which was won by the Grenadian athlete, Sherwin Paul, with Trinidad and Tobago’s Denzil Ramirez in second and our own Junior Ashton in third. Josnel Ashton of St Vincent and the Grenadines finished fifth.
Amongst the females Lisa Daniel continued to rule the roost although she fell short to Linda McDowall in the first of the LOG Enterprises/TASVG Series.
Daniel was the top Vincentian finisher in the NACAC 10K, finishing fourth with Linda McDowall in fifth.
Coaches who have been trained during 2012 have begun to work in earnest and along with the ever-consistent coaches – Harry, Morgan, Ollivierre, Alrick and McKie – could make a difference in achievements as early as 2013.
Squash has had a very good year with numerous tournaments being held at the local level and representation at the regional level.
The NOC stepped in to assist the association on a number of occasions including their early preparation for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014.
At the 2012 Caribbean Squash Championships (CASA) in August, Vincentians Jules Snagg and Kevin Hannaway performed creditably for the OECS team. Unfortunately they both lost to Gavin Cumberbatch of Barbados in the 2nd and 3rd rounds respectively.
President of the Squash Association, Sherian Slater continued to show her class in the sport by winning her third Caribbean individual veteran’s championship, while James Bentick finished runner-up to Barbados’ Mark.
The sport of Boxing has perhaps faced more challenges than any other in the country for 2012. The eagerness of the leadership and technical personnel has been in no small measure hampered by the failure of the governmental authorities here to facilitate an appropriate training venue since the collapse of the roof of the Community Centre at Campden Park with the passage of hurricane Tomas in the latter part of 2010.
Keithland King, the country’s leading boxer found the going tough in the Olympic preliminaries. He is still based in Barbados and may well now be considering turning professional.
The grassroots talent identification programme of Boxing continues and the search is always on for enthusiastic young people to get involved and hone their skills.
The year 2012 was not particularly good for sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines in terms of recorded success. Nonetheless there have been some bright sparks that should serve to inspire greater diligence on the part of the athletes and their coaches.
The year now essentially ended, the focus must now be on ensuring that 2013 serves up the realisation of the immense potential that Vincentian athletes possess.