The Caribbean observed the 43rd edition of the Carifta Games in Fort-de-France, Martinique, over the Easter weekend with a total of 22 countries represented.
Jamaica took top honours with a mammoth haul of 88 medals, 42 of which were gold. The second placed Trinidad and Tobago won 25 medals with only six of them being gold. Barbados was next with a total of 16 medals, five of them being gold.
The Games are now over and it is important for us to recognise the challenges that we continue to face in attempting to make headway in the sport of athletics here at home as well as in the Caribbean.
As so often happens the competition at the Carifta Games was quite exciting despite the obvious dominance of Jamaica.
While the Jamaican athletes proved to be the champions of the 43rd Carifta Games it was not always easy for them to win their events. For many of the events the finishes were rather close.
Guyana, Guadeloupe and Dominica all finished ahead of The Bahamas, a true upset in the annual athletics festival. Indeed when the final event concluded The Bahamas had only won one gold in a total medal haul of 20. This proved to be the worst performance by The Bahamas since their involvement in Carifta Games.
The weather – frequent rain on the first two days of competition – certainly impacted the performance of some of the athletes in the more technical events.
As far as the five-member Vincentian team was concerned the performances were as follows:
In the 100m U – 20, Reuberth Boyde was ranked 6th in the Heats with a time of 10.61 that put him into the Final while his twin brother Reberto, was ranked 10th with a time of 10.68, not good enough to make it to the next round of competition.
In the Final, Reuberth finished 78th in a time of 10.69.
In the 200m U – 20, Reuberth was ranked 12th with a time of 21.82 while Reberto was ranked 14th with a time of 21.97. Both of them did not make it through to the Final.
In the Heats of the 400m U – 20, Brandon Parris was ranked 5th with a time of 47.27, good enough to take him through to the Final and also inside the qualifying time for the IAAF World Junior Championships scheduled for Eugene, Oregon, USA, later this year. Parris competed the Final but in the latter part of the event experienced some pain and discomfort with a time of 49.43.
Dario Glasgow, competing in the High Jump in the Under 18 division, was ranked 15th bowing out of the competition at 1.80m.
Mc Kish Compton (U – 18) was 16th fastest in the Heats of the 100m with a time of 11.02, not good enough to get into the Final. In the 200m he was ranked 25th with a time of 22.94 that did not allow him to progress to the Finals.
Interestingly, of the Vincentian team only Brandon Parris had been to the Carifta Games previously.
The Vincentian delegation got into Martinique four days prior to the start of the competition but did have ready access to the training facilities enough to benefit from being their early. This was a disappointment.
The team experienced some difficulties and requested a doctor. This was never facilitated in the days leading up to the competition.
As was the case with other delegations the Vincentian team was told of the existence of a Liaison Officer but never knew or saw the person for the duration of the Games.
Martinique was awarded the Carifta Games of 2014 in response to a request from the Martinique Athletics League at the Carifta Congress held in Nassau, Bahamas, on Sunday 31 March 2013.
At the time the Martinique delegation made a brief presentation on its bid the highlights of which were:
- Martinique hosted many athletics competitions over the years and has the experience
- The Regional Council of Martinique would provide the economic requirements
- Hosting the Games would have an economic impact on the country
- Martinique would be very happy to receive all of the Carifta family
- Martinique last hosted the Games in 1999.
- The Village would be at a 900-bed hotel –Pierre & Vacances in Sainte Luce, Martinique
- Hotels have already been approached to assist with hosting the Games and welcoming fans and supporters.
Martinique was at the time warmly congratulated by members attending the Congress on being awarded the 43rd Carifta Games of 2014.
As it turned out the Bahamas and St Lucian teams were not accommodated at the Games Village. Instead, they were located at another facility that they both deemed well below the expected standard and certainly not comparable to conditions available at the Games Village.
The hosts eventually apologised for the issues attendant to the location of the Bahamas and St Lucian teams separate from the other teams at the Games Village.
The media made a written complaint for the intervention of the president of NACAC, Victor Lopez, to aid in ensuring that they received appropriate working conditions during the Games.
While the transportation was adequate the absence of a schedule meant that all buses left the Games Village at the same time creating problems for those athletes who would have wanted to spend more time in the comfort of the Village while waiting on their events taking place much later in the session.
There is little doubt that the members of the Martinique Athletics League were intent on the deliver of an outstanding edition of the Carifta Games and were themselves disappointed that things did not all go the way they had planned.
Martinique remains to this day, along with Guadeloupe and French Guyana, a Department of France and this was evident everywhere during the 43rd Carifta Games.
The governing body for the sport of athletics in France, the only one recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) effectively took control of the 43rd Carifta Games, in many respects, leaving little doubt that colonialism is alive and well as far as the French is concerned.
The politics of the relationship between France and its overseas departments hit at the very core of the arrangements for the competition in Martinique last weekend.
The representative body for athletics in the area, the NACAC, arranged for a number of technical officials to oversee the Games in an objective manner consistent with the best interest of the sport.
It turned out that the local French officials were in charge of virtually everything and the local officials were themselves unhappy that the regional officials were brought into the event. During the Games there were some very tense moments as the NACAC officials insisted on placing their stamp of authority on the proceedings.
There were several technical glitches which were nonetheless appropriately addressed and quickly so by the regional officials that saved the day and avoided unnecessary delays.
Focus on St Vincent and the Grenadines
The performance of the Vincentian team reflects a number of issues, which have been raised time and again in this Column.
The continued absence of a synthetic surface remains the primary problem area. It is known that athletes do not have to train on a synthetic surface all of the time but they must have access to it when it matters – the final phase of their preparation for local, regional and international competition.
We may recall that at the time that our athlete should have been into their final phase of preparation earlier this year they lost access to the Arnos Vale Playing Field and had no alternative appropriately prepared to facilitate them.
Many of the coaches of the athletes would admit that by the time of the TASVG Carifta Trials and the Inter Schools Athletics Championships at home their respective athletes were not at the level of preparation that they had been at the same period in 2013. A number of factors may account for this but that is the reality.
If they were not at that level at home and again at the Carifta Trials in Trinidad and Tobago there was always going to be a challenge for them to show considerable improvement at the actual Carifta Games in Martinique.
The absence of appropriate competitions prior to the Carifta Games is also an important consideration. The selected athletes show themselves to be the best of what we have in their respective age groups but they do not have challenges to their prowess at home. They are forced to lift their approaches only when competing abroad and this is rare in the pre-Carifta Games period.
The fact is that the better athletes in St Vincent and the Grenadines must be exposed to higher levels of more frequent competition on synthetic surfaces if they are to make significant improvement.
The talent exists and reflection on the Inter Primary Schools and Inter Secondary Schools Championships earlier this year is ample testimony to this fact.
What is necessary is consistency in training, good coaching, access to quality training facilities and access to regular competitions that challenge them to lift their performance levels.
The bickering amongst the coaches must also come to an end. There is much that is unsatisfactory in this regard.
While every coach purports to be working in the best interest of the athletes and of the country the reality reveals a level of selfishness and pettiness that bodes no good for the sport.
The athletes are not the property of the coaches at this stage of their lives and should not be treated as such.
Coaches must be able to work together in the interest of the collective.
It is expected that coaches would always seek to attract the more talented athletes this should not translate into the promotion of negative commentaries to athletes about their respective coaches and who can or cannot get the athletes to the next level or on to national representative teams.
That some coaches can have athletes belittling their fellow Vincentian athletes and the coaches of the latter at home in an effort to win them over to a particular coach or club is unacceptable. When some athletes are selected to national representative teams and another coach is in charge of the contingent the challenges faced by the latter detracts from the focus on final preparation and competition.
The TASVG Coaches Commission must do more to bring good sense to prevail on the coaches and facilitate cohesion, harmony and unity of purpose. The experienced coaches must lead by example and genuinely share ideas in an ever-changing sport. The focus must be on keeping pace with developments in coaching and athlete performance.
There are numerous competitions left in the current season and if St Vincent and the Grenadines is to make an impact there has to be greater focus on adequate preparation at home and access to better facilities in neighbouring countries.