In every country there are people whose actions have sufficiently impacted the people that they are deemed national heroes.
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines we have established some very strict criteria that leaves us with a single national hero thus far, for all the years that we have been in existence.
For whatever reason we seem to think that the status of national hero should be sparingly distributed. In some cases it has also been said that one can only be declared a national hero after death. This latter dictum suggests that individuals would never know that they have been so honoured by their very own society.
One financial institution in the Caribbean has started a programme calling on the peoples of this region to select some unsung hero in their respective countries and then a panel decides who should be declared the Caribbean’s unsung hero for the year. This approach still does not get to many of our heroes who continue to change peoples’ lives.
There is though reason enough to hold fast to the view that in St Vincent and the Grenadines we do have heroes who go about their daily lives oblivious to the status they have earned by the way they have conducted themselves and been of immense value to Vincentian society.
In this week’s Column we focus attention on a few of our unsung sporting heroes.
Lennox Adams, now a medical practitioner, is one of this country’s unsung sporting heroes and perhaps the time has come for us to recognise him as such although his genuine humility would not allow him to readily accept this accolade.
Lennox was an athlete who was always determined to give of his best in every aspect of his sport of choice, track and field athletics.
Perhaps he could have gone on an athletics scholarship at almost any time he so desired yet he stayed here and gave ever so much more of himself in the service of sport.
Luckily for him, before he quit athletics as an athlete he realised one of his life’s dreams. He went to and participated in the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988. It was in the twilight of his athletics career but he was deeply moved at having finally gotten the opportunity he had always wanted – to represent St Vincent and the Grenadines at the Olympic Games. He contested the triple jump.
Incidentally, it was also the first time that our country had its flag hoisted at the quadrennial Olympics – a most historic moment.
While being an athlete he formed a club. Eagles Athletics Club, which gave many athletes the opportunity to work on honing their skills and gain national representation at the highest level at the time.
Adams knew that athletes needed to be brought together to engage in their further development in athletics and he afforded them such an opportunity. They all worked hard and sensibly.
Importantly, Adams made certain that the parents of the athletes were informed of what was happening with the children’s training. They were also encouraged to see themselves as part of Eagles and engaged themselves in the numerous fund-raising activities organised by the club.
Of course the team travelled to athletics competitions across the Caribbean, making use of the funds the club had raised.
Adams was always visionary and therefore introduced an annual international track and field competition hosted in St Vincent and the Grenadines. It was a major undertaking; one that posed no end of challenges especially in the area of its financing.
Adams often stretched himself to the limit in an effort to ensure that the event came off successfully year after year.
The event grew in popularity as athletes from around the region came in to compete and at the same time enjoy the hospitality of the Vincentian athletics fraternity.
Sponsorship was not easy to access but Adams prevailed as best he could to keep the event on the annual calendar. At the time there was not much by way of appreciation for the efforts of those like him who opted to look ahead and clear the pathway for those who would follow.
The decision to host the annual event created some conflict within the athletics fraternity as some thought that properly speaking the national governing body for the sport, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Amateur Athletics Association (now Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines), should have been the host of any international competition rather than have it as the property of one of its affiliates – Eagles.
Adams remained steadfast and continued to host the competition until he left local shores to pursue studies in medicine at Ouachita Baptist University in the USA.
Bishop’s College Kingstown
As a teacher at the Bishop’s College Kingstown (BCK), Adams joined forces with then principal, Lennox John. The later had his own vision for students of the institution, and, like Adams, was prepared to diligently pursue the visionary transformation.
Adams worked on the sports programme at Bishops to the point where students from around the country and parents alike began to see the institution as offering athletes an opportunity to excel and take their rightful place in Vincentian society.
Bishop’s Mitres rose to sweep one secondary schools title after another with the players displaying tremendous athleticism that left the once popular Girls High School in the dust.
Under Adams the school’s netballers became some of the most feared in the country at any level.
Not surprisingly, when the original Bishop’s Mitres completed their education at BCK they sought leave to retain the name, Mitres, and became one of the best netball teams in national competitions for several years. The team became the first option for successive generations of students graduating from BCK.
To this day Mitres still exists as a netball team.
One of the distinguishing features of Adams’ sojourn at BCK was his preparation of track and field teams. He produced a cadre of female athletes that dominated the local school sports for many years. Among them were Jacqueline Ross, Caroline James, Yvette Haynes and Gail Prescod, all of whom at some point gained national representation. The foursome devastated the 4 x 100m record then demolished the 4 x 400m record. In the latter case the team actually lapped some of the other participating teams.
Indeed the BCKL track and field female team would long be remembered as the most awesome in the history of Inter Secondary Schools athletics in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The National Olympic Committee (NOC)
Always looking ahead, Adams was bothered by the fact that he was constantly hearing of other countries and their athletes being represented at the Olympic Games.
He had known about the Commonwealth games. He was aware that ‘Sap’ Coombs managed a team of Roberts and Anderson at the Commonwealth Games (then Empire Games) held in Cardiff, Wales, in 1958.
He was aware too of the country’s participation in the edition of the Commonwealth Games in Kingstown, Jamaica, in 1966 and again in Edmonton, Canada, in 1978.
But Adams also knew that the Olympics were the most important and prestigious multisport Games in the world and St Vincent and the Grenadines was never there.
At the Carifta Games in 1981 he aggressively pursued discussions with several persons involved in the Olympic Movement in the Caribbean insistent that if the other countries could have established NOCs so too could his own. He knew that it was not going to be easy and he understood the climate in which he would be seeking to get it done.
Adams, in an interview stated, one of the major difficulties that such an organisation had to deal with, was the lack of interest and support from the public that remained for a long time, unsure of the importance of such an organization.
Dedicated to his vision and indefatigable in pursuit, on 6 January 1982, he formally convened the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Olympic Association (now the National Olympic Committee).
Adams soon found out however that establishing an NOC is only the beginning of the process. He still had to have the NOC gain membership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), head of the Olympic Movement.
With immediate effect he started the process of accessing IOC membership. He applied for IOC membership on behalf of the NOC by letter dated 22 March 1982, less than three months after having been formed.
He soon discovered that the organisation stipulated that for an NOC to access membership it must have among its own membership at least five national sports associations each of which must be members of their respective international sports federations (IF) and at least three of which must be sports on the Olympic Programme of the Games. At the time in St Vincent and the Grenadines the NOC boasted Athletics, Cycling, and Boxing as Olympic sports with Bodybuilding and Netball as the two additional sports. However, until the time that Adams left to pursue his studies abroad he had not procured IOC membership for our NOC. That took a few additional months and some governmental generosity.
Boxing and Cycling were not fully paid up with their respective international bodies. Minister of Sport at the time, Jeremiah Scott, was persuaded to provide the funds required to have both Boxing and Cycling duly financial with their respective IFs and the submission was made to the IOC in the latter part of 1986.
At the IOC Session in Istanbul, Turkey, during the period 9 – 12 May 1987, the IOC approved St Vincent and the Grenadines application for membership and the local body was informed of this decision by letter dated 22 May 1987.
IOC membership paved the way for St Vincent and the Grenadines to participate with full rights in the Olympic Games as well as access membership of the Pan American Sports Organisation (PASO) – proprietor of the quadrennial Pan American Games, and the Central American and Caribbean Sports Organisation (CACSO), custodians of the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games.
Thanks to the leadership of Lennox Adams this country has participated in every edition of the Summer Olympic Games effective 1988, the Pan American Games since 1991 and the CAC Games since 1990.
Lennox Adams does not stand on ceremony nor does he speak too much about his contribution to the development of sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines. His genuine humility does not allow for this.
Suffice it to say here that Lennox Adams has done his part in the field of sport and stands out as one of this country’s sporting heroes.
What he has done cannot now be undone.
Successive generations as yet unborn would continue to reap the immense benefits that emerge from the window of opportunity that Lennox Adams has opened.