The Michael Parris Fitness Centre
Is this facility the Symbol of Olympics Excellence?
By Michael Benjamin
The National Park is usually transformed into a hive of activity from as early as 05:00hrs when the security personnel of the National Parks Commission open the gates to the public, up to the time he shuts up for the night, sometimes as late as 21:00hrs.
The inner circuit has recently been refurbished and facilitates heated competition among the nation’s top cyclists during seasonal activities. Early morning joggers and physical fitness gurus also utilize the National Park, some running at a terrific speed, others jogging casually or simply engaged in a brisk walk in order to attain or maintain an acceptable level of fitness.
While many of these joggers leave for home after the completion of two or three laps around the approximately one mile circuit, others meander to the northern side of the track among a cluster of other benabs and disappear into a medium sized structure, in the extreme northeasterly section of the compound. This is the Michael Parris Fitness Centre (MPFC), nestling among several similar structures that house the national table tennis playroom, national school of dance and a karate dojo among other edifices.
The MPFC was constructed in 1994, in honour former bantamweight boxer, Michael Anthony Parris, some thirteen years after he had created history, winning a bronze medal at the Moscow Olympics. For the record, that achievement still stands as a symbol of Olympics excellence and is the only such accolade procured by any Guyanese (Egerton Marcus won a silver medal in the Middleweight division (71-75 kg) at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul but despite being a Guyanese, he did so under the Canadian flag thus creating some doubt as to whether the achievement could be regarded as a purely Guyanese accomplishment).
Ever since the construction of the MPFC, a plethora of individuals and sports teams including members of the national boxing team, those from the rugby squad, swimming fraternity and cricketers among others, have utilized and benefited from the facility.
Membership to the gym is extremely minimal and the monies garnered from this pool is used to maintain the gym as well as provide a stipend for a small group that comprises a cleaner, three individuals, Barrington Browne and Brian ‘Breezy’
Sealey, who conduct training/tutoring sessions at the facility and Sharon Lewis, the logistics officer who doubles sometimes as an instructor and even pitches in to clean up the surroundings.
Those that regularly visit the institution would be familiar with these individuals who have selflessly toiled over the years to keep the gym functional despite the most unfavourable circumstances.
Kaieteur Sport went off the beaten track and visited the gym Friday morning last and observed the three stalwarts at work, monitoring the activities of a large group consisting of hard core sportspersons as well as those from the ‘white collar’ fraternity.
Several known faces were among the bunch; local cricketer, Lennox Cush, toiled away on the abdominals machine even as former sprint queen, now women’s body building champion and football referee, Alisa Fortune, did her thing on the abdominals board. Then there were those that did not comprise a part of the ‘hardcore’ sports fraternity but were just as interested in retaining or maintaining an acceptable level of physical fitness.
One from this group, Denise, has been at the institution ever since its early days. Last week she was still hard at work and sporting the nice curved body that only physical fitness activities could hone to its current state. All around the facility, fitness minded individuals toiled away, honing their bodies to physical fitness.
Even amidst this backdrop, all is not well at the institution; at its inauguration face towels were available for those engaged in exercise activities. They have since disappeared. Over the years also, the equipment have wilted under the pressures of daily use but have not been replaced or repaired as fast as they have been destroyed. The stationary cycles that once provided valuable service to those in need of legwork exercises but unable to run owing to physical impediments to their legs or back, are now dysfunctional yet a few exercise gurus pedals away, attempting to eke out a little more service from the machines.
The weights, weights machines, dumbbells, bars and other relevant weights lifting equipment was constructed by local entrepreneur, Nizam, from the Nizam’s gym on the West Coast of Demerara. The equipment have seen better days but now are in need of replacements but a godfather or fairy godmother is yet to wave their wands to effect the required change of fortunes for those utilizing the facility.
It is really a burning shame that a facility as important as the Michael Parris Fitness Center should be subjected to such shabby treatment.
If this is an indication of the pride and satisfaction Guyanese feel about such an honourable achievement, then it becomes clear why such a feat is still to be eclipsed or even emulated after all these years.
One could only conclude that Guyanese are oblivious to, or are totally unconcerned with the yeoman service of their sports people. The evidence is there and anyone with even a modicum of patriotism would be angered by such deplorable and shabby treatment meted out to a true son of the soil who, 31 years ago left an indelible mark in local sports history—one that is still to be matched or surpassed.