‘We have also participated’
The time has long past to dispel this sordid Olympics label
Says Michael Benjamin
The glimmer and the glamour now over, the many athletes that participated in the 30th Olympiad have left the United Kingdom for their respective territories where their feats will receive the highest commendation of their country folks and the celebrations will continue for days if not weeks.
Many athletes would have attended those games knowing that the attainment of a gold medal meant changing fortunes which translated into world fame and enhanced economic prospects. Governments and sports officials of participating countries would have been cognizant of the benefits to be derived from attaining the top accolade and would have invested appropriately.
Jamaican superstar athlete, Usain Bolt was phenomenal in accruing gold in the 100m, 200m and the 4x 100m relay; Kirani James, a Grenadian born some 11 years after Parris’ bronze medal feat, clinched the inaugural Olympics gold medal for his country, one that can hardly mesh with Guyana’s natural resources; Trinidad and Tobago clinched a gold medal through the efforts of Kishorn Walcott who excelled with the javelin.
All this time Guyanese continue to revel in a lone bronze medal achieved some 32 years ago. It is as though our world has simply stopped.
Our sister states, with hardly as much resources as we possess, have adequately compensated for that anomaly by employing shrewd thinking and constructive applications that produced the desired results. Over the years, Guyanese have lamented the mediocre tracks and/or substandard infrastructure. Government responded by constructing a national stadium. The only flaw was that this facility catered primarily for the 2007 Cricket World Cup. There is no banked track for the cyclists, as can be found at the Barbados Stadium, no synthetic track for athletic as can be found at the Hasley Crawford Stadium in Trinidad and Tobago. No, Guyanese thinkers are a different breed; they could only visualize the benefits to be derived from the Word Cup tournament and the brain refused to conceptualize any further.
The Andrew Lewis Boxing Gym, another facility constructed for the development of our boxers is devoid of the requisite design that qualifies it as an adequate facility. As such, coaches are forced to set up the paraphernalia associated with the boxers’ development—punching bags, speed balls etc—under a shed to the southern end of the building while the boxing ring occupies more than seventy five percent of the training area inside the building.
We could turn our attention to the Aquatic Centre; this facility was constructed with the development of local swimmers in mind. How then did our planners ignore a warm up pool? It was at the inauguration ceremony that former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, when asked of the possibility of such a facility, had responded that he does not envisage its construction making a great financial impact on the national treasury. Recent inquiries by journalists into the status of the auxiliary facility suggest a shift of views of our officials. Sad indeed!
Of all the local sports disciplines, boxing has always been touted as the one to bring glory to this country and it is no surprise that it is this discipline that is responsible for the attainment of our only Olympic accolade.
Hopes of clinching the gold medal were high in the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal Quebec, Canada. The pundits were, and are still resolute that Guyana boxing contingent would have broken the gold medal jinx. Boxers, the likes of Kenny Bristol, Mark Harris, Rodwell Paton and Robert Nixon were reduced to tears after Guyana joined most of the sovereign African nations and a few other countries and boycotted those games in reaction to the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to ban New Zealand, whose rugby team had been touring South Africa, in contravention of that country’s dreaded apartheid policy.
Ever since then, Guyanese boxers have struggled and were reduced to mere participants at the world’s premier event and after John Douglas’ failed attempts at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Guyanese boxers failed to achieve the qualifying standards set out by the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) thus reducing our chances of procuring the coveted accolade.
This year, our boxers travelled to Brazil to engage in that tournament and all lost out. Bert Braithwaite suffered a loss to St Lucian, Marcellin Lyndel even as Stefan Gouveia chalked up a victory in his inaugural bout against Honduran, Teofilo Jeronimo. He then lost out to Colombian, Eduar Marriaga in the quarter-finals. Imran ‘Magic’ Khan also lost his fight to Argentina’s Alberto Melian.
The smoke is now cleared yet no inquiry was, or is to be conducted by officials of the Guyana Amateur Boxing Association (GABA) to ascertain the cause/s for our shortcomings. Officials need to ascertain whether it is the absence of talent of the boxers or the ability of our coaches to propel them into the international spotlight. Maybe it is a lack of administrative insight or simply biased selection policies, as were mooted by Orlon ‘Pocket Rocket’ Rogers after his charge, Richard Williamson, was unceremoniously ejected from the squad at the last minute.
Are we neglecting our boxers at the amateur level and forcing them to strip their shirts? A surreptitious glance at the present crop of professionals may clarify this doubt. Pugilists the likes of Clive Atwell, Dexter Marques and Elton ‘Coolie Bully’ Dharry were still in the amateur ranks a few years ago but became frustrated by the inert actions of administrators and applied for their professional licenses. Another talented boxer, the late Kofi Dixon was definitely Olympics talent but was constricted by meningitis a few years ago.
Imran Khan is no slouch but to my mind should have been saved for the 2016 Brazilian Games. The selectors thought differently and forged ahead with his selection. Even then, Khan should have been better supervised but this was not done and our ambassador was embroiled in a conflict with another man over a young lady that resulted in him (Khan) nursing a wound to his upper hand forcing him out of a preparatory bout.
Over in Brazil, coach Terrence Poole, reported that Khan fell ill shortly after his arrival yet insisted on fighting. Poole stated that the medical practitioner supported Khan’s ambitions even after a professional check that should have suggested otherwise. So a sick Khan eventually conceded defeat. I am still at a loss to comment on such a travesty.
Atwell’s knockout victories over local lightweight champion, Revlon Lake and Rudolph Fraser for the local featherweight championship, ironically at the same period of the Olympics games, has supported the theory that he has only now begun to gel and would have been ripe for the occasion. It had to be pure lack of insight that officials failed to recognize his talent and those of the other mentioned youngsters to nurture for Olympics participation.
So where does this leave us? Boxing administrators could choose to ignore the talented current crop of boxers and likewise they could refuse to concoct a four years plan that gives them a realistic chance of attaining a gold medal in the 2016 Brazil Olympics. It simply means that arrangements, plans and projections must commence not tomorrow, not next week but yesterday. However, knowing our administrators I refuse to be optimistic. Our inert disposition will ensure that all plans and projections will be shelved until the last hour. Then we have the temerity to be surprised when we attain the label, ‘have also participated.’