Jan 08, 2015 Sports
NSC’s biggest challenge was tardiness of contractors says Neil Kumar
By Sean Devers
On the back of stinging criticism for not doing enough for Sports in Guyana, the location of the Synthetic Track in West Demerara when most of the Nation’s top sprinters are based in the City, the slow work on that facility and that of the Aquatic Centre on the East Coast, not assembling a welcome party for the National Rugby team after they won the NACRA Seven’s title in Mexico, and why there is a perceived ‘gridlock’ on the use of National Sporting Facilities, Guyana’s Director of Sports Neil Kumar tried the counter those allegations.
Kumar, who has been Head of the National Sports Commission (NSC) since 1994, two years after this Government came into office, explained that the Sports Ministry ensured investments were made into sports development in terms of training opportunities and the construction of facilities such as the synthetic track and the Aquatic Centre which aided in making 2014 a successful one for the NSC.
The Director of Sports said it is the intent that with the installation of state-of-the-art and international standard facilities, that our athletes will be able train on a higher level which should see them reaching their full potential in their respective sport disciplines. Kumar said the Staff, Coaches and Organizers at the NSC did an excellent job in 2014 and with the same type of commitment things will get even better this year.
“In my life time I never expected to see an International Cricket Stadium or an International Standard Athletics track or Swimming Pool, but we have them now which will be of great benefit to our Athletes.”
Kumar admitted that the tardiness of Contractors was the biggest challenge for the NSC in getting them to complete contracts within the set timelines which largely contributed to delays in finishing the job on the Aquatic Centre and the Synthetic track.
“The completion of the warm-up pool in addition to the 50-meter pool now makes the Aquatic Centre a complete facility and was among the highlights of the year since it hosted several events and was utilized for training by several Swim clubs in addition to being used for recreational swimming and for exercise by various individuals,” Kumar added.
Kumar revealed that the Athletics track is almost fully completed with just the ‘accessories’ to be added and should be opened in the next few weeks and explained that while the Government was aware that most of Guyana’s top sprinters are from Georgetown and its environs, the availably of space was the main reason the track had to be constructed at Lenora.
“We wanted to merge GCC and GFC but that plan fell through leaving us with no alternative than to utilize the land in West Demerara. When we built the Stadium at Providence, many felt it was too far and while that might be true there was no space for such a facility in the City. And it’s the same with the track and even the Aquatic Centre,” Kumar explained.
On the issue of no Government official being at the airport when the victorious Ruby team arrived home, Kumar said when Guyana won the first title the NSC sent their bus at three in the morning to pick up the players who were afforded VIP treatment at the Airport but when they came back from Mexico they were never informed.
“President Peter Greene was celebrating the win and forgot to inform me or the NSC so we did not know they had arrived until the next day. He (Greene) admitted it was his fault. When people say we do nothing for sports it is not true. We have spent $700 million in developing grounds and venues throughout Guyana, we give the National Basketball team $3 million, the Ruby side got $1 million and they made us very proud by taking the NACRA title….so we are doing the best we can but one must understand …of course we should do more, but we operate with a budget,” Kumar retorted.
“On the non-access by the public, the various Sporting facilities, we have a system where a request for use of any Government controlled venue is sent to us. When they check our schedule to see if the venue is available at that time and how important is the event. Of course practice for National teams will take priority. In the case of the Racquet and Research Centre, commissioned last year and equipped with a comprehensive library of sports books and a computer centre, Students writing Physical Education at CXC can just walk in to do their research,” Kumar reminded.
“The NSC has 25 full time Coaches including two overseas International Coaches. Isabella is a Cuban Swimming Coach while Francisco, who is also from Cuba, is a Boxing Coach and both were brought in by the Government,” Kumar informed.
“We have Coaches for Swimming, Boxing, Table Tennis, Cycling, Football and Lawn Tennis to name a few of the Sports. If you take out Coaches like Hassan Mohammed from Cycling and Linden Johnson from Table Tennis, I believe those sports would die,” Kumar stated.
Kumar said that Johnson has been doing quality training with school children from all areas in Guyana and has also organised several tournaments. “In 2014 we did extremely well in Table Tennis and dominated at the IGG, beating both Suriname and French Guiana,” Kumar pointed out.
The long serving Government official stated that he was very impressed with the Cuban Swim Coach Isabella, who during the past year, along with other Coaches, trained 222 adolescents during the Easter and August holidays at the Colgrain pool in the City. Over 100 of the youngsters graduated and are now able to use the pool at the Aquatic Centre.
“This success was demonstrated by Guyana being able to win medals including Gold at the IGG. Guyana has also been improving at the Caribbean Goodwill Games where they were very competitive. If the club structure improves it would make the Swimmers more competitive locally and the overall standard will rise.”
He added that top IGG swimmer and Bishops High student Onika George did exceedingly well at the CXC Exams and that Brittany Van Lange who went to the Olympics, also attended Bishops.
“In 2013 Government brought in a trainer from the International Life Guard Association from Canada and last year 20 persons were trained with six of those being fully certified as International Life Guards. Before this, despite all the Resorts in Guyana there was not a single certified Life Guard here and this month 25 more will be trained by Patrick D’Alamada who is bringing with him Guyanese born Stuart Fraser who trains Life Guards in Jamaica,” Kumar added.
Kumar said the Guyana Squash team continues to dominate the Regional tournaments while 2014 was a good year for our athletics. “It was heartening to see us dominate the IGG in Athletics and our National Team’s performance at the Junior Carifta Games sparkled. Jason Yaw’s performance in the South American Youth Championship in Colombia was most amazing,” Kumar pointed out.
“We have a rich history of distance runners and with Government bringing in two professional athletic Coaches, expectations are high that Guyana will win Gold Medals Internationally as we look ahead to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
However, Athletic Clubs, Coaches and particularly Administrators will need to work together for the further development of our Athletes and it is imperative that the GAA produce a short, medium and long term development programme. It is very disappointing that the Boxing is the only association which has submitted such a programme,” Kumar lamented.
According to Kumar, another high point was the visit by USA indoor Hurdler Kristi Castlin, who in October conducted a 5-day workshop along with Jamaican Grace Jackson and Ato Boldon of T&T.
Kumar welcomed the Football Normalization Committee saying that this Committee seems dedicated to seeing Guyana’s Football develop.
“While these big-four Administrators are making a genuine effort to streamline the sport and put in place a very good Executive to administer Football, it seems as if the same old failures are looking to return to office. Football needs genuine Administrators. We also need to have strong clubs and good sub associations, while Football in schools and communities must be more competitive,” said.
Kumar praised Peter Abdool and his Executives for a good job as GBBC President but added that the Amateur Association must be better organised.
The Member of Parliament said that while Mohamed is vital to keeping Cycling alive the Cycling Federation is yet to produce a system where our National Cyclists ride as a team.
“Guyana must have club Championships and the Federation must develop different teams in various categories. We need strong under-15, U-19 teams in addition to an ‘A’ team and a senior team to inculcate the habit of riding as team,” Kumar suggested.
Guyana excelled in Basketball at the IGG while several players and Coaches attended the Caribbean Basketball Academy where they gained valuable experience and Kumar was high in praise for the Chris Bowman/NSC school’s Basketball programme and called for schools Basketball to be fully supported and encouraged around the country because it is the nursery and the reservoir for producing National players.
Kumar also praised the Guyana under-19 Volleyball team who played in the IGG and noted that President of the Volleyball Federation John Flores and Coach Levi Nedd for their work adding that Volleyball is doing well in Berbice and West Demerara.
International (Lawn) Tennis returned to Guyana after 30 years as the Guyana Lawn Tennis Association (GLTA) participated in the IGG and served to increase the interest and momentum of professional tennis in Guyana.
Chess, Kumar said, is showing some degree of improvement but thinks there must be more students involved, adding that while the NSC’s training programme is producing Swimmers at school, the club structure is weak and not doing enough.
Kumar noted that Motor and Horse Racing is attracting large crowds but those sports needs better legislation, while praising the National Ruby and National Cricket teams for outstanding performances during the year.
He is of the opinion that because of their success at the International level the ‘Ruggers’ are well placed to cop the NSC Team of the year while the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) is a huge contender for Sports Association of the year.
Kumar feels that the installation of Flood Lights at the Albion ground was one of highlights of 2014 and should see Berbice getting more Regional Day/Night cricket.
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