By Calvin Chapman
The 2019 Pan American Championship that was hosted in Lima, Peru, from July 23rd to August 13th this year, was a well organised and hiccup free tournament. The amount of infrastructure and government support that was needed for such an event would see Guyana at least 10-15 years away from hosting an event of that magnitude.
Team Guyana consisted of athletes from eight disciplines namely Squash, Boxing, Table Tennis, Swimming, Track & Field, Badminton, Taekwondo and Rugby, however, the 40-member contingent failed to pick up a medal as the drought continued.
The Guyana Olympic Association (GOA) held a press conference yesterday at their head office in Lilliendaal to brief the press on Guyana’s participation at the recently concluded 18th edition of the Championship.
Among those present at the head table were head of the GOA, K.A. Juman-Yassin, GOA General Secretary Hector Edwards and respective Squash, Rugby, Boxing, Athletics, Swimming and Table Tennis coaches, along with player Chelsea Edghill.
The last time Guyana won a Pan Am medal was at the Mexico games in 2011 when Nicolette Fernandes copped Bronze in squash and this year was the first time that squash qualified for the women’s team event with three young players in Taylor Fernandes, Mary Fung-A-Fat and Ashley Khalil competing. They entered as the sixth seed and finished sixth despite being without ace, Nicolette.
Table Tennis qualified for the Pan American games for the first time in almost three decades. The lone participant, Chelsea Edghill, had an extremely close match in the women’s singles first round that could’ve gone either way.
Edwards, who was present at the games, explained that had Edghill been more experienced at playing high level tennis, she would’ve been able to get past her Colombian opponent.
Guyana’s lone Boxer, Keevin Allicock, was destined for at least a bronze medal after dominating his quarterfinal bout but questionable decisions from the judges who concluded that the Guyanese pugilist had lost the fight 3-2, cause gasps from the spectators in disbelief to fill the Boxing arena.
Allicock was the aggressor and dominated the match throughout and even the journalists at the event were in shook at the decision. Following the fight, it was reported that two officials from the Allicock quarterfinal bout were sent home. Head of the Guyana Boxing Association (GBA), Steve Ninvalle explained that the decision couldn’t have been appeal since Guyana didn’t have a Boxing Manager.
Although it was a summer games, August is the usual winter period in Peru and it was reported that Lima was experiencing its coldest winter for almost 50 years. The temperature wasn’t at all conducive for the Track & Field athletes.
Out of the four Track athletes, Aliyah Abrams was the only sprinter to make a final in Lima and she finished seventh in her 400m showdown. Abrams, who has qualified for the Tokyo 2020 games, was nowhere near her best, finished almost two seconds behind the winner.
Julian Edmonds, coach of the athletics team, noted during the brief that in order for not only Athletics but Sports in general to move forward, “Guyana needs a comprehensive plan for the 2024 & 2028 games. If we don’t plan together, we will not move forward. The GOA should not be the leader of Sports in Guyana, it should be the Government (State), followed by the GOA then the relevant sports associations.”
Edmonds further posited that when he engages with other countries such as the Bahamas, T&T, Grenada and Jamaica, to name a few in the region, he is usually struck by the amazing support the respective governments give to sport, something that is being hindered majorly in Guyana due to the implementation of a sports policy.
The Rugby Sevens team didn’t win a single game as their run of poor form continued. During yesterday’s presser, Stoute shared that from the entire contingent’s performance, “My disappointment is with the Rugby team. I have seen Rugby at its peak and they are nowhere close to that. I think rugby need to step back, come up with a plan for the way forward and then move from there.”
The swimmers were the only athletes that didn’t qualify for the Championship and although Nikita Fiedtkou registered personal best performances, much more is needed for our swimmers to compete at that level.
The general consensus is that if Guyana is to start competing at championships of the Pan Am level and above rather than just being mere participants, first a sports policy needs to be finally implemented followed by support from all stakeholders including the government and corporate community in preparing the sportspersons and creation of sports infrastructure.
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