The 2015 Pan American Games have come & gone
The 2015 Pan American Games ended a few days ago in Toronto, Canada and should put us to wondering what Dominica has done in twenty years since we made our first entry into these hemispheric Games in Argentina in 1995. My reflections unfortunately cannot dwell on the positive, in terms of achievements, because we simply have not put ourselves in a position where our youths are able to grow and develop meaningfully in the sporting sense. We can be thankful to former Trinidad goalkeeper Shakar Hislop for his kindness in featuring in his reports our representative in women's boxing, a young lady from England who competed for us by virtue of her having Dominican parentage. She did not win a medal but tried her very best – a highly commendable effort on her part.
In 1995, we had the great satisfaction of our triple jumper Jerome Romain quite heroically separating the two leading jumpers of Cuba to capture the silver medal. His performance created a great stir then among Latin American countries, many of whom stated openly they, up to that time, had not managed to gain a PanAm medal in all their years of competing!
Romain's feat proved highly productive among our sister small island neighbours, all of whom have gone ahead to cover themselves with athletics glory. The huge question is: what has become of Dominica's athletics? Much of the answer lies in the fact that Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Kitts, Cayman Islands etc have gone ahead and laid down their formal, all weather athletic facilities while Dominica has repugnantly stunted itself by grossest self denial in this regard.
It is difficult for words to describe my feelings when in the London Olympics in 2012, I witnessed on global television the exultant gold medal victory of Grenada's Kirrani James in the men's 400 meters. Similarly, the deeds in the 100 meters by Kittitian Kim Collins in the world Championships have served to give me a lift in the chest. These champions simply carry any self respecting citizen of the OECS right along in the slipstream of their magnificent mercurial endeavours.
What can be the argument against Dominica becoming member of the athletically non-deprived via acquisition of a formal synthetic track? Antigua, St. Kitts and Cayman Islands have no greater populations than ours. Then, Grenada, St. Vincent and St. Lucia are no bigger than we are geographically. Do we have an excuse to opt for inane backwardness? I think not.
How thankful may we be at the pronouncement recently by Dominica Olympic Committee president Felix Wilson to the effect that steps are to become active towards fulfilment of the dream of a track to be laid down in the Warner area of our West Coast?
Imagine this. The facility, as envisaged will be in relatively easy reach of communities from Mero, St. Joseph, Layou to Massacre, Mahaut, Canefield, Fond Cole, Stock Farm, Goodwill, Roseau etc and beyond. At a quick count I can list about thirty population points within the catchment to be automatically served.
And I am intolerant of anyone telling me travelling distance would be a factor of any kind. How can it be? I was stranded one time in New York due to disruptions posed by an airline strike, only to be greeted hundreds of times by very young Dominican students turning up at J.F Kennedy Airport who were seeking to return home from summer vacation! Those were children as young as twelve years old, and in most cases much younger!
Pointless it would be to have a beautiful athletic track without a solidly productive track and field system. Our conscious experience leads us to believe our Dominican youths right at home, given the advantage of skilled training, can excel handsomely in events ranging from 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters and 1,500 meters. And this does not exclude the 100 meter and 400 meter hurdles races.
Then, what of the field events? I have no doubts as to the adaptability of our athletes to take on the challenges of the high jump, long jump, triple jump and the pole vault. They may be highly technical disciplines, but we already have had visible potential making its presence felt.
An athletic track would be a wonderful answer to the dreams of a man such as Emanuel Loblack whose life's ambitions have stuck manfully to the unearthing and developing of gems in our athletic bedrock. It is my confident belief he and others like him can generate outcome to the effect of producing world class competitors in the sprints and middle distances, the pedigree of Bruce Phillip and Dawne Williams-Sewer remains ample proof.
If we have qualms about the hurdles and the pole vault, what is to prevent us from utilising the assistance of athletic teachers who may become available under the U.S. Peace Corps Programme for attachment to our schools sports development efforts?
Exceptional prospect with a Dominica track facility would be the incorporation of a gymnasium provision that would simplify the overall usefulness towards development of performers in other sports disciplines. Can we wait another four to eight years before ridding ourselves of the illness of being athletically deprived? Can we stagnate to the point of each and every less endowed islet in our region accepting before us to embark on enlightened and meaningful national equipment in the athletic sense? Waiting another four or five years would be critical and suicidal self annihilation in the sporting environment. Another Pan Am Games must not see us naked of an automatic sports inheritance.