First let me offer my sincere congratulations to President of the Guyana Olympic Association (GOA) K.A Juman Yassin for his appointment of being a Senior Counsel. Mr. Yassin and the other three appointees are fittingly deserving of the prestigious honour for their outstanding work in the legal profession.
However, this missive is focused on the recent gesture by the GOA to give a selective set of athletes and coaches monthly stipends. It could not have been timelier and the entity must be congratulated for finally accepting that an act of that nature was long overdue.
This is not to say that athletes in the past did not benefit from such assistance, but my guess is that it was not so widespread and definitely did not cater for so many athletes and coaches.
Guyanese athletes have long begged for such support, but were never afforded it on a sustained basis, making it almost impossible for them to reach elite levels.
This journalist in particular was extremely critical of the lack of support for our athletes whether in the form of financial or even technical assistance and the GOA in particular suffered the wrath of my condemnation.
There were the usual back and forth exchanges about fairness and unfairness, but the recent development has vindicated my earlier judgment and the GOA seems to be on the path to resolving the situation.
This is not to say that the GOA is the only entity culpable in this regard, there are others as well, but we all know that through the International Olympic Solidarity much more could have be achieved and who knows Guyana might have already been on the map of sporting success and world recognition.
I think much of the praise must go to the athletes themselves who left the important stakeholders of sport with no other choice, but to give unmitigated support to them through their excellent performances last year.
The parents, coaches and all those who contributed to their success must not be forgotten as well, while the few operatives in the media who never shirked from their responsibility to highlight the difficulties that our athletes face and apportioned blame where it should cannot be overlooked also.
Guyana’s sporting landscape is unique to many other countries in the region and perhaps in the world and because of this situation many of our athletes were never presented with the opportunity to realise their full potential.
We are struggling to understand the requirements needed to develop an athlete that could bring us glory on the world stage.
Developing an elite athlete takes a long time with full concentration on honing the particular skill many hours per day, while being afforded adequate funding and the best technical assistance.
Very few of our athletes are exposed to the rigidity that an elite athlete is required to submit to, but last year’s performances were so exceptional that it could not be overlooked by the caretakers of sport hence this encouraging new development.
We may have missed the chance to support many in the past, but the GOA’s New Year’s resolution must be applauded and appreciated.
It will take more than those stipends to achieve the desired goal, but as the President said it is just the start and more stakeholders, including the Government and corporate community must understand the need to get on board and help the GOA.
Much could be derived by all hands being on deck and with the increase in deviant behaviour by our youths, the three parties singing from the same page is even more urgent. Through sports we can rescue the youths from despair and by this I mean giving them another chance to be somebody in life and not feel neglected and unable.
From all reports Guyana is on the cusp of real economic development which means there is the possibility of sports enjoying an even bigger chunk of the nation’s budget so let’s get started with giving our athletes all the support they deserve to attain their sporting goals.
We just have to use Jamaica as a shining example of what sports can do for a country.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, during his presentation at the unveiling of a statue in recognition of the legendary sprint king Usain Bolt reminded the athlete that Jamaica owed him a lot for the branding capital he had given to the country.
“We are proud of the achievement of our national treasure, Usain Bolt; other countries erect statues of great generals and great conquerors to remind generations of these great feats…today we erect a statue to remind generations that we too have conquered the world, through sports with the achievements of people like Usain Bolt,” the Prime Minister stated.
Let us commence the journey to erect a statue of one of our sporting heroes.