Hugs, kisses & tears of joy greet CARIFTA teams on return
By Akeem Greene
The Track and Field, Swim and Chess teams which represented Guyana at the various CARIFTA Championships had an emotional return to home soil Wednesday.
At the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, the Track stars who created shockwaves on social media with stellar exploits in the Cayman Islands were greeted with loud cheers and lengthy emotional hugs just as they stepped out of Arrivals.
Parents, officials from the Athletics Association of Guyana (AAG) and Director of Sport Christopher Jones were grinning with excitement upon seeing their golden stars.
The 21 athletes, a record number attending the championships, also produced a record of ten medals – four gold, two silver and four bronze – which placed them fourth on the overall standings.
Jamaica (85 medals), The Bahamas (26 medals) and Trinidad and Tobago (24 medals), were the top performers.
Gold medalist in the U-17 Javelin Anisha Gibbons could hardly utter a word as her eyes filled with tears of joy. Everyone was trying to showcase their appreciation for the athlete, who at the age of 15, is Guyana’s national record holder.
Princess Browne got Bronze in the U-17 Triple Jump and she also lost for words in the wave of excitement. She admitted Gold was the ultimate aim but nevertheless grateful for the position. The 16-year-old vowed to be on the top spot at the next Games.
More so, Adriel Austin who ran her heart out for Bronze in the U-17 800m, even falling after the line, said the event was a great experience and she is most pleased with her performance.
Coach Julian Edmonds said he was overjoyed with the results given the preparation started since 2018. Edmonds was pellucid on the point that this event is the highest level of athletics in the Caribbean, he calls it the Caribbean’s Junior Olympics, and as such simply reaching a final should be considered a humongous achievement.
During an exclusive interview with News Room Sport prior to departure, the experienced coach had earmarked Gibbons and Matthew Gordon as medal prospects, both delivered gold.
Furthermore, he explained that all is not lost with the likes of Daniel Williams or Deshana Skeete. The two former medallists returned empty handed but qualified for the U-20 200m finals against some top tier competition.
He revealed Williams’ father recently passed but yet the athlete, who is a World U-18 400m Silver medallist, was determined to represent his country while this is Skeete’s first year at U-20 level and she was up against the pedigree of Brianna Williams, the fastest female junior in the world.
AAG President Aubrey Huston, with a broad smile, stated he would have loved more gold medals but this feat is a huge achievement and is indicative of the investment made in coaches’ training and giving young athletes exposure.
Additionally, the Director of Sport in detailing his delight noted: “sport is a business and like any other business when you make investments you will get returns.”
He reminisced that three athletes who competed in 2017 and won full scholarships returned to the games this year and excelled.
“In order to keep the athletes pursuing the sport, you have to invest in their education, and we are hopeful that in 2020 and beyond we can see a more significant invest.”
The National Sports Commission will host a reception for all athletes at the Marriott Hotel on Thursday evening where Jones indicated Minister of Social Cohesion with responsibility for Sport, Dr George Norton “will bestow upon the athletes, tokens from the Government of Guyana and People of Guyana in appreciation for what they have achieved.”
The team arrived earlier in the day where they were greeted by Jones along with family members. It is understood the chess team finished fifth out of 10 countries on 36.5 points, 250% more than last year. The other countries that participated were Jamaica, Trinidad, Suriname, Barbados, Aruba, Antigua & Bermuda, Bahamas and hosts Curacao.
Eugene F. Correia International Airport was where the swimmers returned from Barbados to parents and Assistant Director of Sport Melissa Dow-Richardson. Six swimmers attended the championships but only Aleka Persaud won medals – three gold and two bronze.
Leon Seaton Jr, Paul and Patrice Mahaica, Rakewon Noel and Nathan Jackson were the other swimmers.
Coach of the delegation Coach of the team Haresh Bhagwan indicated all swimmers did well despite not making the podium. Some of the swimmers who were at their first CARIFTA were good enough to qualify for finals.
Bhagwan revealed the swimmers have acknowledged their downfalls and want to start the work now for an improved showing at the next championships.