Representing Guyana on her parents’ finances, Chelsea Edghill tells her struggle
By Akeem Greene
After two years of being based in Portugal playing professional table tennis, Chelsea Edghill has returned to Guyana.
On Friday, the 23-year-old revealed how she navigated representing the nation, mainly on the back of the financial support of her parents. Her story of wanting to fly the Golden Arrowhead high at international events, but having to do so with little support at times from relevant stakeholders, is not unique to many from Guyana but an unfortunate commonality.
Edghill, Guyana’s highest-ranked female Table Tennis player, recently participated in the Olympic Qualifiers in Argentina. She did not make the cut to the Tokyo Games but produced telling performances, that had some pundits wondering, if only there was more preparation and exposure, she could have gone the full distance.
According to the former Bishops’ High School student, in recent years she would have sacrificed her studies to qualify for Tokyo. The 2018 National Sports Commission Sportswoman-of-the-year graduated in 2019 from Lindenwood University in Missouri, the USA with a BSc in Chemistry after being on a scholarship.
“Leading up to preparing for the games [and] not being sponsored for whatever reason and this is before the pandemic. Not being able to garner sponsors to compete at the highest levels, to compete at training camps”, Edghill said at a press conference on Friday.
Edghill expressed thanks to Guyana Table Tennis Association (GTTA) and Guyana Olympic Association for at one point allowing her to get an International Olympic Committee Scholarship and Continental Group of Companies for sponsoring her in the past, but she emphasised that it was her parents’ financial support which really brought stability.
Her stay in Portugal, where she trained and played professionally, exceeded G$3 million dollars and airfare for an all-round trip to Guyana is approximately US$3,000.
“Throughout my preparation and throughout my career, the majority of the onus was on my parents. They funded almost all of my trips; they funded my training, my travel, and everything that I would ever want in the sport,” Edghill reflected as she insisted that such a trend cannot continue.
“I don’t represent myself when I go abroad, I represent Guyana and I don’t think it is fair they [her parents] continue to fund the brunt of my travels and me representing Guyana.”
To change the culture, Edghill said it needs to start at the association level to help make athletes develop an image to make it viable for corporate Guyana or the Government to sponsor. The Caribbean Under-21 champion insisted it is a two-way street as athletes need to ensure the brand they offer is one befitting support.
Edghill met with the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Charles Ramson Jr. and indicated that it was enlightening since the minister was willing to listen to her revelations on the plight of national athletes, and he now has a better understanding of what is happening and what needs to be done for athletes.
The athlete has applied to attend graduate school in Portugal and hopes to return before the new season starts in September.