‘Building the structures is a long-term investment’- Sport Minister
By Avenash Ramzan
“I want the public to be assured that we have to see this through to the end. This Sport Academy must become a fixture of how it is we develop talent.”
The words of Sport Minister Charles Ramson Jr. reverberated around the National Aquatic Centre at Liliendaal on Saturday afternoon, as he led the commissioning of the Academy for swimming in the presence of a large gathering of young swimmers, parents, coaches, officials and executives of the Guyana Amateur Swimming Association.
The Academy launch coincided with the first use of the multi-million dollar electronic touch pads, procured by the Ministry, that will significantly enhance the country’s ability to host top regional and international meets.
“All of you that are sitting here, all of you who are parents, you know that when your kids are participating in these swimming programmes, you want the best for them and you want them to be able to achieve the best,” Ramson Jr. told the audience.
“Without the structure it can’t happen. Without the coaching it can’t happen. Without the facilities it can’t happen. Without the tournaments it can’t happen.”
To ensure that these competitions take place and the financial burden is not solely on the Association, the Minister announced that annually $1 million will be set aside for this purpose.
Ramson Jr. pointed out that the format should ideally be quarterly tournaments that lead into a national championship.
For 2022, the Minister has charged the Association with getting those plans executed by November, given that the Inter-Guiana Games will be resuscitated this year.
“Swimming will be part of the Inter-Guiana Games, so you have an automatic opportunity to represent your country at a Games that we will be able to host. That’s a major step for you to be able to progress and go into bigger meets to show how you are competing against the best,” Ramson Jr. explained.
Although the Academy has been ignited, the process of engagement between the Ministry, the Sports Commission and the Swimming Association will continue, as more of a monitoring mechanism to ensure the goals and timelines are met.
“So it’s not a situation where we’re saying we want the Sports Academy to start and that we’re just going to leave it to function on its own. That is not what is going to happen.”
“There will be regular engagements- monthly at the beginning and then quarterly as we run into a system.”
More than just moments of brilliance
Before the speakers took to the podium, swimmer Aleka Persaud, who became the country’s youngest-ever Olympian at age 15 at the Tokyo Games last year, opened the formal part of the ceremony with a prayer.
The Minister reflected on how proud he was to witness the record-breaking Guyanese in the action on the biggest stage, noting that Aleka is an inspiration to all.
He however, noted that the current development trajectory must facilitate more than just moments of brilliance, but rather the expansion of the talent pool in all disciplines that is consistent with the “international competitive standard.”
“And that is the task that I’ve set for the National Sports Commission. And the National Sports Academy is what will help to take us there.”
Director of Sport Steve Ninvalle emphasised the importance of having a structure that is result-oriented and will sustain the production of talent at all levels.
He highlighted that the persons driving this process are “committed”, “tenacious” and are determined to fulfill the promise made to invest in the development of sport.
“And these are fundamentals of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, led by our astute Minister and by extension the Government of Guyana.”
Commissioner of the National Sports Commissioner Cristy Campbell echoed similar sentiments, adding that it is important youngsters grab the opportunities that are being afforded to them.
Campbell, who is also President of the Guyana Tennis Association and a national tennis champion, said the Sports Commission and the Ministry, and by extension the government, are keen of laying a solid foundation to foster talent development and the Sports Academy Programme is a clear demonstration of fulfilling that mandate.
President of the Swimming Association Dwayne Scott said he is “proud and privileged” to lead the organisation at this time, noting the significance of the Academy and the acquisition of an electronic timing system.
These developments, Scott outlined, will not only serve to expand the local talent pool, but also allow the Association to capture critical data on its swimmers and place Guyana in a prime position to bid to host key regional and international swim meets.
The Academy Programme
Through the Academy programme, young aspiring athletes will be edified on the fundamentals of their respective disciplines through a structured plan that is geared to facilitate their progression to the next level.
The three pillars of the Sports Academy are a Nursery, Tournaments, and Elite Training Academy.
The core sports currently identified by the Ministry to benefit from this initiative are: Badminton, Basketball, Cricket, Squash, Table Tennis, Rugby, Volleyball, Swimming, Football, Squash, Lawn Tennis and Track and Field.
Minister Ramson Jr. clarified that these were just the initial disciplines chosen and going forward, others will be added or subtracted based on needs and facilities.