Commonwealth Games: Guyanese athletes eye improved performances
For several athletes in Birmingham representing Guyana at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, their participation at the 22nd hosting of the event provides an opportunity for redemption after failing to either make it out of the first round or advance further at the 2018 games, held in Australia’s Gold Coast.
Athletes in the disciplines of squash, swimming, table tennis, and boxing, arrived in England’s second-largest city (after London), with the hopes of landing on the podium when they go into action on Friday, July 29.
In Table Tennis, Shemar Britton and Christopher Franklin are looking to make amends for their 2018 Games defeat in the Men’s singles and team events, where they had one of the better performances for the English-speaking Caribbean.
This time around, they will have Joel Alleyne and youth sensation Johnathan Van Lange to rely on.
Over in the females, Natalie Cummings and Priscilla Greaves, that was a part of the women’s team that was knocked out in the team’s event quarter-finals in 2018, will have the services of the English-Speaking Caribbean’s first female olympian in the sport, Chelsea Edghill and the budding Thuraia Thomas.
“Table Tennis has always done exceptionally well at these games, sometimes with little or no support financially with regards to preparation,” Coach Idi Lewis stated in an invited comment.
The usually candid Lewis and veteran Coach Linden Johnson are in charge of the team.
“I hope that at least for one year, we get the required support so we can help the team to prepare to their best so we can really perform well and get a couple of medals,” Lewis said.
He pointed to previous Commonwealth Games performances, like 2018, noting “we can see from the performances over the years that the potential is there; it has always been there, but what’s lacking is the support to have the team prepare properly.”
Over in swimming, Coach Sean Baksh arrived in Birmingham with high expectations of his swimmers at the Commonwealth Games.
Guyana’s youngest-ever Olympian, Aleka Persaud, will lead the country’s swim team, which also includes Patrice and Paul Mahaica, as well as Sekhel Tzedeq.
With the exception of Persaud, the other athletes represented Guyana at the just-concluded Caribbean Games, as Baksh pointed to improved times and performances at the Inaugural event, which he optimistic of the swimmers either replicate or better.
“They’re trained well and put in a lot of work and I expect them to do a Personal Best in every one of their events. We’ll see how far they can get through the rounds,” Baksh stated.
Baksh pointed to Persaud’s hard work in the pool leading up to the Commonwealth Games, and noted their plans to reset several of the country’s national records in her events.
Persaud will be the only Guyanese entering the pool on the first day of the swimming competition on July 29.
“We did set some high expectations for Aleka because we want her to qualify for the Olympics in 2024. We’re really pushing her hard and we expect that her time will be far faster than the Olympics,” Baksh said.
Boxers Desmond Amsterdam, Colin Lewis and Olympian Keevin Allicock, arrived in Birmingham on Monday, July 25 ahead of their participation at the Commonwealth Games.
The boxers are accompanied by Coaches Terrence Poole MS and Sebert Blake.
Lewis and Amsterdam will be in action on July 29.
Lewis, who competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, will step into the ring in the Welterweight Division, while Amsterdam will touch gloves in the Middleweight Division.
Amsterdam, earlier this year, became the first Guyanese to win a medal at the Americas Boxing Confederation (AMBC) Elite Championship when he claimed bronze in Ecuador.
The boxers will know their opponents at the tournament draw.
This year’s Caribbean Junior Squash Champion, Shomari Wiltshire, and the Khalil siblings (Jason-Ray and Ashley) also arrived in Birmingham to begin their quest for a podium finish.
The trio is part of Guyana’s squash team which also includes Mary Fung-A-Fat.
The women’s and men’s Singles Preliminary Round-of-64 will be played on Friday, July 29; the first day of competition at the Commonwealth Games.
Guyana’s Badminton and Track and Field teams are expected in Birmingham on July 26.
Meanwhile, the Golden Arrowhead was officially hoisted in the Athlete’s Village in Birmingham, when a welcome reception was hosted for the 72 Nations competing at the event, formally known as the British Empire Games.
Chef-De-Mission, Dr Karen Pilgrim, was joined by the two physiotherapists Jada Edghill and Vanessa Wickham, along with General Team Manager Nalini McKoy, Press Attache’ Rawle Toney and Squash Coach Garfield Wiltshire at the ceremony.
Dr Pilgrim presented a token on behalf of the Guyana Olympic Association to the Mayor of the Games village while lauding the Commonwealth Games and various committees for the support given to Guyana.
Guyana’s 32 athletes will compete in the disciplines of boxing, badminton, swimming, squash, Track and Field, table tennis and cycling.