Sun | Feb 18, 2018

Letter of the Day: Swimming drowning in a sea of neglect

Published:Tuesday | January 19, 2016 | 12:00 AM


As we enter an Olympic year, we will witness the clamour to sponsor both athletes and sports that are usually shied away from for the previous three years. Unfortunately, swimming is part of this selective blindness.

Jamaica is an island blessed with good athletes in many disciplines, but we refuse to harness that talent, for the most part. Take swimming, for example. Now, being totally classist, it IS an uptown sport but, until leaving high school, our swimmers are very good. These boys and girls, uptown though they may be, compete internationally and do darn well.

They break records while on the meagre stipend of parents and private clubs like Tornadoes. Once they reach adulthood, or they are seen to have potential to compete internationally at a young age, they are doomed because there is no funding in place. It has got so bad that our leading swimmer was recently begging for sponsors, which only came when she medalled for the umpteenth time, near the end of her career.

It's criminal, the fact that hundreds of swimmers, dozens of potentially great ones, are left to rot because of a complete lack of funding. The mere fact that we have the region's top swimming pools, yet our national swimming programme is this bad, is an embarrassment.

This is not a call for more government funds, but a cry to the Jamaica Olympic Association and the swimming federation to put funds towards it, as we know the International Olympic Committee and International Swimming Federation provide money for the programme. Just imagine what a swimmer who is actually funded could do? Imagine if Alia had been given the necessary backing from the get-go?

We need to stop with the bandwagon mentality that only leads to a once-in-a blue-moon kind of sportsman. We have finally done away with that mentality in track, but it lingers like a ghost in most off-track events. Too many promising

athletes never see their talent fulfilled because of criminal underfunding. That has to change.

Jamaica claims that it wants to monetise sports. Well, the first step is to have first-class athletes. That can only come by funding athletes and providing the training environment that they require. Then, and only then, can we attract foreigners to pay to use our facilities.

Let's be smart. Let's use what we have well, and not pay lip service to our sportsmen and women.