Tue | Aug 22, 2017

No additional support for athletes

Published:Tuesday | September 15, 2015 | 9:00 AMOral Tracey, Contributor

Emotional, irratio-nal, angry and in total denial are what lots of Jamaicans seem to become whenever anyone dares to question or criticise their sporting heroes, whether those criticisms are merited or not.

It hit home to me first when I was critical of sprinter Asafa Powell for repeatedly failing to perform to his full potential on the big occasion. Even with the irrefutable facts of Powell's failures staring them squarely in the face, I was labelled "bad-minded", "grudgeful", "wicked" and more by the emotional clan for daring to speak the truth.

Fast-forward to my recent prediction that the American Justin Gatlin would beat Usain Bolt in the shorter sprint at the recently concluded IAAF World Championships. This was not a pie-in-the-sky prediction, the hard-cold facts were pointing to the imperious form of Gatlin relative to Bolt's struggles for fitness and form. But again, the emotional daggers were drawn, this time I was the "traitor", the "anti-Bolt", the "anti-Jamaican", who committed treason.

Fast-forward further to here and now and the raging debate as to the merits and affordability of Jamaica offering more financial assistance to our track and field athletes.

I dared again to swim against the emotional tide, by first asking the questions how much, if any, should merely being national representatives entitle our athletes to? Can Jamaica afford to give them what they think they are entitled to?

I ventured even further out of the box to forthrightly disagree that merely being national representatives should entitle athletes to more direct financial help than nurses, teachers, policemen and other civil

servants.

After all, athletics, like everything else, is a chosen field where the people who are good enough earn a very good living, while the ones who are not good enough will struggle.

I happen not to agree that Jamaica owes our struggling athletes any more help than we owe any other of our struggling citizens.

For that principled stance , the emotional half-wits have now branded me "stupid", "crazy", "hype", "irrational", "disgraceful" and "classless".

Incapable of challenging the message, they have resorted to attacking the messenger.

While the Government has announced the setting up of an assistance programme for the athletes, starting with the $40 million diverted from the planned welcome-home celebrations, I remain resolute and undaunted by all the platitudinous rantings.

Top achievers such as Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Asafa Powell and others are among our top money earners in sports and, indeed, in Jamaica, more than ample proof that the sport rewards its top performers.

 

harsh reality

 

But like any other market-driven activity, those who are not top performers will have many sad stories to tell.

The harsh reality is that some of these athletes need to man up by either lifting their performance levels, or facing the same reality that confronts a lot of people every day, the reality of surviving in the real world.

My choice of economic assistance to the sport would be at the developmental level, at the preparatory and primary level and even the crucial Boys and Girls' Championships level. The aim must be to ensure that the systems we currently have in place continue to produce top athletes for many generations to come.

Infrastructural, medical and other support facilities apart, additionally, I would opt for a sprint academy and or a coaching academy. These are what would inspire my tears and cries for help.

I say again without apology, Jamaica has a track and field programme that works; we were second in the world at the just-concluded World Championships for God's sake.

Let us preserve this legacy by investing in development while continuing to raise the bar for excellence. Unfortunately, in that quest for excellence, some will fall by the wayside. And those who fall understandably will cry. Those are the cries we are hearing now.