by Latoya Burnham
Nuisances. Lawless. Trouble-makers.
These are all names that have become second nature to groups of young people who are trying to get into Xtreme sports in Barbados. But they say the labels are not fair, and far from that, it is an avenue that could bring in considerable foreign exchange if the right attention and backing is placed behind it.
In fact, a number of those youth, in areas like biking, martial arts, paintball, skate boarding say if they could attract financing to secure a centre where they could train and even bring in officials to help train them, Barbados could become an area in the region where people could travel to see Xtreme sports at its best.
Head of Xtreme OMG Productions, Trecia Gibson, said she had been trying for about three years to get the necessary sponsorship to ensure young people have their own space where all these sporting disciplines could train safely, with the proper guidance.
So far, she said, it has been disheartening that the only attention she has been able to garner, has been from international organisations and trainers who are willing to back her project, towards hosting an international-type training camp here next June to August.
“The art is dying. The athletes have nowhere to train and when they come and train people have a problem and they get sent off by police and everybody else. There is nowhere for them… What I am trying to do is build an extreme sporting venue here for the guys to have somewhere to freely express themselves, whether it is boarding, biking, skydiving, dancing, music, whatever it is.
“Young people need somewhere where they can feel safe without the judgement cast on them by everybody that they can’t do this or do that,” she said, adding that she has been attempting for the last three years to bring more awareness to extreme sports and the youth interested in competing here.
She said she believed Government and other potential sponsors were waiting until someone was successful to start paying attention, but argued that there were others outside of Barbados already recognising the potential of putting their energy behind her efforts.
“I have been trying hard to get this done and I had to go international with it and I got international sponsorship before I got local sponsorship for local teams. I don’t understand it. We’re just getting the run around from everybody all the time, they don’t have a budget for this, they don’t have a budget for that. They are everywhere else doing everything else when they could be putting money into a venue like this.
“Do they understand how much foreign exchange they could earn through a place such as this, having not just the local people, but visitors and guests coming in to actually be a part of this? I am trying to get these young people off the road.”
Most of the bikers and skateboarders use vacant car parks or the roads around the Wildey Gymnasium to practice and sometimes even run afoul of the law and other persons in doing so.
Ariel Dahn-Yisrael said he was one of the only people from Barbados that he knew of who travelled and competed in biking, adding that it could be beneficial and once the young people were serious it could bring rewards.
He was one behind the idea of a venue where they could train and perfect the respective disciplines.
So too was Kimberlee Barker, a martial artist, who noted that her sport was large, with numerous styles, some of which were yet to be recognised.
She noted that funding was extremely difficult, again because of the issue of recognition of some styles and not others, noting that a designated space for all such athletes to come together for training and even competition was a good idea.
She said she believed Xtreme OMG could help with recognition.
“Firstly, we will be getting international recognition which would play some part in investment into the country,” she said.
Gibson added: “There isn’t really an industry locally, but internationally these sports go far. These are world championship sports, Olympic sports, BMX, everything are done internationally in places like Russia. It is just because Barbados is stuck on football and netball and cricket, everything else dies down, even with the watersports, you don’t see anyone but guests involved in it. I guess they are not educated enough about what the sports are, so they don’t respect it and they don’t respect the athletes for doing it.”