Barbados’ contingent to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, is one of the most diverse ever with a total of 12 athletes inclusive of five females and seven males.
The official team announcement was made Wednesday morning by Barbados’ chef de mission, Dr Adrian Lorde. Also present were of Steve Stoute, president of the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA) and the BOA’s general manager and assistant chef de mission, Glyne Clarke. A few of the athletes were also in attendance for the announcement as they gear up for the 31st Olympiad.
The team comprises seven track and field athletes made up of Akela Jones in the high jump and heptathlon, Sada Williams – 200m and 400m, Kierre Beckles – 100m and Tia-Adana Belle 400m hurdles. Ramon Gittens – 100m and 200m, Levi Cadogan and Burkeart Ellis have also qualified for the 200m and will be under the guidance of coaches Alwyn Babb and Brian Holder.
Alex Sobers and Lani Cabrera will give of their best in the pool when they take on the world’s best in the 400m freestyle.
Darian King will see action in lawn tennis singles action and Jason Wilson will feature in the triathlon. They will create history by becoming the first Bajans to participate at the Games in those respective sporting disciplines. Meanwhile, Michael Maskell will make his fourth Olympic outing for Barbados.
At the moment BOA is awaiting official word on whether Barbados’ 4x100m men’s relay team will get the go ahead instead of Dominica Republic, as both countries are vying for the final 16th position to compete in the relays.
Speaking to the media at the conference, Stoute said he was pleased with the numbers this year compared to 2012 in London where only six male athletes represented the island.
He also added it was disappointing to see top hurdlers such as former world champion Ryan Brathwaite, Shane Brathwaite, and others, not being able to make the qualifying standards.
“We are extremely pleased about the team configuration and especially the much larger female contingent. It is in the mandate of all international committees to enhance gender equality and I think the outcome for selection at the games augurs well and we are very pleased.
“We would always like to see a large contingent and I was disappointed with the hurdlers. But at this point in time I don’t think that there is any other sports apart from the ones that we have on the team that would be capable of making the Olympics team. At one point cycling would be in a position to qualify with the others but that is not the situation today so as we look around I don’t see any other sports even though we would have tried with boxing which is plagued with a lack of facilities and is operating from under the Stadium. Normally we qualify boxers, last time we had Judo, but at this time I don’t think that we would see any athletes coming from any other sports,” Stoute explained.
Stoute added it was not pleasing to see the regression of boxing, weightlifting and Judo but noted the BOA was working to enhance the coaching infrastructure in Barbados in order to build stronger national federations. He pointed out that without strong coaches and national federations certain sports would not get anywhere.
Barbados first participated at the Olympics as an independent nation in 1968 and have been present at every Olympic Games with the exception of Moscow in 1980.
Chef de mission Dr Lorde reinforced that Barbadian athletes were clean heading into the Games and there was also no need to worry where the Zika virus was concerned because all those competing along with the officials had been vaccinated. In fact he assured it would be a lot easier to win a medal than catch Zika in Brazil.
He said however that an area of concern was that the athletes, even though they had a general awareness about anti-doping, did not recognize that not giving their whereabouts was an anti-doping violation.
“We in the BOA and national federation have been trying to encourage athletes to give their whereabouts so they can be tested. As you recognize a number of our athletes train outside of Barbados and the National Anti-Doping Commission and the Regional Anti-Doping Organization (RADO). We have links with other international anti-doping organization all over the world where these athletes can be tested at anytime,” Lorde said, while highlighting a number of projects they have been working on including education programmes and drug testing at schools.
The medical team comprises of physio Dr Rene Best, massage therapist Cheryl Toppin and athletics therapist Chalice Jordan.