Former Barbados record holder Justin Cummins recently returned home from the 2019 Pacific Games held in Apia, Samoa, where he had the distinction of officiating as one of two technical controllers in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting.
Cummins, who broke the national javelin record in 2008 and represented Barbados at the Pan American Games in Mexico was the only representative from the Caribbean region to be selected.
Describing the experience which was made possible by the Barbados Olympic Association and Barbados Amateur Weightlifting Association under president Andrew Callender, Cummins said he was impressed to see the level of competition and the overall organisation of the tournament.
“It was a great learning experience seeing that level of competition, the Pacific games are equivalent to the Pan American Games, so it is a level just underneath World and Olympics. So, it was good to see that level of competition with weightlifting and then how the competition is run in terms of how the Olympic weightlifters warm up, to how they are called on the platform was an eye-opening experience,” Cummins said.
Even though it was the Pacific Games, the Olympic weightlifting competition was accommodating two other championships [Oceania and Commonwealth].
According to Cummins, it was not just the Pacific islands, and Australia that competed, but countries such as India and Canada also participated.
A javelin coach, Cummins has been part of the Barbados Olympic Weightlifting Federation for ten years and decided to forge that love for athletics with the sport of weightlifting. He explained: “I got into the federation through training for athletics, so through the strength and conditioning training from athletics, I found myself in the Barbados Olympic Weightlifting Federation.”
He explained that weightlifting is still a fledgeling sport in Barbados and to have a facility would help significantly in the overall development of the sport. Cummins also called for greater collaboration between Caribbean countries to take the sport forward regionally because in his opinion there was too much disintegration.
“… Small groups travel from time to time to major meets but in terms of Olympic weightlifting in Barbados, it is still a fledgeling sport, and one of the things that stood out to me over there in the Pacific compared to the Caribbean is that those countries in the Pacific tend to work together a lot better. So much so that it is second nature for them. Here you find there is a lot of tension between the Caribbean islands instead of trying to work together. Yes, we have CARICOM, but it is still a tough process for sports, in general, to work together. I would like to see more collaboration in sports and in Barbados we need a facility.
“In Apia, Samoa, they have a weightlifting complex where they can go and lift, whereas here in Barbados there is none. Even in terms of sports, there is no real strength training and conditioning facility. So, a facility, in my opinion, would go a long way in catapulting the sport. An Olympic weightlifting facility can also double as strength training and conditioning for other sports,” he said.
Olympic weightlifting is so rare in the island that there is no official association which is another area Cummins would like to see improved upon. He said the knowledge gained from his recent trip to the Pacific would be shared with members of the local weightlifting fraternity.
“It is kind of a chicken and egg type of thing because with more lifters you would need more officials, but you can’t have a good competition unless you have the officials. So, the sport just needs to grow as a whole. Cross-fit they normally have to do snatch, knee and jerk, so that kind of blends itself to exposing the sport of Olympic weightlifting because sometimes they [Crossfit] come over and say ‘I want to be a weightlifter’.
“There are no real officials per se, with other sports you would have an official association. Olympic weightlifting is so fledgeling [in Barbados] that there is no real section for officials, which is why it was a big deal for me to go overseas. I would have gone in a capacity to not only officiate but to learn and bring back that information and disseminate it to the others in the federation,” Cummins said.