The failure to develop a national program at the tertiary level that would encourage athletes to remain at home, is partially the reason Barbados has yet to reach the height of supremacy as their Jamaican counterparts, says national coach Alwyn Babb.
It has been 20 years since Barbados captured bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics compliments of Obadele Thompson. Babb explained that it all comes down to support which Barbadian athletes need beyond college and university. He acknowledged that great all-round support was the reason Thompson achieved that level of success in the men’s 100m sprint that year when he made history.
During a telephone interview with Barbados TODAY, Babb, an IAAF certified coach said if Barbadian athletes do not start getting support towards the next step after completing their degrees, then Barbados will not see the number of successes one sees coming out of Jamaica. According to Babb, the Jamaicans who have produced the likes of sprint great Usain Bolt and countless others have managed to convince the majority of their athletes to buy into their program at home.
“We are still not able to develop at the tertiary level, a national program which encourages our best athletes to stay at home and be given that type of support, the type of competition that is needed to excel. When you get the best athletes in Jamaica staying at home then the competition is at a high level.
“Not only that, because you get the competition being that high, you get other top-class athletes from other countries wanting to come. We don’t have that here in Barbados. Not that we don’t have talent but it is the type of support that is needed so that athletes are encouraged to stay in the sport as long as possible,” Babb said.
There are very few Barbadian athletes such as Central American and Caribbean champion Shane Brathwaite, sprinter Mario Burke, that have support through sponsorship deals with international companies. However, Babb questioned how many other Barbadian athletes could say the same. That is where he said the issue existed.
He also explained that oftentimes, Barbados had athletes qualifying for various meets but that did not necessarily mean they would produce a medal.
“It all comes down to what we can attract in terms of pushing these fellows beyond the college level and be successful on the international scene. We haven’t won a medal in 20 years simply because a number of persons came in and they went out. Ryan Brathwaite won a gold medal at the 2009 world championship, we had Shane going well at other meets.
“When we look at athletes we get carried away. When athletes meet qualifying standards, that is an entry mark for the meet. We have to then see with our athletes where they are at present and if what they are producing in the competition would make them medal contenders. We have lots of qualifiers but are they medal contenders based on the performances because most of the time we are hoping for a miracle, “ Babb explained.
He added: “Sometimes you have to plan your international success. At a time when we had pretty decent sprinters, they came along when Jamaica was at the top of the game, so it was pretty difficult. I believe now probably represents the best time where we have our chances. But what we have to build on is the success at the CAC senior level, then the next step ought to be the Pan Am level and then hopefully they carry on to world championship level.”
The veteran coach also made reference to the fact that Barbados’ population is small in comparison to those major international countries who do so well particularly at the Olympics. That he stated was the reason Barbados was unable to acquire medals in multiple events or rather none at all.
Using Grenada as an example, Babb explained they were able to achieve an Olympic gold medal because they have an exceptional athlete in Kirani James. But besides James, there weren’t many others because like Barbados, they are a small country, he added.
Therefore in a situation like that he urged Barbados, Grenada and other islands to start identifying those rare, talented athletes that have potential to medal and support them. He noted that sometimes there are very few because of the limited population.
“With our smaller population that is going to happen where you are hoping the exception will come through and produce. But in terms of the numbers game, we would not ever be able to play the numbers game and have that type of success.
“We have to find a way in our present system with the small numbers to really identify the exception and hold on. We should not be afraid to invest in track and field especially when you see an exceptional talent coming through. And because we don’t have big numbers to invest in, we can say let us see what we can do to ensure that he or she reaches the possibility of the Olympics,” Babb said.