Barbadian Olympian and former national record holder Elvis Forde believes Barbados can be in the hunt for an Olympic medal based on the calibre of athletes that has burst on to the local and international scene.
The 61-year-old Forde who held the Barbados 400m record for 34 years until it was broken in 2019 by Jonathan Jones, says that Barbadian athletes have the talent.
“When I see guys like Shane Brathwaite and Greggmar Swift put in the kind of work and you see their performances and the effort they are putting in, based on their history they have to go out there believing they can do well.
“I am hoping that it is long gone that we are going to the games out of the belief that we just want to go because we just want to get a few people there. Then guys like Jonathan Jones and Mario Burke are also in the hunt,” Forde told Barbados TODAY.
He added: “It is going to be tough but we have to believe. And the people around them have to believe that way too. So, if we as a Barbadian public see these people prepare themselves, we have to give them that extra vibe and let them know they have a whole nation believing in what their vision and capabilities are.”
Forde, a track and field coach for the last 30 years in the United States where he has lived since 1979, also had high praise for Olympian Akela Jones. He is hoping to see Jones compete once again on the international scene having picked up an injury that kept her out competitively.
Based at Temple University in Philadelphia, Forde has over the years helped several Barbadians to gain athletics scholarships. Forde is extremely proud of national athletes Sheena Gooding, Ayesha Maycock, Fabian Norville and many others who have passed through his care during their scholarship days.
Force said he would like to see more leg work being done for the development of national athletes.
“I am always a believer that Akela Jones should be an Olympic medallist already. I think she is one of the most talented female athletes I have ever seen. Not just in Barbados but she has all the qualities to be world-class in everything that she does. Hopefully, she can get healthy and we see some big things from her this year.
“I am always a believer that our associations should be the ones out there to help the young men and women. I don’t know how much they work with the corporations and businesses in Barbados. Sometimes you need to have people out there doing leg work and have a plan to show the people what you are doing. And how the investment in these men and young women is going to pay dividends for them.
“I try not to be too critical of anyone in my old age because I don’t know all that is going on. But I believe that if we work hard enough, we can make it better for our young athletes. But somebody has got to do the leg work. And I believe that is what associations are for like the Olympic Association, the Athletics Association. They should be out there on the forefront working hard to ensure that our athletes can prepare. I am not saying that they might be able to get everything that they want but put some things in place through hard work,” Forde explained.
“Sometimes we stay in our small world and don’t want to explore opportunities that are out there. We sit back and say it’s ok. One thing I have learnt from leaving home and being able to explore, is to ask a lot of questions and get people involved.
“Sometimes in Barbados athletics, I have seen over the last thirty years or so, is that a very small number of people do all the work. I think a part of that is they don’t want to let other people in or ask questions.
“I have a staff of about four people and I always tell them in my meetings, don’t come and sit down. Say anything that is on your mind, be professional about it because we all have different ideas and intentions. When we bring them forward, we will find the best and take it out of that. And I think we are stuck in a little group doing the same thing and not trying to listen to much more open ideas out there,” he added.
Always a positive thinker, Forde said his performance in the 400m at the 1984 Olympic Games is still one of his crowning moments.
Also, at the Olympics that same year, Forde featured in the men’s 4x400m relay final. The outstanding 4x400m quartet included Richard Louis, Clyde Edwards and David Peltier. Even though they finished seventh overall, their time of 3:01.60 still stands today as the Barbados national record.
Forde noted that the sport of track and field is taken more seriously today compared to during his time. He said: “In that time nobody took athletics seriously. Now Barbados is starting to shoot up in the world in athletics.
“It makes me very excited to see guys like Jonathan Jones at Texas. The Brathwaite boys Shane and Ryan in the hurdles and Greggmar Swift. I am proud when I see the blue and gold is right there.
“I think we have a lot more that can make it. I just think that we have to believe in those guys that are currently there. I am looking forward to good things from them even with all the challenges they are going through. I think this is a good time for them to stay in the process,” said Forde, a proud son of Haggetts Hill, St. Simon’s, St. Andrew.