Despite Barbados coming up empty-handed in the medals’ column at another Olympic Games, two-time Olympian Freida Nicholls says she is happy with Barbados’ overall performance at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, where two national records were broken and three athletes made it to the semifinal stage.
A former outstanding sprinter who represented Barbados at the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games, Nicholls said the country needed to start focusing more on the objective of producing medallists.
“I was happy with the overall performance. There were three of our track athletes that went to the semis, that is Jonathan Jones, Sada Williams and Tia-Adana Belle. You had two national records from Alex Sobers in swimming and Sada Williams in the 400m,” Nicholls told Barbados TODAY.
During the telephone interview, Nicholls recalled that in 1968 she was present at the United States National Championship when the amazing Lorna Forde achieved the feat. Fast forward 43-years later and she was able to witness it once more as Sada Williams wrote her name on the local history page.
“I witnessed that and 43-years later, I witness the record being broken. When you think about it, that it took 43-years should tell us what has or has not been happening to our development in athletics,” Nicholls stated
President of Olympians Barbados, Nicholls said that credit must be given to the athletes. She noted that reaching the Olympics was no easy task.
“The athletes went out and did their best. No athlete steps on an Olympic track to do anything less than their best, that is a given and whatever the results we should commend them for representing Barbados creditably on the world stage. We might not have gotten all the results that we were expecting,” Nicholls explained.
In terms of moving forward, Nicholls who has served Barbados at the highest levels both as an athlete and administrator said: “Whatever resources are required need to be put towards the development – the objective is an Olympic medallist. That is where your objective is, so you can’t wait until a year before or even four years before.”
She was also of the view that the media need to start having serious conversations with the Athletic Association of Barbados, the Barbados Olympic Association and with the Barbados Swimming Association as it relates to the preparation process.
“You have to look at that development throughout where the potential is identified and then the resources. And those resources involved both the educational as well as their sports development. All of those champions that you see have gone through that combination. A good solid education gives the athlete the potential to think, to consider what is being taught to them.
“It is just as if you are in school as an athlete with your coach and whatever and if you have a good educational background talking about coming through your secondary school and then further education whether it is technical, vocational, academic, whatever.”
She added: “It gives you a better understanding, ability to think, process and develop your own position, all of that goes into becoming an Olympic medallist. Do background research on all of them and you would see that combination, it is not just the athletic prowess but that strength of character, that knowledge base, that understanding of the sport, that ability to think while you are competing. Even in a hundred meters, less than ten seconds to the men, close to ten for the women, there is a thought process. So, all of that goes into the success of an athlete.”
Considering that the Olympics scheduled for Paris 2024 will take place in three years, Nicholls said that planning should take place from now. She suggested that planning as it relates to budgeting and other important mechanisms should start as early as next week.
“Get those resources operating as of next week. Your plan should be there, your budget should be there, everything should be put on the table. Like other countries, they have different models in terms of resources.
“Not just going to the private sector at the end to ask for sponsorship. Get the private sector at the table where you explain what goes into developing an Olympic medallist, getting our athletes to the point where they are at the Olympic podium. So, that the private sector understands. We assume that the private sector understands what is required and that is an aspect of marketing.
“Are you building up a relationship with the people that you are seeking for support to fully understand what is required? Yes, there is a monetary value but to put the monetary value they have to understand where that monetary value goes and as you are seeing now the sports psychology element being included,” Nicholls stressed.
“It amazes me that we are having a conversation about the inclusion of a sports psychologist in your team and support mechanism when way back in the late 1970s when I was competing in Washington DC, my track club had a sports physiologist attached to it.”