Babb: Expand medal opportunities at athletics meets

Former senior national coach Alwyn Babb says more focus needs to be put on expanding the opportunities for winning medals at major events.

Speaking to Nation Online during a recent athletics clinic at Queen’s College, he said Barbados was restricted by the number of medals for which the country could content, starting at the region’s premier junior meet, the CARIFTA Games.

“We cannot go to CARIFTA, which has approximately 120 medal opportunities, and if you take a count of our representation over the last year, we are only challenging for at least 40 medals if everybody gets a medal that goes to CARIFTA Games. More or less over the years, we were looking at medals in long jump, one or two in the throws – javelin especially – shot put had one person and we have lost a considerable amount of ground in the hurdles to Jamaica.”

He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had not helped the matter in terms of preparing athletes to make the grade at major events. However, the founder of Rising Stars Track and Field Club attributed some of the blame for the decline in athlete representation in field events to a lack of interest.

He said the way to increase the island’s chances of winning more medals was by getting athletes interested in other areas in the sport.

“There was a time where we could have looked at two athletes in each division going in hurdles, long jump, triple jump, but that has not been the case for the last few years. This clinic is designed to get those athletes to see beyond the 100m, 200m and 400m races. I came under two coaches, the late Tony Lovell and Frank Blackman, who believed that sprinters and jumpers should hurdle.”

If the top two spots are already filled, then those sprinters could contend for selection via the sprint hurdles or the longer 400m hurdles.

Babb also addressed the need for facilities and equipment to improve after the success of the track athletes during Commonwealth Games.

“We know what has to be in place. The persons who make decisions in relation to sport know exactly what has to be done. This stage of where we are with our local coaches is very important so that we can see the results at the higher level. We are still in limbo about our national stadium. We are still unsure what is happening with the laying of the track at the University of the West Indies. Those types of things need to be in place in order to produce more athletes.”

Babb concluded by saying it made no sense having coaches giving of their time and effort with little or no equipment provided. Additionally, there are no facilities for good competition, but there is an expectation across the island for them to produce quality athletes. In his opinion, it is also unfair to ask a young athlete to go to the Usain Bolt Stadium Complex in its current condition and expect that person to meet the qualifying standard.

Currently coaches are forced to purchase equipment with their own money and are being hit with heavy duties on those items.

About 25 children are attending the clinics. The Rising Stars Track and Field Club will continue their summer athletics programme for another week at Queen’s College. It caters to children ages 11- 16, with the focus of teaching the fundamentals of field events. (JC)

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