Asks Charwayne Walker
Come April, the 20th Commonwealth Games will commence in Australia and Guyana, as is customary, will be represented in seven of the 18 disciplines (10 core sports) that will be contested.
The Guyana Olympic Association, an affiliate of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently announced that 20 athletes from the seven disciplines will represent Guyana at the XXI Commonwealth Games, commonly known as Gold Coast 2018, which will be held on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia between April 4 and 15.
The Commonwealth Games, known as the British Empire Games from 1930 to 1950, the British Empire and Common-wealth Games from 1954 to 1966 and British Commonwealth Games from 1970 to 1974, is an international multi-sport event open to members of the Common-wealth of Nations.
The games are run by the Common-wealth Games Federation which selects the host cities among other things.
Unlike the Olympic Games, where Guyana has won only one medal to date – a bronze through the efforts of boxer Michael Anthony Parris- Guyana has done reasonably well at the Common-wealth Games winning its first medals at the 1930 British Empire Games held in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, a silver and a bronze.
The silver medal was won by high jumper Colin Gordon while the bronze medal came in the coxed four rowing event.
At the 1934 British Empire Games in London, England, Phil Edwards won this nation’s first gold medal when he outclassed the field in the 880 yards in a time of 1:54 seconds while at the 1938 British Empire Games in Sydney, Australia, swimmer Walter Spence won a silver medal in the 220 yards breaststroke in a time of 3:00.5 seconds.
Those were heady days.
No games were held in 1942 and 1946 because of World Wars I and II while British Guiana did not participate at the 1950 British Empire Games held in Auckland, New Zealand.
Weightlifting to the fore
In 1954, when the name was changed to the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Julius Park won a bronze medal in weightlifting at the games held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada from 30th July to 7 August while at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales from 18th to the 26th July, Winston Roy Mc Arthur won a silver medal in weightlifting.
Guyana continued its medal winning ways at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, Western Australia from 22nd November to 1st December through Martin Diaz who won a bronze medal in weightlifting.
The 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in Kingston, Jamaica from the 4th to 13th August. This was the first time the games would be held in the Caribbean and once again weightlifting was the discipline that shone with Martin Diaz winning a silver medal in the bantamweight division.
Boxing and track and field’s time to shine
The 1970 British Commonwealth Games, held in Edinburgh, Scotland from 16th July to 25th July 1970, saw the late boxer Courtney Atherly winning a bronze medal in the bantamweight division.
Guyana did not participate at the 1974 British Commonwealth Games held in Christ Church, New Zealand from the 24th January to 2nd February.
However, at the 1978 Commonwealth Games held in Edmonton Alberta Canada August 3-12, Winfield Brathwaite won a gold medal in boxing in the light welterweight division while James Wren Gilkes won a silver medal in the 200 metres men’s open clocking 20.18 seconds while June Marcia Griffith won a bronze medal in the long jump with a leap of 6.52 metres.
Guyana failed to secure a medal at the 1982 Commonwealth Games were held in Brisbane, Australia from 30th September to the 9th October and this country again did not participate at the 1986 Commonwealth Games held in Edinburgh, Scotland from 24th July to the 2nd August.
At the 1990 Commonwealth Games held in Auckland, New Zealand from 24th January to the 3rd February, boxer Wesley Christmas won a bronze medal in the bantamweight division but Christmas’s glory was spoiled because he defected in Miami whilst in transit back to Georgetown.
Guyana failed to medal at the 1994 Commonwealth Games held in Victoria in the province of British Columbia in Canada from the 18th to the 24th August and the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
From zero to hero
They struck gold, however, at the 2002 Commonwealth Games were held in Manchester, England from the 25th July to the 4th August through a virtual unknown then in Aliann Pompey who burst into stardom by winning the 400 metres in a time 51:63 seconds.
Guyana, though, failed to medal at the 2006 Games were held in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia from the 15th to the 26th March.
In 2010 when the games were held in Delhi, India from 3rd to the 14th October, Pompey won a silver medal in the 400 metres at a time of 51.65 seconds, however at the 2014 Games held in Glasgow, Scotland from 23rd July to the 3rd August 2014, Guyana failed to medal.
Who will defy the odds this time?
This time around Guyana will compete in badminton, boxing, rifle shooting, squash, swimming, table tennis and track and field.
The teams will be accompanied by 10 officials and, according to GOA president K.A Juman Yassin, the nation’s top sportsmen and women could do the nation proud at the upcoming games.
If one was to take a look at the performances of Guyanese at past Commonwealth games one would see that boxing, weightlifting and track and field are the best bets for medals.
Table tennis has a history of being represented at the games but neither team nor player has yet managed to win a medal.
This time, Godfrey Munroe, a former men’s singles national champ, has high hopes for the men and women’s teams.
The players Trenace Lowe, Pricilla Greaves, Christopher Franklyn, Natalie Cummings, Shemar Britton, Nigel Bryan and Joel Alleyne are in New York and play today play a tournament at Westchester, run by former Caribbean men’s singles champion Robert Roberts prior to commencing a week long training camp with another former Caribbean men’s singles champion Sydney Christophe.
Whether the exposure and training can translate into medals in Sydney remains to be seen.
Despite the retirement of the former world ranked WISPA professional Nicolette Fernandes there is still high hopes that the discipline of squash might be able to produce a medal.
David Fernandes, Guyana’s General Team Manager, said the squash team (Mary Fun-A-Fat, Taylor Fernandes, Sunil Seth and Jason Khalil) will head to the Commonwealth Games a confident bunch.
“The good thing for squash is that most of the top players in the world are from countries within the Commonwealth, and as such, I think the games will give them a chance to play the best in the world and I’m sure they will give their best,” he said.
Seth might be Guyana’s best performer in this discipline.
Guyana’s Simon Pure have a history of winning medals at the games and coach of the two-man team Sebert Blake is optimistic that Keevin Allicock and Collin ‘Superman’ Lewis can deliver the goods.
“I believe they are in their best shape and will do great things in Australia. I’m glad that we’re actually getting in a week early so we will be able to acclimatize and adjust to the conditions in the Gold Coast,” said Blake.
Undoubtedly, though, Guyana’s best bet for a medal rests with athletics in the form of Troy Doris, who represented Guyana at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio where he placed a disappointing seventh in the triple jump with a leap of 16.90 metres.
Coached by former national sprinter and record holder, Julian Edmonds, the other members of the team are Winston George, Emanuel Archibald, Leslain Baird, Natricia Hooper and Natrena Hooper.
Despite his rapid climb up the international rakings, not much is expected of the lone badminton player Narayan Ramdhani nor from swimmers Andrew Fowler and Jamila Sanmoogan.
The rifle shooting team of Paul Slowe (Coach), Ransford Goodluck and Lennox Braithwaite could be the dark horse of the competition and might be able to spring a few surprises.
So, who will medal at the upcoming Commonwealth Games? Your guess is as good as mine.