A golden leap

Troy Doris’ golden leap on the penultimate day of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia was a fitting finale for a Guyana team which had endured days without even coming remotely close to winning a medal.

The gold medal won by Doris was the only medal won by the Guyana contingent at the games and effectively ended a 16-year gold medal drought

It catapulted Guyana to joint 26th on the points standings instead of having to suffer the indignity of finishing in the lower echelons of the points standings, reserved for the 28 countries, including several fellow Caribbean ones that finished without a medal.

Doris’s leap of 16.88 metres was historic in the sense that while the discipline of track and field had provided gold medals at the Commonwealth Games before, no triple jumper from Guyana had ever won a global medal.

In fact, the triple jump is not an event that young, aspiring athletes would contemplate as the sprint (everyone wants to be a Usain Bolt) and long distance events are considered more appealing although that might change now.

Medals at the Commonwealth Games, especially those of the golden variety, are especially hard to come by and as such, this occasion, as President David Granger said, has made every Guyanese proud and has given Guyanese a reason to celebrate.

It was athletics that gave this country its first Commonwealth Games gold medal at the 1934 Games in London through Phil Edwards in the 880 yards.

It took a further 44 years before Guyana gained its second Commonwealth Games gold medal in 1978 through boxer Winfield Braithwaite and a further 24 years before Guyana gained its third gold medal in 2002, in Manchester England through Aliann Pompey.

The big question now is whether Doris’s leap can catapult Guyana’s athletics into the big time.

The answer to that is yes and no.

According to a Ministry of the Presidency’s release, the APNU/AFC coalition government, will continue its investment in the development of sport locally, so that athletes like Doris can receive the support they need and so that young promising athletes can reach their full potential.

That statement, however needs to be taken with a grain of salt especially since the government did not assist the Commonwealth Games team to prepare properly for the games.

While Doris’ achievement is cause for celebration, the way the Guyana Olympic Association (GOA) and the national sports federations/associations went about the preparation of the various disciplines left a lot to be desired and a medal of any kind seemed a far-fetched possibility.

It is safe to say that Doris’ feat brought a level of success to the Commonwealth Games teams’ overall participation and spared the GOA’s blushes.

No one needs to be reminded of the many excuses which would have been trotted out by the various sports officials had the Guyana team returned without a medal.

In fact, Doris must be given all the credit for his achievement since, to the best of one’s knowledge, the government did not provide any financial assistance prior to his participation at the games and  one is not sure what role the GOA and the  AAG played apart from selecting him.

The government can, however, redeem itself by ensuring that not only is Doris properly rewarded for his exploits but that a comprehensive programme is mapped out towards his successful participation at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan where another medal of any colour is a distinct possibility.

Recently, athletes from Guyana have been doing well and the government should also meet with the Athletics Association of Guyana to map out a five-year development programme for those athletes who can certainly make their mark on the international scene in another few years.

That is, if they are serious about winning more medals internationally.

What is especially galling about sport in Guyana is that no one sees its importance until there is cause to celebrate such as Doris’ gold medal winning jump.

Then everyone jumps, (pardon the pun) on the bandwagon but do they really care about sport and its importance to this society and the many benefits of participation in sport?

Is the government, the GOA and the national sports federation/associations working hand-in-hand to develop the various sports disciplines in this country?

Doris was born in Chicago, United States of America to Guyanese parents, and, as such, credit for his success as a triple jumper must go towards the system in the US where he was a two-time junior college national champion.

So, unless those in charge of the administration of sports in this country, ensure that emphasis is placed on the infrastructure necessary for churning out athletes of calibre, medals won at meets such as the Commonwealth games will, as previously mentioned, be few and far between.

Incidentally, this newspaper has been made to understand that the budget for sports this year has been cut which has affected a number of programmes identified by the Department of Sport.

So much for the government’s talk of investing in sport.

Maybe Doris’ historic jump can force the bureaucrats to significantly alter their approach to sports development in Guyana and usher in a new era where talented athletes can, with the assistance from the government, the private sector, the sports associations, the Olympic association, the coaches and even the man-in-the-street, like Doris, realise their golden potential.

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