Campaign in support of athletes to bring home Olympic medal

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 11:28 AM

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St. George’s, June 12, 2011 – Members of the Grenada Olympic Committee (GOC) are confident that the country could win its first Olympic medal next year. But they are cautioning Grenadians that it is a tough challenge that requires financial and other support for local athletes.

The GOC hopes to send between 16 and 20 athletes to the 2012 Olympics in London, England, and it’s trying to raise EC$500,000 to support the venture.

“This is the right moment to contribute,’’ GOC President, Royston LaHee, said Saturday at an Olympic Committee event at the Spice Island Beach Resort.

He was speaking to a group that included GOC officials; Sports Minister Patrick Simmons; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Marilyn Austin-Cadore; coaches; and former and current athletes such as Lottysha Cato, who recently returned to Grenada after playing professional netball in Wales.

The group, which had gathered for the launch of a GOC campaign titled, “Grenada – On the Road to the Podium for 2012,’’ also included representatives of the private sector.

Republic Bank (Grenada) Ltd. made the first donation to the campaign. Managing Director Keith Johnson presented a cheque valued at $4,000 to LaHee.

At the campaign launch, the GOC profiled some of the athletes who are expected to represent Grenada at the 2012 summer games, and revealed that more than EC$1 million has been budgeted for the Olympic effort.

“The athletes need support,’’ said LaHee, who explained that the money will be invested in the country’s participation in regional and international track and field meets leading up to the Olympics.

The GOC is also incurring expenses in a novel move in which Grenadian athletes will be placed in training camps in London prior to the Olympics, which begins July 27, 2012.

During the intensive training camp sessions, “We’ll be able to monitor the athletes closely,’’ LaHee said. “The objective is to have the athletes fully prepared and bring glory to us.’’

However, he warned that “it is not easy to win an Olympic medal’’ because many things can happen to an athlete, including suffering injury.

GOC Secretary General, Veda Bruno-Victor, said the committee has been routinely supporting foreign-based student athletes with funding to help cover expenses such as insurance, rent and food.

However, Bruno-Victor and other GOC officials, say the current Olympic drive is beyond capability of the committee, even with a pending agreement under which Puma will provide uniform and equipment for Grenadian track athletes for regional and international competitions from 2012 – 2016.

 Sports Minister Simmons promised that government will soon unveil a “complementary plan to support the Grenada Olympic Committee.’’

He said the campaign in support of the athletes must be “multi-faceted’’ and “all-encompassing,’’ and pledged government’s assistance  to “mobilise Grenadians at home and abroad to be part of the experience.’’

Permanent Secretary Austin-Cadore expressed confidence in Grenada medaling in London next year.

Grenada has been participating in the summer games since 1984 but has never won a medal. If it does in 2012, it will be the first country in the world with a population of 100,000 or less to capture an Olympic medal.

“I have faith that we will do it on this occasion. We cannot pay for what that will mean for Grenada,’’ said Austin-Cadore, who was substituting for Tourism Minister Peter David, who was in the United States on government business.

She said Grenada intends to create greater linkages between tourism and sports, with details to be provided shortly as part of a “restructuring of the tourism product.’’

According to the GOC, “Grenada – On the Road to the Podium for 2012,’’ will involve a series of activities to create “national awareness about the potential and quality of athletes preparing to compete in the Olympics.’’

The objective also, said the GOC, is to “get the population to become major stakeholders in the preparation programmes leading up to the games.’’

Two Grenadians, Rondel Bartholomew and Kirani James, have already qualified to participate in the Olympic 400 meter race.

LaHee, the GOC President, described Bartholomew and James as Grenada’s “best hopes’’ for medaling in London.

The two are studying in the U.S. However, there are unconfirmed reports suggesting that both could soon be leaving college for the pro circuit.

James, a student at the University of Alabama, last weekend successfully defended the NCAA outdoor 400 meter champion title he won in 2010.

The “Pride of Grenada,’’ as one commentator referred to James, retained the title in Des Moines, Iowa, in a time of 45.10 seconds, running in lane eight.

Bartholomew was also on the tracks on the weekend. The Texas-based South Plains College student participated in the Adidas Grand Prix in New York.

The Grenadian athlete was third in a race won by reigning Olympic 400 meter champion, Jeremy Wariner of the United States, in 45.13 seconds. Jamaican Jermaine Gonzales was second in 45.16 and Bartholomew clocked 45.17.

Bartholomew and James are expected to be the leaders on a 4X4 relay team that Grenada wants to get into the Olympics.

Grenada is said to have seven athletes that are potential candidates for the relay team. Five are based overseas and two reside in Grenada, said Conrad Francis, Sports Coordinator in the Ministry of Sports.

The potential candidates for joining a Grenada Olympic men’s relay team include Keron Toussaint, a student at Kansas University. He recently ran 46.8 seconds in the 400 meters.

Francis, a former Grenada Olympian, said local officials have been in touch with Toussaint.

“We have him covered,’’ Francis said. “He’s in the loop.’’

Francis said Toussaint will be at the London games in 2012, “once he’s running the time.’’





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