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Dominic Fails - So?

    (27 September 2000) - 24-year-old Arizona-based St. Lucian athlete Dominic Johnson was the only Caribbean qualifier for the men's pole vault at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He failed to advance past the first round of competition, missing three attempts at 5.55m, a height he cleared last year at the World Track and Field Championships in Seville.
    In fact, Johnson made that height or better on at least six occasions, the first in 1998, when he cleared 5.65m while at the University of Arizona. Just weeks before traveling to Sydney, he made 5.70m, a personal best mark that put him among the top tier of pole vaulters.
    The Sydney Olympic experience was better than the Atlanta debacle, when he failed to clear a height in the event so poorly understood by his countrymen (or by anyone else, for that matter).
    In 1996 - you can do the mat- Dominic was only 20. This year he was still among the younger vaulters in the field. Vaulters, by and large (aside from being a bit insane) peak in their late twenties to early thirties. In other words, he has plenty of Olympic competition left in him.


Olympic Shame

    (30 September 2000) - I'm disappointed for St. Lucia's Olympians, the track and field trio in particular. My expectations of them were relatively low, but even those they failed to meet. That does not seem to be the view of the average St. Lucian, however.
    I've heard that St. Lucia ought to be ashamed of Dominic Johnson, Ronald Promesse, Jamie Peterkin, Verneta Lesforis and Sherri Scobie-Henry. After all, why did we waste money sending them? Why did Ron go to Sydney when he "knew" he had a bad hamstring? Why did Verneta go if she had hardly run for the year? Why didn't Ron finish his race to show his courage and national pride? How could Dom be so lacking in that same "national pride" that he would shrug off his second Olympic failure? What was the point of sending Jamie and Sherri when they were so clearly sub-par? Oh, and why was Mario Michel wasting taxpayers' money to go gallivant in Australia?
    Let's deal with Mario first. On behalf of Government, the Minister for Youth and Sports accepted an invitation from the National Olympic Committee to attend the Parade of Nations at the Games of the XXVII Olympiad. I don't think he spent more than five days in Australia. His ticket was paid for by the NOC, not the Government. As to whether Sports Ministers from other countries were in Sydney for the opening ceremony and Parade of Nations, I don't know, but find out before criticising.
    Speaking of finding out before criticising, let's look at Ron's hamstring. Oh, we can't because we're in St. Lucia, and that's exactly why we should perhaps refrain from talk about pride and courage. If Ron could have finished, I have no doubt he would have (not that it would have garnered us the attention people seem to think it would have; he sustained his injury in the first round, and perhaps no more than five million people saw that on television). The injury, by the way, was first sustained about three weeks before the Olympics, and the medical experts told him he'd be ready to run.
    Verneta's lack of high level competition this year probably hurt her in Sydney. Maybe if we'd had a half dozen qualifiers I'd have understood the concern about "sending" her to the Olympics - the International Olympic Committee pays the way of most athletes. Still, one has to understand Verneta's situation, working hard to secure a Master's degree and getting ready to take on the best in the world. Not easy.
    Also not easy is the men's pole vault, out of which world record holder Sergey Bubka and world champion Jean Galfione crashed in Sydney, along with Dom, the only man from the Caribbean to qualify for the vault. His failure to advance was disappointing, but Dom is philosophical and focused. He'll prepare for the World Indoor Championship in Poland next March, and he'll have his Olympic moment. He's still a month away from his 25th birthday (30 October, if you want to know).
    As for Jamie and Sherri, yes their goals were modest, but we're at a modest stage in our development as a sporting nation. We will re-adjust our sights in 2004, and I think we'll have at least four qualifiers in swimming events.
    Disappointed though I am, this quintet filled me with pride, if only because they were there, in Sydney among the world's best. Lesforis and Promesse may or may not be on the scene again in 2004, but the other three will almost certainly - barring injury - be there in Athens. Along the way, they'll have more failures, but they'll enjoy success as well. Last year, when St. Lucia was sixth in Barbados last year at the Central American and Caribbean Games, how many of those who are now heaping scorn on our athletes genuinely celebrated their accomplishments?


Another Day, Another Championship

    (25 September 2000) - Eighth round TKO. That's what I can glean from the WBF World Middleweight Championship bout between Lester Jacobs and Delroy Leslie. Details are not yet available from that 9 September fight, a match taken by Jacobs, an unbeaten boxer from St. Lucia via the United Kingdom.
    He visits St. Lucia fairly frequently, and he's visiting the island again in October, taking two weeks off to show off his belt to his home folks. World Boxing Federation president Roy Scalf says the fight got great coverage in the United Kingdom, but we never even heard about it out in the tropics.
    During his time here, Jacobs will be meeting briefly with the World Boxing Council's Continental Americas lightweight champion Benjamin "the Tiger" Modeste, another local pugilist who's been receiving a great deal of acclaim. Like Tiger, Jacobs has said he'd like to fight in St. Lucia, making the establishment of a Boxing Board of Control an even greater priority. Only the Board would be able to oversee professional cards, and the body is being put in place.
    St. Lucia's second pro champion (third if you count Julius Francis, a Commonwealth heavyweight title holder) will also be meeting with the new executive of the Amateur Boxing Association. The Association's president, Alfred Emmanuel, will be returning from the Olympics in Sydney, Australia soon. Himself and his executive have a lot of work to do, but a lot to work with.


Netball Schols?

    (28 September 2000) - People tend to look down on netball, even if it's the most popular women's sport in the Caribbean. No television coverage, no pro league, no university scholarships.
    Most of it's true, though there may be scope to play professionally in England or even in Australia, where there's also plenty of tv coverage. As for the opportunity to become a scholar athlete, why not right here in the Caribbean? That question's being answered right now.
    Three national players have accepted scholarships to regional institutions. One of them will even be playing the game while she studies. Michelle Rogers and Shem Maxwell won't get much netball in Cuba, where they'll study physical education. Michelle is a centre-court player for St. Lucia and the West Indies and former Most Valuable Player in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Under-23 Championship. Shem played in that tournament earlier this year, having been named the most outstanding shooter in 1999.
    Defender Firma Clive is in Jamaica, another phys ed major (when do we start studying sports management?) and vice-captain for the senior national team that was second in the Caribbean championships hosted by Nevis earlier this year, the best St. Lucian finish ever.


(Finally) Volleyball Activity

    The St. Lucia Volleyball Association last week re-elected Brian Louisy as president for 2000-02. The Association's Biennial General Meeting, which they had tried to convene on two previous occasions, went relatively well. At least they managed a quorum this time. Christina Norley and Meinrad Joseph are vice-presidents of the Association, and Marcia Vite is Secretary, with Shana Mondesir Public Relations Officer.
    Meanwhile, SLAVA, in association with the Department of Youth and Sports and the International Sport Aid Programme (SAP) will hold a volleyball coaching seminar for secondary and some primary school teachers from 3-8 October at the Vigie Multi-Purpose Sports Complex. The main objective of the workshop is to motivate teachers to teach volleyball and to improve their teaching of the sport.
    Successful participants will be presented with FIVB certificates and attestations. Topics to be covered include, among others, "History & Development of Volleyball and Beach Volleyball" and "Introducing Volleyball to Beginners". The course is timely, with the Association and Ministry staging a schools' tournament in January.


Lucians Do Well, But Concordia Struggling

    (23 September 2000) - We haven't been hearing much about St. Lucia's volleyballers in the United States. The collegiate women's season is well underway, though, and there are three St. Lucians on the women's team at Concordia University in New York.
    Garvinia Gill and Gifta Dujon, along with Leanne St. Rose and Signa President, began their studies at the Division II college in August. Gill and Dujon are in the string lineup for the school from which Ayinde Kunta Williams transferred after a semester (due, in part, to medical concerns). Concordia isn't doing too well, with a season record of 3 wins and seven losses, but the St. Lucians are shining and confident. "We'll win," says Dujon.
    That wasn't the case as Concordia traveled to Bentley College for the latter school's invitational tournament. Bentley defeated Concordia 10-15, 15-9, 15-13, 15-10, although Gifta Dujon led the team with 6 blocks, and was second with 26 digs. Garvinia Gill, a setter, recorded 49 assists and 20 digs; and she even managed to get in 2 blocks.
    Williams and Maxim Charlemagne are also in New York, at Queen's College, but a third male player - Dayne Williams - will join Concordia in January. Lottie Philip and Shana Aubrey, both members of the senior national women's team, are also entertaining scholarship offers.


Women's Cricket Aiming for Youth

    (27 September 2000) - Three St. Lucian women are among a group of fourteen selected by the West Indies Women's Cricket Federation to take part in a coaching course being hosted by Trinidad and Tobago.
    Euralis Delaire was at one time a promising prospect in football and cricket. As a teacher, her presence in TnT fits in with the stated purpose of the exercise, that being the development of women's cricket among younger players. Already this year a teenager - Minelva Flavius - was included in St. Lucia's national team that won the WIWCF tournament at home.
    Two St. Lucia and West Indies players, Elizabeth Williams and Cecilia Mann, are alos in the twin island republic for the five-day course. Verena Felicien, president of St. Lucia's national women's cricket association and national team captain, says junior development is a priority.







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