We could have entitled this piece “The YASCO Fiasco, Part II” but we are long past that. In fact, the situation has gone from being a fiasco to simply being sad. Actually, “sad” is not the right word but we fear that if we were to use other words they might not relay the impact of the situation that occurred at the recently concluded Coca Cola National Inter-Schools Track & Field Championships which occurred at the YASCO Sports Complex.
In case you did not hear, female sprinter Joella Lloyd, representing Antigua Girls’ High School, recorded what would have been a new world record in the 14 and under category for the 200 metres, when she clocked 23.37 seconds in the finals of the event. She bettered the June 5, 1999 record time of 23.43 posted by USA’s Angel Perkins and just missed the national record of 23.20 set by former national sprinter Heather Samuel over 15 years ago. In the world of sprinting, beating a record that has stood for almost 18 years is a big deal, so we would like to take the time to congratulate Lloyd on this amazing achievement.
Under normal circumstances we would all be celebrating this outstanding accomplishment; however, in this case, Lloyd’s time will not be taken into consideration because the YASCO surface is not certified by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF). In the eyes of the world, this young lady’s performance is considered a non-performance. She has been robbed of this success and that is wrong.
If your blood is not yet boiling, then read on.
Middle distance runner, Jaylen Dyett, who recorded 48.95 seconds in the 400 metres heats, also suffered a similar fate. The time would have qualified the Princess Margaret School student-athlete for the World Youth Track & Field Championships slated for July, in Kenya; however, the athlete’s time will not be recognised by the IAAF for the same reason as Lloyd’s. He, too, was robbed.
Want more? You can also cast your minds back to the fantastic run of Miguel Francis at the 2016 National Championships where he ran astonishing 19.67 seconds in the 200 metres. A run so impressive that had it been on a certified surface, it would still rank in the all-time, top 10 list of men’s outdoor performances in that distance (according to records posted on iaaf.org).
You can now see why we have described the situation as “sad”. Here we have world-class athletes that have been denied the fruits of their labour. All their hard work has been for naught and we should all hang our heads in shame for letting down these young people. We sit by and cheer for the top athletes of our Caribbean neighbours while depriving our promising athletes of the necessary facilities that can help propel them to the upper echelons of the sport.
We have written numerous times about the missed opportunities related to sports and will continue to do so. If there is a silver lining to this YASCO fiasco, it is that people are getting agitated about the situation. Even with its flaws, YASCO is the only serious athletic facility in the country. It has never had a certified track surface. Yes, as hard as that is to believe, YASCO has forever been uncertified. The surface also raises certain safety concerns that should not be overlooked because while it is disappointing that the performances are for naught, an injury on an unsafe track could be a career ending one. The Antigua & Barbuda Athletics Association (ABAA) recently engaged the services of an overseas-based consultant who said the poor quality of the track poses significant danger to anyone using the facility. So, it is not just the dilapidated stands that are unsafe for use.
The time has long come and gone for us to do something about the facility. Each political and athletic administration has made pledges to do something, but nothing has materialised. Late last year, the government pledged to upgrade the facility and later said it sought assistance from the Government of China to execute the project. We are still waiting on a date to be announced for the start of the promised upgrade, with many doubting that this would commence this year, if at all.
It is really sad that we never seem to have a plan, time or money to spend on worthwhile projects like the YASCO Sports Complex, but we always find the time and money for other ‘priorities’ that are mired in conflict and corruption. Then again, priorities are all about perspective.