By Neto Baptiste
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Athletics Association (ABAA) and former national athlete, Everton Cornelius, has denied claims made by US-based high-jumper Priscilla Loomis that the body had failed to effectively communicate with her during the Covid-19 pandemic and leading into July’s scaled down national championships.
In an interview with Observer media, Cornelius admitted that in the past, the association would have dropped the ball on some occasions but is adamant that they have since improved significantly.
“I know that we have gone out of our way to solve that particular problem where athletes were saying that we didn’t hear this, or we didn’t know this. We have made sure in the athletics association we put someone in charge of going between athletes and the association to make sure that we stay in touch with all of the athletes and, at least, find out where they are, what are their plans and whatever assistance they can get from the association whether it comes from the NOC via the association or from the association directly to them, once we can assist we have done that,” he said.
In a recent interview, Loomis called on the association to improve its level of communication with athletes, suggesting that she was left out of the loop regarding the national championships and was forced to pay her own way to Antigua.
Cornelius, however, denied the athlete’s claims, stating that he had been in constant communication with Loomis.
“I am not thinking, I know we had constant communication with Priscilla and if I was in Antigua I probably could have pulled out my cellphone and go to the conversations I had going back and forth with her coming up to our national championships and as it pertains to the Olympics, so I really do not understand that,” the athletics boss said.
“Funny enough that she said we do not communicate with her but she was at the Last Chance Meet in the Bahamas [in July] trying to qualify, paid for by the NOC through the athletics association, trying to qualify for the Olympics, so I know we had constant communication. Even when it relates to our national championships, I spoke with her directly and I said ‘listen, we are having problems with the protocols, we weren’t going to have the meet’, and the next information that I got from her is that she is still going to come to Antigua and I said ‘okay, no problem’,” he added.
Asked if the association would be willing to take up an offer by Loomis to host training camps specifically geared towards young athletes wanting to compete in field events, Cornelius said the body will take any assistance it is offered.
“We will take anyone who is willing to give us any assistance that will help us to advance the sport and especially when it is coming from one of our senior athletes. We are all open to whatever input or whatever she want to bring to the table to help advance the sport,” he said.
Loomis missed out on qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics after failing to achieve the 1.96 meters height requirement set by World Athletics. The athlete however suffered a major setback in January when she contracted COVID 19.