By Neto Baptiste
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Athletics Association (ABAA) and former national athlete Everton Cornelius, believes there should be a national plan where funding for elite athletes is concerned.
The official, who was responding to questions regarding the qualifying of athletes for the Tokyo Olympics slated for July 23 to August 8, said it will take a tremendous amount of funding to qualify a satisfactory amount of athletes for major games like the Olympics, adding that it could not be done solely on NOC and association resources.
“We need to put money behind them if we are to truly have more than one or two athletes qualifying for these international competitions. It is something we need to have a plan for going forward and I am talking about a national plan and how we are going to be working with our athletes to get them qualified or else we would still have the one or two athletes that will qualify. We have the talent and we just have to believe in ourselves,” he said.
To date, only sprinter Cejhae Greene has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics after clocking 10.01 seconds at the Tropical Elite Sprints Meet held in Miami, Florida in March. The qualifying mark for the Olympic is 10.05 seconds.
Cornelius said he is not surprised by the performances of Greene and other athletes like new national record holder for the 100 meters Joella Lloyd, and triple and long jump competitor Taeco O’Garro and Tahir Walsh.
He believes that once the funding is made available that the association will be in a position to better provide top class athletes.
“I want to say on behalf of the athletics association, that we will provide the athletes and I think that is the greatest contribution we could make in terms of identifying the talent and say these are the talented people and we need to put some finances behind them to get them to the next level. I have set some standards and said we should be looking to finance athletes running in the vicinity of 10.3 [in the 100] and 20.5 or 20.6 [in the 200]. The 400, somebody should be running about 46 seconds and I just think those are the perimeters we should use,” he said.
In July last year, the IOC approved its new qualification process for Tokyo 2020, which extended the qualification period until June 29, 2021.