By Neto Baptiste
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Athletics Association (ABAA), Everton Cornelius, is not worried that, to date, only one national athlete has qualified outright for the Carifta Games scheduled for April in Jamaica.
Cornelius, who said the association will host its Carifta qualifiers this Sunday at the YASCO Sports Complex, blames a dip in both competition and interest, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, as one of the main reasons for the slowed momentum.
“We’ve had a lull for just about two years in track and field, and most of our senior athletes are at an age where they are now making up their minds as to whether they continue, or go for a next four years. When I say four years, you know we are looking at the Olympics. At this stage in our development we are now in a rebuilding process and if you come to YASCO [and] in the next three to four years, we are going to have a serious crop of athletes going forward,” he said.
A former national sprinter, Cornelius also pointed to what he termed a “poorly structured” schools programme as part of the overall problem, suggesting that not enough is being done at that level to try and move the talented student athletes to the next level.
“That is our breeding ground for our athletes where the discipline and everything that comes into play and what our athletes are going to look like when they come out of school and go into professional or semiprofessional sports. It is what we teach them while they are in the system that is going to make what we have outside of the schools’ system work better for all of us. I am just saying that if it was better structured in the schools’ system, we would have a crop of athletes also,” he said.
Alyssa Dyett, in February, leaped a distance of 12.12 meters to eclipse the qualifying mark of 12:10 meters set by the association in the triple jump to become the first athlete to qualify got the games.
Cornelius said that although athletes could qualify via the association’s development meets, the final team will be selected following Sunday’s meet.
“You can consider the development meets as [an avenue for] you to qualify for Carifta and also for you to measure yourself as you go forward. When we make the final cut which is going to be this weekend, if no one else qualifies, then we will put the best of who we have and who we think can make a reasonable showing so they could go to the games,” he said.
Jamaica is set to host the 2022 Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) Games from April 16 to 18.