By Neto Baptiste
Invest just as much effort and finances into the longer distances as you do with sprinters and other aspects of track and field.
This is the challenge thrown out to the Antigua and Barbuda Athletics Association (ABAA) by former national long distance runner, Cordova “Popeye” Simon, who took the local governing body to task over what he believes is a consistent disregard for the effort and time invested by athletes who compete in the longer distances but are never included in national teams for regional and sub-regional meets.
“We don’t look at the situation and say, ‘let’s give somebody a chance this year so they could see what it’s like and prepare for the next year’, and we need to start looking down that road. We need to stop having our standards so high and depriving our athletes’ rights, because every year Carifta comes around we lose athletes. You don’t’ see some of them the next year because they were so close to qualifying and they didn’t get a chance.
“Everybody talks about money and money may be a part of it, but if you look around Antigua we don’t have much seniors, only juniors, and we need to find a way to hold this crop of juniors together by giving them the opportunity because once you are past Carifta age you will not get it again,” he said.
Simon’s call follows the bronze medal performance by 15-year-old Hannah Charles at the Caricom Heads of Government 10k event two weekends ago in Suriname.
The athlete-turned–coach believes that once given the opportunity, the country’s young but talented long distance athletes can compete with the best in the region. Simon said he has petitioned the association ahead of a staple event slated for later this year.
“I just sent something to the President of the Antigua and Barbuda Athletics Association [Everton Cornelius] to remind him that the NACAC Cross Country is coming up on the 10th of December. So, I am looking for Antigua to be a part of this team event where you send about five distance runners because this is something Antigua and Barbuda has been missing from for years,” he said.
Simon also called on the association to rethink the current qualifying standards for the Carifta Games, because they are unrealistic.