By Neto Baptiste
Former national track athlete, Lester Flax, said he was devastated after learning he would miss the 1980 Olympic Games because Antigua and Barbuda had joined other countries in boycotting the event.
The decision was in support of actions initiated by the United States to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
“I was living in St Louis and I was training in the winter time in snow, and having to put on three track suits and a rain suit and during the latter part of the winter, I would be changing my clothes in the car on my way to an indoor track because the track at Washington University didn’t have anywhere to change,” he said.
“In the summer time St Louis was like an oven where you’d be getting 90 degree days with 80 percent humidity and then after you put in all this work you get a call saying we’re honouring the boycott so that was devastating for me,” he added.
Flax, who contested the 400 meters event at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Canada, said he was especially disheartened because he had missed the previous Olympics in 1976 due to school commitments.
“I had missed the ‘76 Olympics due to the fact I had decided to stay in school and get my degree. I had an issue with one of my student advisors giving me some bad advice and I ended up having too many credit in one year and not enough n another year so I had to stay if I wanted to get a degree. I could have gone to Montreal and had the glory but no degree or stayed. I wish they would take politics out of sports but that will never happen because sports in itself is politics,” the former athlete said.
The ordeal of having to miss back to back Olympics, Flax said, push him out of the sport at a young age.
“Right after the ‘80 Olympics I retired from competition because I just couldn’t see myself putting up with all those sacrifices because basically, your whole life is disrupted and you have to change your lifestyle, you can’t be out doing the type of things normal people could do because you have to keep your body in good shape,” he said.
Other than the Commonwealth Games, Flax did not get the opportunity to represent Antigua and Barbuda a major track and field event.