By Neto Baptiste
National sprinter Tahir Walsh has responded to criticism regarding his decision to launch a GoFundMe initiative designed to assist in raising the required funding to support his efforts to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games slated for late July to early August.
This after Minister of Sports Daryll Matthew labelled Walsh’s move as “misleading” during his contribution to the 2021 budget debate in parliament.
Matthew suggested that the initiative gave the impression that the athlete had already qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and that government was not providing the necessary funding for his preparations.
But Walsh hit back, accusing the minister of making what he says are “dangerous accusations” that could negatively impact his ability to acquire the necessary financial support.
Walsh also clarified that the campaign, which was first launched on February 1, 2021, “in no way, shape, or form suggests that I have already qualified for the 2021 Olympic Games”.
Walsh, who was a 200 meters semifinalist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, added that “the description of my GoFundMe clearly states that I intend … to qualify for the 100 and 200-meter events at the Tokyo Olympics and the funds received would…cover my training and travel expenses.”
The athlete, who also formed part of the country’s 4X1 relay team in the past, debunked claims by Matthew that “there are no qualifying events taking place anywhere around the world”, by pointing to meets in Australia and other countries in the Eastern hemisphere where “athletes are competing at track meets and hitting the qualifying standards”.
Walsh noted that on January 22, 2021, he participated in a meet in which distance athletes had the opportunity to qualify and where “it is also possible for athletes in the 200-meter dash and up to qualify during the current indoor season, which runs from January to March”.
Brother of West Indies cricketer Hayden Walsh Jr, Tahir went on to reveal that since 2017 he has been self-sufficient “like many other athletes, by juggling various jobs and my training”.
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Athletics Association (ABAA) Everton Cornelius, during a recent interview with Observer media, revealed that funding for Walsh has recently been approved by the NOC.
“They have responded positively to his request. They asked us to send the document and he sent the documents and we submitted that to the NOC and the rest is left between them [NOC] and us now to just sign off on whatever going forward, but I will have to dialogue with the [general secretary] for him to bring me up to speed on that,” he said.
Cornelius went on to support Walsh’s decision and that of any other athlete to seek funding through other legal channels.
“If you say you want to prepare for something and ask people to fund you, then I see nothing wrong with it; I really don’t see a big thing about it. If people are willing to help, then let them help. It goes a long way for the athlete, for the association and it goes a long way for all of us. If others are willing to step up and help an athlete to achieve his goals, then I think that’s a good thing and we should always encourage self-help where possible,” he said.
Placing a dollar figure to his monthly requirements, Walsh revealed that body maintenance and treatment could cost about US $2,000 per month while vitamins and other nutritional supplements are around US $400 per month, with many more expenses left to be covered.
The athlete, however, thanked the government for the financial support it provided during his pursuit of a college education in the United States.