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By Neto Baptiste

National shot-putter, Jess St John, must first prove she is actively training with a view of qualifying for a major games before she could be deemed eligible for funding from the National Olympic Committee (NOC).

This is according to President of the NOC, EP Chet Greene, who addressed the issue during a recent interview on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, reminding that the body must adhere to strict guidelines when offering funding to national athletes.

“I had asked Mr Cliff Williams, my secretary general, to speak with the athletes and the report is that Jess St John had not been practicing [training] and records will show the last time she competed was more than four years ago and so quite naturally, the NOC would have to ensure that there is a regime of training for Jess or that she is, in real terms, active in sports,” he said.

“I want to remind the nation that every dollar of expenditure from the NOC has to be accounted for and so it is not that the NOC is not willing to support Jess’ expectations, but as an athlete who has so long, not competed or not so long participated in sports, there has to be a clear indication that we justify or can be satisfied about as well, to report to the IOC,” he added. 

St John, in August this year, told OBSERVER media that her pleas for financial support have fallen on deaf ears. Secretary General of the NOC, Cliff Williams, however, denied the allegation, stating that St John had failed to provide the relevant documentation.

Greene said that although St John would have represented Antigua and Barbuda at elite games in the past, her absence for the past few years would have effectively ruled her out for funding and that any new request must be made via the national governing body for athletics.

“Remember the funding from the NOC is about elite athletes and you cannot just come back into practice tomorrow or today and demand certain privileges or benefits that you would have enjoyed before you departed. We have said to Jess that ‘your application should not be coming straight to the NOC but should be routed rather, through the national association’, which is the way the NOC actually works, because the NOC is really a representative of the national associations. And so any clearance, for want of a better term, on the part of the athletes for funding or any other kind of support would have to, first of all, be routed to the NOC by the national associations, and on that basis we can go forward,” he said.

In her exclusive interview with Observer media back in August, St John said that lack of funding has hampered her preparation and aspiration of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games, now slated for 2021.

The athlete last represented Antigua and Barbuda at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where she finished seventh with a personal best throw of 17.32 meters.