GOA could do better than with Adam Harris
By Orin Davidson
Unlike Jamaica or Trinidad and Tobago, the 2008 Olympics for Guyana will not be one about medal expectations.
Rather it seems more like opportunities, pleasurable and otherwise for some of Guyana’s representatives who will be in Beijing under the auspices of the Guyana Olympic Association (GOA).
This phenomenon has typified the country’s participation before and after 1980 when boxer Michael Parris won Guyana’s lone medal ever at the world’s biggest multi sports extravaganza.
In the countdown to Beijing, a controversial last minute adjustment to Guyana team’s selection has brought back memories about these Games being all about all expenses paid trips for fortunate individuals.
For the record, Adam Harris, a United States competitor of Guyanese origin, was included on the team to replace previous wild card entrant Cleveland Forde, the local born and bred long-distance track and field specialist.
Now, you don’t have to be a relative of Forde or a die-hard supporter of domestic athletics to conclude that the GOA’s action in this instance did nothing to endear itself to the local athletics fraternity.
Without disrespecting the athlete, Harris is no Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell or Tyson Gay.
He just happens to be an average division US college athlete with strong connections as opposed to possessing the pedigree to suggest he can win a medal or do Guyana proud in the 200 metres event for which he is listed to compete.
Harris made the Guyana team with a ‘B’ qualifying standard, doing so by the narrowest of margins.
In other words, his credentials suggest he will only be in Beijing to make numbers in one of the marquee athletics events.
And he is not the first such competitor who has come in from overseas and used their connections to attend the world’s greatest sports event on Guyana’s behalf. In the 1996 and 2000, Atlanta and Sydney Games, a number of overseas competitors enjoyed the luxury Harris is about to enjoy and were never heard from again.
They showed up before the Games and disappeared afterwards, without another attempt at representing the country at lesser competitions, after achieving their aim of attending the Olympics simply because they have a father or mother born in the “Dear Land Of Guyana”.
In Harris’ s case, he didn’t even have to show up. For starters, he has never set foot in Guyana and surely doesn’t know the difference between the National Park and the National Cricket Stadium.
This is a grave injustice to local athletes who endure the tortures of staying in the sport, having little reward to expect while dealing with an odious national athletics governing body, enduring medieval type facilities and the dire economic hardships amateur sports competitors face in Guyana. This is not a campaign against athletes who live overseas and want to represent Guyana, rather it is an urging for better management of Guyana’s sport, in this case, the Olympic disciplines.
Any athlete who wants to represent Guyana should be welcome, but their selection must be justified, instead of being farcical.
Harris’ s best time in the 200 metres is 20.75s which he achieved in May while winning a division event of the United States college competition. However, it will not get him close to the finals of the Olympics 200m, much less winning a medal. His personal best happens to be more than one second slower than the best times posted this year by the event’s favorite Bolt. If the GOA wants to select such competitors, without any association to the country, other than through parents, and at the expense of local runners, they must be much better than `B’ standard types, more like medal prospects or likely finalists.
If we are going to make up numbers at the Olympics track and field events we should so do with the locals – the ones like Rawle Greene and others who have competed tirelessly for many years despite unrelenting hostile circumstances. Green does not have the Olympics qualifying 200m `B’ standard which happens to be identical to Harris’ best time or the ‘A’ requirement. Neither do any of the active local competitors.
But they deserve some reward for their blood, sweat and tears.
Forde, a three-time Junior Carifta Games gold medalist, has not shown progress despite given exposure in the past, including specialized training in Kenya and at the Commonwealth Games and World Championships, and should not feel aggrieved at having his wild card entrée removed with Harris’ s selection.
But it should not have been caused by a foreigner without the necessary credentials, who has never raced on the grass tracks at home or at smaller competitions like the CAC Games, Pan American Games or Commonwealth Games. Over the years, Guyana has been represented at major world competitions primarily by Aliann Pompey and Marian Burnett, both based overseas. But their selections have been justified. They represented Guyana from the bottom coming up and won medals at the Commonwealth and Pan American Games and had to attain `A’ standard qualifying times for the Athens and Beijing Games.
You have to ask what has become of the strict `A’ standard requirement for overseas-based athletes that was emphasized by the country’s athletics president Claude Blackmore, before Athens.
And by the way, could the GOA reveal to the nation the full complement of its officials attending the Games and at whose expense, outside of the team leaving tomorrow?