With a unified front, the various coaches and officials who participated in the 2019 Pan American Games gathered on Tuesday afternoon to give a report of Guyana’s performance at the games, which are hosted every four years.
The Pan-Am 2019 Games were run from July 26 to August 11, mostly in a frigid atmosphere in Lima, Peru, which was the first of many challenges the Guyanese athletes had to overcome in order to excel.
While the cold was cited as one factor that deterred the Guyanese athletes from performing at their best, the lack of experience and coming up against more established athletes were other formidable challenges.
Guyana’s Pan-Am contingent comprised of 28 athletes, and while no medals were obtained, performance from some athletes came close to glory although they did not make the cut. One such athlete was pugilist Keevin Allicock, who missed a medal position because of a controversial decision.
“The positive attitude that he showed even in defeat was amazing, and Keevin is deserving of support. I think that it’s really challenging for him, because you have three rounds to knockout a man so that the referee doesn’t have any chance of scoring the fight, because boxing is so subjective”.
Those were the sentiments expressed by Squash manager David Fernandes, who had the privilege of watching Allicock’s fight firsthand.
Aside from the coaches lamenting about cold and lack of exposure, there was another common factor that every representative believed operated against them, and that was the need for more funding in sport.
The issue was first raised by President of the Guyana Olympic Association, K.A. Juman Yassin, who had the qualifying phase for the 2020 Olympics in sight.
Given that Guyana has already missed out on a qualifying opportunity after the football team was pulled by the Guyana Football Federation for lack of adequate funding, Yassin expressed that it is his hope that Guyanese athletes can be given the green light to participate in such activities as the time draws near.
“I hope, with the Sports Policy that will come into effect, that perhaps for the Tokyo Olympics, for which I think there will be two qualifying tournaments, there will be funds for several athletes to go and qualify,” Yassin stated.
Swimming Coach Paul Mahaica looked at the issue from a different perspective, noting that investment in the sporting fraternity is needed to properly prepare Guyanese athletes for the big stage.
“With swimming and most of the sports, we need a lot more investments. It’s not just they train two or three days a week and then go to the Games; they need investments before, leading up to the Games. That is something we don’t really get,” he said.
Mahaica went on to list the lack of tangible offers as a reason why Guyanese athletes are not enticed to continue with sport as they move into adulthood.
“We’re always talking young athletes, because the older ones always drop out of the sport because there is nothing much for them after they reach a certain age: no scholarships, nothing,” he further stated.
Putting in his two cents’ worth, Track and Field coach Julian Edmonds made a call for Government and Corporate Guyana to come together and create a clear plan, so as to ensure that lack of funding is not a factor that injures Guyanese athletes in the future.
“All the stakeholders need to come together and come up with a plan for 2020, 2024, 2028. If we don’t plan together, we will continue to always fall short,” Edmonds explained.
Meanwhile General Secretary of the Guyana Olympic Association, Hector Edwards, questioned the logic of stakeholders expecting to see medals before they make a contribution to sport.
“In Guyana, we don’t seem to recognize that we can only get returns if we invest. We have a totally different perception of certain things. We think we can have returns and then invest after. It doesn’t work that way in sports; you have to invest first,” Edwards lamented.