VI (UK) ILCA7 (Laser) sailor Thad Lettsome secures spot at Paris 2024 Olympic Games – becomes first BVI sailor at Olympics since 1996!

ILCA7 (Laser)sailor Thad Lettsome, who qualified for the Pan American Games at the 2023 San Salvador CAC Games at the time this photo was taken, wil represent the Virgin Islands (UK) at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games after securing a Universality Place. Photo: BVIOC/Chris Watters

The BVI Olympic Committee today received and accepted an official invitation from the Tripartite Commission in collaboration with World Sailing, for the allocation of a Universality Place at the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games to BVI’s ILCA7 (Laser) sailor, Thad Lettsome. At 22 years old, Lettsome becomes the first BVI sailor to compete at an Olympic Games since 1996 when 2x Olympian Robby Hirst competed in the Laser event at the Atlanta Games.

The BVIOC and Chef de Mission for Paris 2024, Tahesia Harrigan-Scott received the official invitation via email. Lettsome was one of 3 sailors eligible for the two available spots for the Universality Place. Competing at The Last Chance Regatta in Hyères, France (April 21-27), Lettsome placed 31 out of 61 sailors to edge up his rankings.

“This is an historic occasion for the Virgin Islands, the Royal BVI Yacht Club and for the BVI Olympic Committee,” said BVIOC President Ephraim Penn. “One of our mandates is to increase the number of sports represented at major Games. Through Olympic Solidarity and Panam Sports funding, the BVIOC has supported the development of sailing and Thad’s progression for several years and today we have reached an incredible milestone with the offer of a Universality Place at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games for a BVI sailor.

“We commend Thad, his parents, Lisa and Clyde Lettsome as well as his scholastic, collegiate and national sailing coaches throughout his young career, including Richard Wooldridge, Chris Watters and RBVIYC Administrator Tamsin Rand for their dedication and continued commitment to succeed in the sport and represent our nation at the highest level.”

“The Royal BVI Yacht Club is over the moon for Thad!” said RBVIYC Commodore Eddie Brockbank. “Since his first days learning to sailing with us he has shown talent, commitment and determination to reach his goals. We are delighted to have BVI sailing represented at the Olympic Games again and could not be more proud to support Thad at this incredible opportunity. The support from the BVIOC, PanAm Sports, World Sailing, Olympic Solidarity and the BVI Government are crucial to the continued development of our athletes and we are sincerely grateful to everyone who has been a part of this journey.”

Lettsome, who has been competing as a sailor for the Virgin Islands since he was 6 years old, joins Kyron McMaster (400m hurdles) as a confirmed BVI athlete set to compete at Paris 2024.

Lettsome and McMaster are members of the BVIOC’s current roster of elite athletes benefiting from the Tahesia Harrigan-Scott Elite Athlete Scholarship programme.

Funds from the THSEAS are entirely dedicated to the development of the BVIOC’s elite athletes identified by their respective National Federations and confirmed by the International Federations as being on track to compete for medals at major Games. The roster of athletes each receive a monthly stipend to assist them on their journey to the Olympics. The fund distribution is documented in regular reports for Olympic Solidarity and PanAm Sports who provide $200,000 towards the programme.

Other athletes in the THSEAS programme include national and regional record holders with proven track records in major Games – Chantel Malone (long jump), Eldred Henry (shot put), Rikkoi Brathwaite (100m) and Adaejah Hodge (200m).

The THSEAS stipend contributes to training and coaching, athlete support including access to sports medicine, physical therapy, performance analysis, nutrition counselling, and mental resilience training.

Major sponsors who committed to support the THSEAS earlier in the year include Clarence Thomas Ltd (CTL), DLT Solutions, Conyers, Capriccio di Mare Trattoria, National Bank of the Virgin Islands, Mrs. Vivian Lloyd and Trident Trust.

Athletes, coaches and medics benefit from Anti-Doping and Sports Nutrition Workshop

National Federations, athletes, coaches, medics and volunteers benefited from the BVI Olympic Committee (BVIOC) free Anti-Doping and Sports Nutrition Workshop held in the Eileen Parsons Auditorium at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, Tortola on Saturday morning, December 3. An anti-doping presentation was made in the evening at the Bregado Flax Educational Center on Virgin Gorda on Friday, December 2.

The workshops, supported by Olympic Solidarity, were held in collaboration with the Caribbean Regional Anti-Doping Organisation (RADO), head quartered in Barbados and the Ministry of Health and Social Development through its Public Health Unit (PHU).

In brief remarks at the opening of the workshop at the HLSCC Mr. Ephraim Penn, President of the BVIOC said, “In recent years, the BVI has produced 2 Olympic finalists, a two-times Commonwealth Games and Diamond League Champion and a junior track and field phenomenon which has brought us to the attention of international organisations such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

“As both the National Olympic Committee and the National Anti-Doping Commission, we need to educate our national federations and their member athletes, coaches, parents and volunteers on the processes and expectations for clean sport since lack of knowledge is not accepted as an excuse in the event of a violation.”

President Penn also highlighted the importance of combining athletic performance with a healthy diet for optimal results. Honourable Marlon Penn, Minister for Health and Social Development expounded on the topic in his remarks.

“The Ministry for Health and Social Development, through its Public Health Unit, has an agenda that seeks to combat non-communicable diseases in the community and to encourage healthier lifestyles through physical activity and a diet rich in nutritional food. As athletes, it is even more important that you receive the right information that will help you to choose the right food that will help you maximise your output for the results you hope to achieve. I am pleased that the Ministry is positioned to provide this guidance.”

The educational workshops explained the anti-doping rules and regulations that guide WADA’s mandate for clean sports in all competitions sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee. They included an introduction to the Anti-Doping Education and Learning Platform (ADEL) – the centralised platform offering educational solutions for athletes and coaches – and ADAMS (the Anti-Doping Administration and Management System) for processing and entering data in all anti-doping issues. ADAMS is used by athletes for submitting their whereabouts and can also be used to manage the application and recognition of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs).

The engaging presentations were made by Ms. Marsha Boyce, Communications and Projects Coordinator for Caribbean RADO and Dr. Harlan Vanterpool MD, Chief Doping Control Officer for the BVI National Anti-Doping Commission.

“It was pleasing to see the enthusiasm and keen interest shown by participants during our interactive Clean Sport Workshops in Virgin Gorda and Tortola,” said Ms. Boyce who flew in from Barbados for the events. “Education is crucial to the success of the Clean Sport movement. It’s important for all athletes and athlete support personnel, for example coaches, managers, physios and doctors to be exposed to the right information and to have access to the relevant resources in the fight against doping in sport. We at the Caribbean Regional Anti-Doping Organization look forward to our continued partnership with the British Virgin Islands Olympic Committee in support of its anti-doping programme.”

Building on the long-standing relationship with the Ministry of Health and Social Development to promote Long Term Athlete Development and health through physical literacy, the BVIOC worked with Ms. Patrice Maduro, Public Health Nutritionist and Ms. Harmonie Brewley-Massiah, National Epidemiologist of the Ministry’s Public Health Unit to share critical information on sports nutrition.

“We are keenly aware that BVI’s athletes need guidance and information on nutrition and to be able to make the distinction between good and bad – or ‘mal’ – nutrition,” said Ms. Brewley-Massiah and Ms. Maduro. “The session with the attendees – both adults and juniors – was not just an opportunity to share information but also a chance for us to get a measure of the level of awareness and dietary practices of this segment of the community. We plan to conduct more of these interactive programmes with athletes and to make sure that they have access to the support and resources to build and maintain a healthy diet that will lead to optimal physical and mental performance both on the field of play and at work or college.”

The session at the HLSCC was attended by representatives for archery, athletics, basketball, cycling, football, netball, sailing, softball/baseball, taekwondo and volleyball. In Virgin Gorda, the presentation was attended by coaches for athletics, basketball, cricket, football, softball and volleyball. Attendees across the board were enthusiastic and appreciative of the new information learned by the sessions.

“This was a really good workshop. We’ve learned a lot and we feel better prepared for what’s to come as we look towards entering the international competition arena in 2023,” said Sahbumnim Olanzo Boynes of Boynes Taekwondo Academy.

Clean sport and nutrition workshops respectively conducted by Dr. Harlan Vanterpool and the PHU can be arranged through the BVIOC. Contact 541-7845 for further information.

Athlete performances at Tokyo 2020 Olympics brings BVI in sight of podium – BVIOC seeks investment into elite athletes

The British Virgin Islands was represented by 3 athletes in 2 sports at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games which concluded on August 8 with a closing ceremony at the Olympic Stadium. The small team comprising Kyron McMaster (400m hurdles), Chantel Malone (long jump) and Elinah Phillip (50m freestyle) was the strongest set to represent the territory at any Olympic Games.

Eldred Henry (shot put) was the first athlete to have qualified for Tokyo 2020 but he was forced to pull out due to an injury in his throwing arm.

In a Game of firsts for the territory, McMaster and Malone became the BVI’s first 2 athletes to advance to the finals to compete amongst the world’s best athletes in their events. They each were the first athletes to compete in the hurdles and long jump respectively. McMaster was the first athlete to win his heats and the first to make the top 4 finalists to cross the line with his time of 47.08 – current 4th fastest time and the world’s 8th fastest time ever – in what has been classed as the event’s fastest Olympic race. McMaster and Phillip also set National Records with Phillip’s time of 25.74 marking her as the top Caribbean performer in the 50m Free.

Harrigan-Scott, a three-times Olympian and the first female to represent the BVI at the Olympics in 2008, led the organisation and management of the team at the Games.

Speaking at a wrap up virtual press conference on August 4 after the final competition for the BVI, Ephraim Penn, President of the BVI Olympic Committee congratulated and thanked the athletes, their coaches and National Federations and also acknowledged the efforts of the Chef de Mission and Lloyd Black, Secretary General for the BVIOC, who was the COVID Liaison Officer for the delegation.

Penn went on to explain that the impressive results of the team at the Games was many years in the making that required planning and funding to support the athletes in their training and preparations for the Games. He highlighted that the performances put the athletes as serious podium contenders in upcoming Games and that the opportunity was open to the private sector to support the pathway to get athletes to the finals and ultimately to the podium of the Olympics.

“The athletes have been preparing for these Games for 5 years and are recipients of an Olympic Scholarship which offers financial and technical support so they can train and compete at qualifying meets for the Olympics. In addition, the BVIOC set up an Elite Athlete scholarship which puts money into the hands of the athletes to ease their financial stress so that they can concentrate on preparing for competition. Their successes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will make it easier for us to try and solicit more funding from the private sector and bolster the structure we have in place to support them so they can develop to the best of their ability.”

The Chef de Mission, who is responsible for the organisation and logistical management of the delegation as well as the technical aspects of the athletes’ competitions and daily schedules and activities while at the Games, reviewed the athletes’ performances and acknowledged the commitment of their coaches and support of the BVIOC and encouraged a forward movement to help the athletes reach their potential.

“While our athletes may come from a small nation where the resources are more limited than larger countries, they come to compete with the same heart, talent and dedication so if we can figure out a way to level the playing field and really invest in them, you will be surprised at where they can take us because they are at that level and they are exceptionally good.”

Harrigan-Scott wrapped up the experience with a reflection on the organisation of the Games. “It actually was an amazing Games and the organisers, volunteers and Government of Japan did an incredible job under the constraints and concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am glad the Games were not cancelled as the athletes were ready to compete and we have seen some exceptional performances here.”

Dr. the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley, MHA. Deputy Premier Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture, who was in Japan to witness the finals, congratulated the athletes on their achievements and thanked them and the delegation for their roles in the success of the BVI’s appearance at Tokyo 2020 and to pledge more support for the athletes.

“We now understand what it takes to compete at this level and I will be focused on what we can do to assist more. We know that we have to invest more in sports and be more consistent in our support for our athletes and I will be working on this in consultation with the BVIOC,” said Dr. the Honourable Minister Wheatley.

In addition to the 3 athletes, the Chef de Mission, Ephraim Penn and Lloyd Black the BVI delegation included Team Coach Winston Potter, Coach Lennox Graham (McMaster), Coach Dwight Phillips (Malone), Coach Brien Moffitt (Elinah) and Sofia Fay, BVIOC PRO/Reporter.

The athletes, including Henry who is on the road to recovery, will continue with their training and preparations for upcoming competitions after a short rest and recovery break. A return date to the BVI is not yet confirmed based on their training and competition schedules. Malone and McMaster have sights on competing at the Diamond League events in Europe in August and September respectively.

Free Basketball & Baseball Camp underway in Districts 7 & 8

(Standing Front L-R) Ephraim Penn, President, BVI Olympic Committee and Milton McLean founder of the Basketball & Baseball (B & B) youth Summer Camp which this year was sponsored by the BVIOC and was launched at Greenland, East End, Tortola on August 17, 2020

A two-week, free Basketball & Baseball (B & B) youth Summer Camp, sanctioned by the BVI Basketball Association and sponsored by the BVI Olympic Committee was launched at Greenland, East End, Tortola on Monday, August 17, 2020.

The summer camp is offering coaching in both basketball and baseball to all boys and girls aged 8 – 12 years residing in Districts 7 and 8. The initiative – now in its third year of community engagement – is managed by Mr. Milton McLean and Mr. Raymond “Chi Chi” Fonseca of the Sea Cow’s Bay Basketball Club (SCBBC). Mr. McLean founded the B & B group in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria bringing in Mr. Fonseca to help with the baseball programme.

“After the hurricanes of 2017 there was little or no activity in sports on Tortola. This prompted me to create the B & B group as an affiliate to the Sea Cow’s Bay Basketball Club,” said Mr. McLean. “The first B & B clinic took place in District 4 in July 2018 and we teamed up with YEP to host the programme in District 3 in 2019. This year, we have partnered with the BVI Olympic Committee to introduce the clinic in East End/Long Look, where I actually grew up. We can’t thank the BVIOC enough for their support as we could not have offered the camp otherwise.”

Basketball and baseball (with an option of softball for girls) are both offered in the Greenland field in District 7 while basketball camp is offered in District 8. Children residing in either district can be registered to attend any of the camps. The camps run from 9:00am – 3:00pm Mondays through Fridays.

“We are hoping to cater for 30-40 children, helping them to release some of that pent-up energy,” continued Mr. McLean. “The idea is to train the participants in the skills of both sports and organize them into teams of 12. We will work with the participating coaches in the districts for a couple of months after the camps so that they can continue to run a district B & B club throughout the year.”

The intent is to offer the B & B summer camp in Districts 1 and 2 in 2021 with the hopes that the grass roots programme will take off and eventually lead to Territory-wide basketball and baseball youth teams that can compete against each other.

The mutual goal of the B & B group and the BVIOC is to encourage younger children to become physically active with a view to tackling the growing problem of childhood obesity made worse by the impact of COVID-19 on sports. Both organisations also recognize the inextricable link between endorphins released through cardio-aerobic exercise, emotional well-being, improved self-esteem and social attitude.

“The BVIOC accepted the invitation to support the B & B initiative because it speaks directly to the Long Term Athlete Development and physical literacy programmes that we have been championing in the Virgin Islands since we launched the community-wide workshops in 2016,” said Mr. Ephraim Penn, President of the BVIOC.

The funding for the summer camps was sourced through Olympic Solidarity, which this year gave National Olympic Committees the discretion to support programmes that help to develop sports and encourage physical activity in the community.

“Typically, the bulk of the money from Olympic Solidarity is ear marked for national federation sports development and athlete or team activity in preparation for or participation in events and competitions that are part of the ladder to competing in major Games such as the CAC, Panam Games, and Olympic Games,” explained Mr. Penn. “With all competitions suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NOCs were invited to apply for funds to continue to build capacity and engage with the public to move and get physically active. As always, we are accountable to OS and are required to report on the activities which we fund.”

For more information on the B & B Summer Camps or to register a child, contact Mr. McLean on 345-0555 or Mr. Fonseca on 441-1435.