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.