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Hope on the horizon?

Hope on the horizon?

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St Vincent and the Grenadines has, for some time now, been longing for a glimmer of sporting hope.

The search for someone at the individual level or a representative team as a collective, to spark interest and hope that we are on to something good sport-wise.

Not to jump the gun, nor make a false start; neither is this column prophesying that 18-year-old Handal Roban will become an Olympic champion in years to come, but his performance at last week’s World Athletics Under-20 championships in Nairobi, Kenya, must be an occasion for us here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, to stop and take notice of him.

At the championships, he was able to set a new all-time St Vincent and the Grenadines record in the men’s 800m. Reaching the semi-finals, Roban stopped the clock at 1:48.37, bettering his 1:49. 41, done in the heats on Thursday.

More so, he left the 29-year-old best mark to be no more. Hence, Eversley Linley’s record of 1:48.60, done at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, became history.

To put Roban’s steady rise in his 800m pet event into perspective, one just has to chronicle his chipping away of his times for 2021.

He timed 1:50.30 on April 21, at the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association Qualification Trial Series, held at the Calabar High School Facility.

Then on June 5, at the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association/ Jamaica Olympic Association Destiny Meet, at the Jamaica National Stadium, Roban went faster, clocking 1:49.94.

His best time and SVG Under-20 record was again lowered at the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association Senior and Junior National Championships on June 25, staged at the Jamaica National Stadium, when Roban logged 1:49.82.

Then at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Under-18/ Under-20 and Under-23 Championships in Costa Rica, Roban carried the National Under-20 time on July 10, to 1:49.75.

Thus, Roban has shaved exactly six seconds off his times within the past year and a half.

To complement his relatively sharp rise in the sport, Roban is also the holder of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Under-20 400m and 1500m records, and has the best times in the 400, 800 and 1500m of the Intermediate Division at the Inter-Secondary School Athletics Championships (ISSA).

Additionally, he is part of the quartet that holds the National Under-20 4x400m record.

However, he can be considered a late entrant to athletics, as four years ago, he was being touted as one of this country’s most promising cricketers. In fact, Roban was the captain of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Under-15 team that contested the Windward Islands Cricket tournament in Grenada in 2017.

Therefore, to make that quick transition to athletics within that short space of time, speaks to Roban’s natural abilities and the hands that have guided him so far.

It was indeed a good move by the authorities of the St Vincent Grammar School in 2017, when Roban was transferred to that institution, from the Georgetown Secondary School.

Kudos are in order to the indefatigable Rawlson Morgan, who spearheaded the move and the support from Roban’s immediate family, as well as then principal of the St Vincent Grammar School and at present Minister of Education, Curtis King.

However, it was a decision which incensed others, but the key personnel were steadfast and had Roban’s interest, academic development and athletics abilities, foremost.

Likewise, it was good judgement by Roban’s biological support membership, for them to allow him to attend the Jamaica College for the past two years.

Undoubtedly, much of his progression has been recorded within his stint in Jamaica, which have ignited the early groundwork and promise which he exhibited before jetting off to his new institution.

It must therefore only be upward on his curve and nothing less.

The ball is in the court of Team Athletics SVG, the apex for Track and Field here, which now has a launch pad in Roban and the other budding athletes to make that next step towards becoming the best they can be.

Getting to a final of a Commonwealth Games at least by 2026, should not be seen as farfetched and out of our reach.

The onus is on the national body, to design the necessary programmes and engage those with the purse strings in order to realise the short, medium and long-term ambitions of success in the sport.

We should not let these pregnant possibilities go by, without making a meaningful effort to ensure that St Vincent and the Grenadines move from participants to competitors at global Athletics Championships.