Highlighting some post independence sporting accomplishments
St Vincent and the Grenadines on October 27, 1979, attained its political independence from Britain.
As a country, 40 years after, much has been achieved in many spheres of Vincentians’ life.
During the period, 1979- 2019, sports did its part in shaping national development, by providing that outlet to, not only enhance the social life, but shine the spotlight on St Vincent and the Grenadines.
A search of some of the sporting accomplishments, one may concede that Eswort Coombs’ gold medal at the World University Games in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1995, in the men’s 400m, can be deemed the best effort for St Vincent and the Grenadines.
This obviously overshadowed Natasha Mayers’ gold medal in the women’s 100m at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, staged in India. Mayers’ who finished third in the event, was elevated to first, after the disqualification of the first and second places.
However, Mayers’ gold medal was tainted by her ban, after she was found guilty of using a performance enhancing drug.
Track and Field added some other moments of joy, with some gold medals takings at the Junior Carifta level, as well as the emergence of some promising athletes.
Too, within the period under review, St Vincent and the Grenadines in the latter part of the 1990s to the early 2000s, through the efforts of Pamenos Ballantyne, ruled the Caribbean roads, as then he established himself as the region’s premier road athlete.
But St Vincent and the Grenadines has also been distinguished in administration, as long-standing president of Team Athletics SVG Keith Joseph has become a fulcrum on many regional organisations.
Similarly, Woodrow Williams, Gideon Labban and Philcol Jeffers have all made contributions regionally officiating and as facilitators in track and field courses.
Not to be slighted, was St Vincent and the Grenadines’ first Olympic participation in Seoul, 1988.
But whilst track and field took some time to make its mark, football, right on cue following the attainment of independence, brought some national pride, when the senior men’s team placed second in the Caribbean Tournament in 1979. This feat was repeated in 1981 and 1995, with the latter outfit, making it to the 1996 CONCACAF Gold Cup in the USA.
St Vincent and the Grenadines during the post independence period, got membership to FIFA, thus paving the way for our participation in World Cup qualifiers.
From their first step in 1992, St Vincent and the Grenadines has been a regular entry to the group stage of the CONCACAF qualifiers.
Overtime as well, Vincentian match officials have been placed on the FIFA list, and have been selected for on-field duties and as referees assessors.
Similarly, cricket has done its bit in the 40 years after independence.
A mere two years after independence, the Arnos Vale Playing Field hosted its first One Day International. This was followed by the hosting of the first Test match here in 1997.
During 1979 to 2019, Winston Davis, Ian Allen, Cameron Cuffy, Nixon Mc Lean and Sunil Ambris, all have played Tests for the West Indies, while Deighton Butler, Kesrick Williams, Miles Bascombe and Obed Mc Coy, have represented the regional side in the shorter forms.
Additionally, Davis was the leading wicket-taker in the 1983 regional cricket season, and his 7 for 51 for the West Indies against Australia in the 1983 World Cup, stood for sometime as a world record in ODIs.
Mention must be made of Gidron Pope, who was influential in the West Indies winning the ICC Youth World Cup in 2016.
Of note too, has been the elevation of Vincentians to the board rooms of the regional cricket administration set-ups, as Lennox John, Michael Findlay, and most recently, Dr Kishore Shallow, Denis Byam and Miles Bascombe, have served and are serving in different capacities.
In the case of basketball, Adonal Foyle, Sancho Lyttle and Sophia Young, have made St Vincent and the Grenadines proud by competing in the NBA and WNBA, as well as in other leagues in Europe.
During the post independence period, St. Vincent and the Grenadines copped the Caribbean senior title jointly in 1993, and did so alone in 1998, and in 1999 took the Under-16 title.
Participation in the Netball’s World Championships, the Commonwealth Games and 14 titles as the OECS Under-23 level, have fashioned that discipline’s highlight over the years.
Within the time, SVG won football at the 1991 Special Olympic Games and floor hockey in 1997.
The other disciplines have in their own way made a contribution.
SVG has been dominant at squash at the OECS level, and has had a handful of titles at the junior CASA stage, while in the last three years, St Vincent and the Grenadines has bossed the senior ECVA title.
Tennis’ highlights have been the hosting of the Davis Cup tournament, and the ITF junior tournaments since 2007. These were all staged at the National Tennis Centre which was commissioned in 2000.
And, commendable, even though insufficient, the last 40 years has welcomed more sporting facilities; the upgrade of the Arnos Vale playing field and others, a few lit playing fields and hard courts, the refurbishing of the Shrewsbury swimming facility for the OECS championships, along with the establishment of a facility for gymnastics.
So as we celebrate our 40 years of independence, were the aforementioned achievements enough to make us smile?