I had a chace to speak to the Secretary General of the BVI Olympic Committee on behalf of Experience the BVI. Here’s what he had to say:
From the point of view of the Committee, what does it mean to be participating in the Olympic Games, this being running since 1984, when the BVI were first represented in the Olympic Games, and it’s been going on ever since, hasn’t it?
I have been involved, I was in the first team that went to the Olympic Games in 1984 and I think it was the second development in our history, after we became a member of the IOC in 1982 we have been able to field teams, two teams at a time, both in sailing and athletics, but sailing has not gone since 1996. So, it’s important that we are able to continue to participate and join the other 203 nations around the world who are members of the IOC and participate in the highest level of sporting competition there is.
You being an athlete yourself, and now seeing it from the point of view of the Committee, how different is it to being in the tracks and participating, to being one of the athletes?
I have been in a very unique position where I am one of the few people throughout the Olympic movement to have been involved as an athlete, to being involved as the Chef de Mission, which I was, the Chef de Mission at the Athens Games in 2004, and then to be the first in the capacity as the Secretary General in 2008. From our perspective, or from my perspective, I have been around for several of the major developments of the sport, the first being that it was through my performances, basically, that the Olympic Committee was born in 1980, and I was on all the teams that leading up to the Commonwealth Games. What you find is that in 2008, when I was Secretary General, Tahesia Harrigan became our first woman to compete, not to be accredited, because we had Perella Cline who was accredited but unfortunately got sick and could not compete on the day, and then Tahesia was able to make it to the next round of the Olympic Games qualifying, something we had never been had before. So I have been able to be at some of the most historic developments that the Committee has enjoyed participating in the Olympic Games.
What do you think is more gratifying?
Well, personally, now I look back, I think when I participated because the, I mean, I’m also the President of the BVI Athletics Association, I am very in tune with athletics, I’m a sports journalist, so, I am an athlete to heart, I mean, to me there is nothing like being on the field of play and in a competition and now reflecting on what has happened before you realize there are only a certain number of athletes who are going to compete, and only a certain number of athletes are going to make it to the Olympic Games, and from my perspective, really, it is an important achievement because the number of people who end up going to the Olympic Games is going to be small, and one of the significant things is I didn’t just go to the Olympics but I before we even had an Olympic Committee I had made the Olympic Games qualifying standard.
And this will be the first time there is sailing for the BVI in the Olympic Games since Atlanta 1996…
No, there is not going to be sailing this year. The guy is not going to go.
Oh, he’s not going?
No, he’s not going again. Because, well, his concern is the boat he is sailing, the Laser, he needs to be at least 170 Pound, and he’s only 155, and the size of the sail, he can’t handle it.
I mean, what basically we would like to see, from the Olympic Committee, we would like to see the development of more of a sport participating whether it’s in qualifying rounds of Olympic tournaments, especially in the team sport, and then in the individual sport, seeing more of our athletes achieving the qualifying marks to end up in the Olympic Games.
What about the javelin thrower, Omar Jones, he will be participating, won’t he?
No, he is not.
So Omar Jones won’t be participating?
We started out with several athletes seeing as to who would be qualifying and one of the athletes who has come to the fore now would have been a reserve on the 4×100 meters relay team, Britney Wattley. She has run 23.67 seconds which is a season’s best for her, so she has thrown herself into the thick of things as well, as someone to watch that could possibly be there whether or not the relay team gets to London.
So, the most important thing about this team this year, from a historic perspective, this team is going to be, the base of the team is going to be women, we already have one woman qualified, we have four others who are close to qualifying, from as close as 13 hundredths to 37 hundredths, and for a country with a population of just 30,000, to be able to have five athletes of that caliber, where you can be talking about qualifying for the Olympic Games, is really a significant development.
Yes, it’s amazing!
So it will be historic, because where we are entitled to one unqualified athlete, it will be females actually leading the way this time around.
OK, and the unqualified male, will he participate?
Yes, he will participate. Likely in the 100 meters because he has qualified for the World Junior Championship and as an unqualified individual he can only run in one event. So more than likely he will be entered in the 100 meters, unless he makes the World Championship 200 meters, but I think 100 meters might be his better event. So, if he makes World Championship qualifying in both events, he still has some time, he would like to be running in the 200 meters, but that is a determination for the coach.
And what is his name?
Excellent. And what is Tahesia Harrigan going to race, then? Is she going to be in the 100 meters?
She’s going to be in the 100 meters. Yes, that’s her primary event.
What do you think are her chances of making it again to the second round?
Well, Tahesia is ranked in the top 30 athletes in the world, so there is no reason why she should not be able to advance to the next round once she is healthy. After all this is the pinnacle of competition that everone wants to go to. And with her coming from a small country, the smallest member of the IAAF, the smallest country to ever win a IAAF medal, which she did at the World Indoors, it would be a significant achievement for her to have the addition to her name, Olympic Games Semifinalist.
What about a medal, do you think that’s pushing it too far?
In competition you never know what is going to happen. I mean, the real thing is each athlete taking the performances round by round. Yes, everybody can talk about the medal, but let’s be realistic, we have to look at the time that everybody else is running at the time, when it comes down to the games, to be able to start even entertaining the thought of a medal, because you cannot underestimate the quality of your opponents when you go to the Olympic Games, because there are many people who throw surprises.
What’s Tahesia going to make, close to the 11 seconds?
Well, she has demonstrated time and again that she can run low 11. It would be, I think she would have to run under 11, you know, and that is what she is currently working towards.
OK, just to recap what we’re looking at, we’re very close to qualifying for the 4×100 meters relay, right?
No, what is happening is the challenge we have had is that because one or two of our top athletes are in school, which are Ashley Kelly and Britney Wattley, makes it a challenge to get them together to practice. That is posing a challenge. And then there are only so many qualifying meets available, and to be able to assemble the team for those qualifying meets when we will get the competition, the top athletes again, is posing a challenge, because meets in June, for example, up to June 9 we have a qualifying meet in St. Kitts but Ashley Kelly is going to be competing with Illinois at the NCAA Collegiate Championships, so she will be unavailable. But the people would be Chantel Malone. Well, she has been focusing on the 400 and she is within 13 hundredths of a second. Ashley Kelly has run 23.54 in the 200 meters; she needs to run 23.30. Karene King has run 23.53, the same time as Chantel Malone in the 200 meters, and Britney Wattley has run 23.67. So, you have a cluster of them within 37 hundredths of a second of making the Olympic Games qualifying standard.
But that would be racing individually in the 200 meters race…
Yes, well, the only way I see us going now is really having the individual performers because the challenge is being able to assemble the relay team in the manner that we want. But from my perspective as President of the BVI Athletics Association, this is only, this year when they ran, they ran only twice this year, with a best of 44.87 at the Canary Lane in the USA vs The World. This was only the second time ever that the BVI had fielded a true senior team. Though the team has run faster in 2010, Chantel and Ashley were juniors when that occurred, and what the whole thing was about, the whole process was about, was not looking at the Olympics alone, but laying the foundation for the 2013 IAAF World Championship in Moscow to be among the top 16 teams in the world and we have learned a lot about what we really have to do now by assembling the team and now we have to make the adjustment to get our people together since they will be out of school, for that they will be able to work on baton exchanges and bond as a group.
And that’s what it’s al about, really, the learning curve and laying the foundations, not only for this crop of athletes but for the sport to really take root in the BVI, isn’t it?
Yes, that is the vision, cause once the younger athletes see that for the senior ones it is possible, I hope they get implanted in their heads that they’re next.
Exactly. What do you think, just to close it now, what does it mean for the people of the BVI to have representatives in the Olympic Games. Is it something important, is it something people take pride in, do they stop you on the road and know who you are and know who their representatives have been in the last few years?
Yes, it is a pride moment because I think one of the things is we, athletics, gets a lot of publicity, every week there is something in there, we’ve been highlighting performances of all athletes, senior, junior, youths, so everybody is aware of the performances of our athletes, what they are doing, so, for them, you know, we have gotten a lot of inquiries, because our athletes are based in schools or camps in the United States. We’ve gotten a lot of inquiries asking about their performances and whether they are qualified or not. So, I think it has created a level of interest that we have not seen before.
That’s great, Dean. I thank you very much for your time and wish you all the best of luck for the Games and for the future, really, not only for these Games. Hopefully I can see Ashley and Chantel and Brittney in the competition. I hope they make it to qualify and I’ll be crossing my fingers for the BVI!