Our time to shine in Rio

As Crop Over fever dissipates after what most have described as possibly the best year yet, Barbadians, like the rest of the world, are turning their attention to another spectacular show – the 31st Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Never mind the scandal and concerns casting a shadow over the world’s foremost multi-sport event – whether it be the Russian doping scandal, the Zika Virus outbreak, construction delays, or concerns over the quality of some of the venues and accommodation – the games are a go.

A record number of countries are participating this year, with more than 11,000 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees competing for the 306 sets of medals up for grabs.

Among that group of leading sportswomen and men are 11 talented, young rising stars who will be adorned in the yellow, blue, and black national colours of Barbados for the grand opening at the iconic Maracana Stadium in another 24 hours.

It’s not the first time this island will be on the world stage at the prestigious games. We have been participating as an independent nation since 1968 and have attended every Olympiad, with the exception of Moscow in 1980.

We have already made our mark as far back as the 1960 Olympic Games when Jim Wedderburn won the bronze medal as part of the 4×400 relay team representing the British West Indies.

And then again in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, when Obadele Thompson stormed home with the bronze medal in the 100m.

But this year is exceptional. We have not only doubled our contingent since the 2012 London games, but this team of four females and seven males, declared clean of drugs by the respected Chef de Mission Dr Adrian Lorde, is the most diverse ever.

It comprises of track and field athletes Akela Jones who will compete in the high jump and heptathlon; Kierre Beckles – 100m; Tia-Adana Belle – 400m hurdles; Ramon Gittens – 100m and 200m; and Levi Cadogan and Burkeart Ellis in the 200m. Four-time Olympic competitor Michael Maskell will represent in skeet shooting.

In addition, this tiny rock for the first time will put up a contender in the lawn tennis singles in the person of Darian King, and in the triathlon with Jason Wilson.

Top swimmers Alex Sobers and Lani Cabrera will represent in the pool in the 400m freestyle.

Notably absence from the original 12-member team is 200m medal hopeful Sada Williams who was withdrawn from the games due to an injury to her right hamstring. We are saddened that she will miss the competition this time around, but remain confident that her moment in time will come.

No doubt we would have welcomed a larger contingent and urge our authorities to invest more resources, financial and otherwise, in the development of athletes in a variety of sports. We can accomplish this goal with serious, decisive action.

Still, we are delighted with our boys and girls and anxiously await their performances.

We admit that these dedicated, hardworking Bajans are not likely to be in the glare of international television cameras, but be assured that every patriotic Barbadian is watching and rooting from this side of the globe.

We already deem every single one in the 11-member team a victor, because they have overcome tremendous odds to make the journey to Rio.

All deserve our heartfelt praise and support as they fly the national flag with pride.

Equally, we echo best wishes for fellow athletes from neighbouring Caribbean countries as we look forward to the fastest man on Earth, the one and only Usain Bolt, breaking even more records.

This is our time to shine and we are confident that 2016 could be our best year yet.

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