Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
The current financial climate does not allow for the Government to send its athletes to the United States (US) on scholarships for further training. This is according to Hon. Myron Walwyn, Education and Culture Minister with responsibility for Sports.
At last week's sitting of the House of Assembly, Hon. Julian Fraser, Third District Representative stated that athletes compete in many sports in the olympics during their high school years, as high school seems to be the place where athletes get their start.
He said given that the BVI athletes are at a disadvantage due to the absence of a sports programme of olympic caliber, he would like the Minister to state if he has considered making it a policy to extend scholarships to students with potential for athletic greatness to attend high schools in the United States so that they could enhance the possibility of them participating in the olympics.
In response, the Minister said the idea is a laudable one and one to which the Ministry of Education and Culture is willing to give some thought.
"However, it is also important to develop our local facilities and training programmes to ensure greater participation of our children. Child prodigies emerge when they are able to compete with their peers. High school age children generally are able to compete only in a limited number of sports at the olympics. Furthermore, in order for it to be sustainable, it has to be given much thought and planning. The current financial situation does not allow us to go down this path at this time," the Minister lamented.
The Sports Minister said the Ministry has been doing much to help young people in sports and one way is the Emerging Fellow Award which was announced in April and had its first fellows in July.
"J'Maal Alexander and Lakeisha 'Mimi' Warner were selected as the first two athletes to benefit and were given the opportunity to attend the London 2012 Games at the expense of the Ministry of Education and Culture to gain exposure. We will also look at how we can obtain help through the Hertfordshire County MOU to get support for our athletes to train," he said.
Further, the Minister said the above also has to be extended to other areas such as arts, as there is a wealth of talent in the country which needs to be tapped into and developed.
He said there is also need for investment to be made in developing various athletic programmes and facilities.
"While we consider different options to allow our athletes to gain exposure and improved training opportunities, the Ministry will continue to support athletes through the Emerging Fellows Award as well as looking at the overall development of our sporting facilities and training opportunities for our local coaches. By developing various athletic programmes, we have the opportunity to expose more young people to sports, build a competitive environment within the Virgin Islands and find even more athletes that can successfully compete regionally and internationally," the Minister stated.
Hon. Walwyn said with improved, certified athletic facilities, the BVI has a greater opportunity to participate in sports tourism, which should have a positive effect on its overall economy.