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Pan Am glory not out of Bermuda’s reach

THERE were no surprises at the top of the medal table when the Pan Am Games came to end last week.

Same old story; the USA reigned supreme, picking up almost a 100 medals more than any other country.

The 'U-S-A' chant rang loud and clear on every single day of the Mexican festival.

But there was no shortage of celebrations further down the table, particularly in the camps of Cayman Islands and St. Kitts and Nevis whose combined populations are less than an average-sized American city.

Caymans returned with gold, silver and bronze and St. Kitts with two silvers.

It was those extraordinary triumphs that demonstrated how the Games' minnows, Bermuda included, can compete at the highest of international levels at a variety of sports.

Cayman brothers, swimmers Brett and Shaune Frasers, and St Kitts' sprinter Kim Collins and members of the 4x100 relay team found spaces on the podium where athletes from far larger countries theoritcally should have been standing.

Bermuda, of course, have succeeded at the these Games in the past. The 1960s football team, including the likes of Clyde Best, won silver in Winnipeg and in 1999 Mary Jane Tumbridge and her mount, the aptly named Bermuda Gold, collected gold in the same Canadian city where sailors Sarah Lane Wright and Malcolm Smith also medalled.

But there's been little to show for Bermuda's efforts since.

Last week there were some exceptional performances from swimmer Roy-Allan Burch, track athletes Tre Houston and Shianne Smith who all recorded personal bests, equestrian Jill Terceira who placed eighth in showjumping ahead of top American riders, and Tyler Butterfield and Flora Duffy who placed fifth and eighth respectively in very strong triathlon fields.

Alas, there were no medals to show for their performances, which might have been expected.

Competing against the bigger countries is becoming increasing difficult.

Despite their strong showing in the recent World Cup qualifiers, the Island's football team would have quickly crumbled against the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, the USA, in fact almost every one of the South, Central and North American sides.

Yet, in individual sports, we can be competitive. Long jumper Tyrone Smith chose not to take part as he concentrates on qualifying for next year's Olympics but he would have been a medal contender.

Some might question Smith's decision.

A Pan Am Games medal is nothing to be sneezed at even though an Olympic medal represents the ultimate glory. However, it would take a jump far exceeding his best so far in order to achieve his goal in London next summer.

Hopefully he'll do just that, but a Pan Am medal would certainly have made his rivals sit up and take notice.

Bermuda's only medal in Olympic history belongs to boxer Clarence Hill who took bronze in Montreal in 1976.

Nobody else has come close. Triple jumper Brian Wellman, the world indoor champion, was nearest but he fell short when it mattered most.

It will be a tall order for any of Bermuda's athletes, all of those mentioned above including long jumper Smith, to end the drought next year. Some would say it's out of the question and they'd probably be right.

But at the Pan Am Games in 2015, it could be a different story.

And there's no reason why Bermudians can't follow in the footsteps of both Caymans and St. Kitts.

* * *

Controversy over whether Bermuda's cricketers should have been invited or should have been asked to take part in January's Caribbean Twenty20 tournament is difficult to understand.

What does it matter whether the BCB feel they should have been invited or, as the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) have stressed, they should have known the event was taking place and could have applied? The bottom line is finance.

How could the national team have afforded to travel south, taking care of airfares and occupying hotel rooms for two weeks?

If their reserves have sunk to the point where they can no longer employ one of their most loyal servants, Samantha Dill, and other jobs could be on the chopping block, it's highly unlikely they could muster enough cash to play in Trinidad and Barbados, let alone persuade players' employees to release members of the squad during such difficult times.

It would have been embarrassing had the BCB been extended an invitation and then been forced to pull out. So why all the fuss?

ADRIAN ROBSON

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Published November 04, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated November 04, 2011 at 9:06 am)

Pan Am glory not out of Bermuda’s reach

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