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Woolridge’s medal win went unrecognised

After claiming Bermuda’s first medal at the World Wushu Championships in Turkey last month one might have expected Government to roll out the red carpet for martial artist Jermal Woolridge. Best think again.

Instead of returning home to a hero’s welcome only family and boxing coach Allan (Forty) Rego were present at the airport to greet Woolridge and his fellow Bermuda team-mates upon their arrival.

“I was very disappointed but not at all surprised really,” said Bermuda Sanshou Association (BSA) founder Garon Wilkinson. “We were due to arrive the night before, however we missed our connection. The information was sent to relative parties, however we were disappointed to find out that the only ones to greet us were our immediate family and our boxing coach Allan (Forty) Rego.”

According to sources Sports Minister Glenn Blakeney could not attend because he was ill at the time while miscommunication has been blamed for the no show of Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation officials at the airport in the Minister’s absence.

However, more than a month has passed since Woolridge copped the bronze medal in the men’s Sanshou +90kg division to go where no Bermudian has gone before and his ground breaking achievement has still yet to be officially recognised by Government.

“What Jermal has accomplished is superb,” Wilkinson said. “This young man has won a medal at the World Wushu Championships, not a US East Coast championship or a Pan American regional event, a world championship. He has done this in a competition featuring the best Sanshou fighters from 90 different countries.

“I always pride myself on how hard our athletes work and I always say that our team can train with any other team on this Island. I personally feel that we train the hardest, all year around but never get recognised for it.

“Jermal especially deserves recognition as he trains up to six hours a day in between working two jobs. He took time out of his busy life to go and prepare for the worlds for three weeks at Extreme Couture MMA Gym in Ontario. After all of this, I haven’t even received a congratulatory call or e-mail from anyone in the Ministry.”

Government’s apparent snub has reopened old wounds for Wilkinson who went to great lengths to have his organisation recognised by local sports authorities.

“When the Bermuda Sanshou Association (BSA) was established in 2005 the national governing body of martial arts, the Bermuda Martial Arts Federation (BMAF), was not operational,” he said. “I had a very difficult time trying to gain recognition through Youth & Sports and the Bermuda Olympic Association (BOA).

“I was trying to achieve membership with our international federation, the International Wushu Federation (IWUF), however the task was made very difficult because I was spinning in circles. Youth & Sports were telling me that we need to gain recognition through BMAF, but BMAF at that stage had not submitted financials for a few years and at that time were not functioning as a national governing body.”

Wilkinson said the BMAF have since “pulled their act together”. However, despite this local martial arts’ governing body still do not receive Government funding, something the veteran martial artist feels they are more than deserving of.

“I am very aware that they (BMAF) did not receive a single penny through the 2011 sporting governing body grants,” he said. “It is never my intention to knock football and cricket as I think those programs are very valuable, but for martial arts to receive absolutely nothing is absolutely unfair.”

Snubbed: World Wushu Championships bronze medallists Jermal Woolridge.

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Published November 16, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated November 16, 2011 at 8:08 am)

Woolridge’s medal win went unrecognised

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