I caught up with my friend from Jamaica Donald Quarrie again this time at the IAAF World Championships Doha 2019. Donald was a top athlete in his days during the 70s.
He won a gold medal in the 200m and a silver in the 100m at the 1976 Olympics. In all, he competed in five Olympic Games and won four Olympic medals during his career.
He is now the Technical Director of the Jamaican Athletics Federation. You might be wondering how I got to know him? It was at the London 2012 Olympics where Ghana shared the same building with Jamaica.
After helping a couple of their officials carry bag load of spikes to the Games village one day, I started talking with him about Ghana and how we can develop our athletics once again.
He told me he had raced with a Ghanaian, George Daniels, during his days. He went on to tell me, we(Ghana) needed to go back to the schools to unearth the talents, arguing you always have talent coming from schools sports just like Jamaica.
Beyond school sports in Jamaica, a journalist from the Carribean told me here at Doha that the track clubs such as MVP and Racers clubs take up the responsibility of getting athletes into professional ranks.
Fast forward to Doha 2019, 5 out of 9 of Ghana’s athletes came through schools sports in Ghana.
Two of them have subsequently been shaped by American universities; Hor Halutie has had a training program at Middle Tennessee State University while Benjamin Kwaku Azamati and Edwina Kwabla Gadayi have come through locally based coaches.
Through the GAA’s initiative, about 60 athletes are in colleges and universities in the USA and some have graduated. As with any program, there have success stories and some failed ones too.
I feel we really do need to have a conversation about our exit strategy after schools sports, particularly now that the university’s have taken up student athlete scholarship programs.
In the cases of our most successful athletes at the World Champs, Ignisious Gaisah and Margaret Simpson, they came through programs in Holland and Mauritius respectively. Some also came through the NCAA and Germany.
It is pointless talking about state involvement anymore because they simply don’t care.
To be continued..