Sprintec takes big hit with Olympic postponement, says boss Wilson

Sprintec takes big hit with Olympic postponement, says boss Wilson

BY PAUL A REID
Observer writer
reidp@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, March 26, 2020

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The disruption of the 2020 track and field season has come at a major financial cost to the Maurice Wilson-led Sprintec Track Club.

In addition, he thinks the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games could result in some of the fledgling professionals looking to continue or to move on with their lives in a different direction.

The Sprintec Track Club, based at G C Foster Sports College, where Wilson is the principal, is concerned that athletes would not be able to earn during the season because of the shutdown as a result of the novel coronavirus disease pandemic and the organisation would have lost large sums of money they would have invested in the athletes.

The fact that professional contracts are determined on performances at major events, such as the Olympic Games, and most contracts would also be expiring this year, adds to the concerns that athletes and coaches would be having, Wilson expressed.

“Even though we knew that the possibility existed for the Olympics to be postponed or cancelled, it has come as a big disappointment, mainly to the athletes,” Wilson told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“For the coaches and administrators, we would have been tracking the situation and realised that it was almost impossible for it to be held at the original dates — the end of July to early August,” said the Sprintec boss.

The setbacks started as early as March, he said, after they had purchased airline tickets for athletes to go to meets overseas to secure qualifying marks for the World Indoors Championships that were set for Nanjing, China, and when that championships was called off, the domino effect started.

“This year itself has been a very difficult year as a number of the athletes that I coached, we would have purchased tickets for them totalling over half a millions dollars, so they could travel to compete and try to get the qualifying times for World Indoors, which was set for early March and that was cancelled,” explained Wilson, who has led national senior teams over the last decade.

“The problem that we have is that most of our athletes are emerging professionals, so they don't have contracts and they don't have any support system apart from if they are on the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association support system, which really doesn't cover airfare and medical, some of the major things that we need to have in place in order to help improve their performance, so with the World Indoors being cancelled was a huge blow,” Wilson said.

With the athletes performing up to and above expectations, and in seeking to try to avoid issues they had with their overseas camp leading up to the Doha World Championships last year, Wilson said they took the initiative to avoid the same issues but once again, it backfired.

“We then pre-empted the Olympics preparations because we felt we were doing extremely well, as you recall we had two men's 4x100m relay teams that ran 38.00 seconds and we felt we could have run maybe 38.1 seconds at Gibson/McCook Relays if Andrew Fisher had not been injured. Our athletes have been displaying great form from the start of the year,” he noted.

Recalling last year's run up to the World Championships, Wilson said: “What happened to us in Doha last year is that we were not prepared for the overseas camp, as we were short of funds and what we did this year is that I went ahead and attempted to procure funds, whether by loans or otherwise, to make sure that our preparation would have been intact.”

Wilson said his camp was also seriously looking ahead to the prospects at National Championships in June.

“We thought we would do well; we would just send on the athletes to Europe this time so they could get their races to be competitive for the Olympics, but fast forward to (Tuesday) that is no longer a relativity,” Wilson reasoned, without giving the full financial fallout.

The year-long postponement of the quadrennial sports extravaganza, he said, could cause a lot of other issues.

“What it means also is that a lot of athletes, and I am not referring to the ones I coach, but also to others as their contracts should be renewed at the end of the year, but I am not too sure what is going to happen now as the Olympics is always the major standard in terms of what kind of contracts would be offered, if any contracts will be given at all,” he said.

Still, Wilson tried to put a positive light on the year. “Overall it has been a disappointment, but I am totally in support of the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, the Jamaican Government in terms of what we can do to control this virus spread, so we don't have to worry about this for next year.

“In the interim, it is now again left to the coaches to keep the athletes motivated. I hope the athletes will not be forgotten again until next year as a lot of them are going to be going through very, very difficult times,” Wilson noted.

“Again, we do what we love and it makes it easier for some of us who are really doing it for the love of it, [but] what we really don't want to do is to go back where we are coming from, in terms of the expenses where we used our personal and family money,” Wilson concluded.


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