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BARBADOS - sports - Commonwealth Games 2006

18th Commonwealth Games into Australia'CHEF-DE-MISSION of Barbados' squad at the Commonwealth Games, Cameron Burke, believes the island put on a good show in many areas, even though only one medal came their way.

And now, according to Burke, it's time for national sporting federations and associations to get their long-term plans in full motion for the Olympic Games in Beijing, China, in 2008, and the next Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, in 2010.

Anderson Emmanuel was Barbados' lone medal winner, taking a bronze in the men's heavyweight division, but Burke was quite heartened by the fifth place of Barbados in its first basketball tournament at a Commonwealth Games, as well as with the performances of swimmers Nicky Neckles and Bradley Ally.

Ally made two finals, while Neckles was easily the best in the pool for Barbados, twice missing out on bronze medals, finishing fourth in his two pet backstroke events.

"I think the swimmers were exemplary, even though no medals came their way. And what more can we say about the basketball team, playing with mostly amateurs and with a coach who lives in England and not Barbados, yet has the ability to do this well at this high level," Burke said.

"It just shows that once we get the finance, and the athletes involved put their minds to it, Barbados can continue to improve our medal chances across the board."

However, Burke did have his disappointments, front of the pack being a four-man boxing team only saved faced when Emmanuel won his medal.

"I was very disappointed with the boxing. Junior was our defending bronze medallist, and Shawn Terry Cox came in as the Commonwealth champion, but they didn't put up much of a fight."

Next on his list of disappointments was a netball team that came in as the seventh-ranked team in the world, but won just one match, and that was against the worst team in the competition. They finished tenth overall.

Still, Burke sees light at the end of Barbados' sporting tunnel. "I would say that I am satisfied in a lot of areas with our performances. I have seen more pluses than minuses for sure," the Chef-de-mission said.

According to him, high on the Barbados Olympic Association's list now, is getting more finances to keep Barbados competitive on the international sports scene.

A former international hockey umpire, Burke said a meeting with new Minister of Sport Anthony Wood would have to be high on the BOA's agenda.

"Our finances are limited, so without a doubt, we need Governmental help to keep going," Burke said. He noted that prior to these Commonwealth Games, Government had promised to provide at least $500 000, but that is yet to be forthcoming in a year when the Commonwealth Games and July's Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Colombia would be costing the BOA over $2 million.

"These athletes can't operate on a promise. If we don't get money, and get it quick, our chances of a very strong team at CAC will be limited, and CAC is our best bet of dominating sport in our own back yard," said Burke.

According to Burke, CAC remains very important on the BOA schedule, since it is the competition where local athletes are exposed to high-level competition for the first time.

"To be honest, the Commonwealth Games or Olympics is not the place where you want your athletes to be exposed to the highest level competition for the first time. That should be at CAC."

Burke said that he was glad to defend some sports like basketball and hockey, for which the BOA received harsh criticism for sending squads to this Commonwealth Games.

"The hockey girls did lose a few games by big scores, but it was a young team, and I was glad people were here to see what is required. With investment I'm sure our young female hockey players will eventually make us proud."

He also said that over the next few months, some things would change with the way Barbados squads are chosen for international competition.

Burke said the BOA was quite concerned with the level of fitness of some athletes, and would be putting mechanisms in place to make sure that even after Barbadians are selected to compete, they would have to maintain a particular standard of performance to travel when games dates arrive.

"It won't be simply about qualifying for your event anymore. We have to be sure a system is in place where athletes continue to compete at a high level long before they eventually compete at the various games."

Burke had nothing but high praise for weightlifter Ivorn McNkee, who ended Barbados' 32-year absence in weight-lifting at the Commonwealth Games.


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