by Caribupdate Weekly
For the past 3 months, Grenada’s most decorated sportsman, Olympic and World Championship 400-meter gold medalist Kirani James, has been sidelined; out of competition.
His last races were in April: the 1st in front of adoring local fans at the inaugural Grenada Invitational, when the national stadium was renamed the Kirani James Athletic Stadium. The 2nd, and final competitive outing since April, was the Drake Relays in the United States when James finished 6th.
Now, to be clear, James is a professional athlete, with his own team of handlers and managers. But, he is also is a national treasure, the pride of the nation, and the flagbearer for sports in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. And, for most of us, our concern for James goes far beyond his achievements as an athlete. We are anxious about his well-being as a human being, as a relative, as a dear friend, and as a loving neighbour. It’s in this context that this newspaper believes that it’s time for James’ handlers to give us, the Grenadian people, a more in-depth report on his health status; on the reason or reasons he was shut down from competing.
All we, as a nation, have been receiving so far are bits and pieces of information that James had been stricken with a respiratory illness; that he was pulled from track competition and was recovering ‘nicely.’ All of these statements are vague to the point of being meaningless.
It seems that Grenadians, who have become used to rooting for James at every major international track and field meet in the last several years, will have to do without him when athletes gather next month in London, England, for the 2017 World Championships. The Grenada team of qualifiers for the World Championships, which begin 5 August, includes Kurt Felix, Lindon Victor, Bralon Taplin and Anderson Peters. There’s no mention of Kirani James.
Our wish and prayer are that James will return to competition sooner rather than later, strong and healthy and fitter than a fiddle. Undoubtedly, he would have lots of catching up to do. Few athletes withdraw from international competition and then return to immediately rub shoulders with the cream of the crop. And one reason is that their competitors are not sitting, waiting on the reemergence of the injured athlete; instead, they would have been working on improving their performance and lifting their game by competing regularly.
In James’ comeback, one of his main rivals will be Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa. At last year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Van Niekerk comfortably won the 400 meters, with James 2nd. The South African won with a World Record time of 43.03 seconds.
A few weeks ago, Van Niekerk stormed to victory in the 400 meters at a Diamond League meet in Lausanne, Switzerland. He crossed the finishing line in a world-leading 43.62 seconds, well ahead of second-placed Baboloki Thebe of Botswana.
One report claimed that Van Niekerk ‘is on fire this season, having run personal bests in the 100 meters (9.94sec) and 200 meters (19.84).’
So, while we await a comprehensive report on the health status of James, we continue to pray for him and extend best wishes for a full and complete recovery.
One other issue we’ll like to comment on in this week’s Caribupdate editorial are the preparations being made for Grenada’s next general elections. A date for the polls is yet to be announced; but campaigning – albeit unofficial – has begun and various entities, including the Grouping of Civil Society Organisations (GCSO), have begun to position themselves to play their parts in the elections.
The GCSO has published a document it calls a ‘Code of Political Conduct’ that it wants to be a guide for candidates and parties taking part in the upcoming elections. A read of the document earns it a high rating. No one, for example, could take umbrage with the GCSO’s code calling for a ‘political environment within Grenada which promotes free and fair elections;’ or, the GCSO urging political candidates to ‘address priority issues and to refrain from the use of half-truths, lies, innuendoes, bribes and threats to gain political advantage.’
All fine and dandy. However, when the code is stripped to its bare bones; and when the code’s written words are peeled away; and especially when one listens to the words of GCSO spokespeople, it is patently clear that the code is not a mere guiding document. But, it’s intended to influence a particular political outcome in the elections.
We concede that it’s perhaps not the motive of all – or even most – of those who comprise the GCSO. But, arguably, it must be for some; they are shilling for a particular side. “This is about making your vote count,’’ one GCSO spokesperson said during a recent interview.
Without a frontal engagement in the political process – such as being candidates or campaign managers – it appears that some in the GCSO are trying to find themselves a backdoor way to decide who should win or lose the next general election. This ain’t new at all; although, these backdoor efforts have failed more than they have succeeded.
The best results of these efforts were 9 years ago when Franka Bernadine, who was a member of an NGO group ostensibly monitoring the elections of 2008, was rewarded after the victory of the National Democratic Congress. Bernadine was appointed a Senator in the Upper House of Parliament and made Education Minister by Tillman Thomas and his NDC party.