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Government supports Vincentian athletes

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Amid concerns in some quarters in the United States over “opportunit­ies open for Vincentian athletes” in the US, Sports Minister Cecil “Ces” McKie has confirmed that the administration of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves is supporting four Vincentian athletes at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, New York.

“Government is supporting them, but when we go to the Penn Relays in Pennsylvania, we’ll have more discussions,” McKie told a town hall meeting Sunday night at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn, referring to three track stars — Erasto Da Silva, Rogike Thorpe, Kilon Kirby and basketball player Consolo Adams — whom he introduced to the audience.

The sports minister, however, did not give details of the government’s support – whether it involves full or partial tuition, or otherwise.

“I want to say thanks to Mr. [James] Cordice for opening up those doors,” said McKie, who is also Tourism and Culture Minister, alluding the Clare Valley native, who over the past five years, has spearheaded the nation’s participation in the Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

McKie said the three track stars, in prior years, had competed in the Penn Relays as students at the Thomas Saunders Secondary School (TSSS), the only secondary school in St. Vincent and the Grenadines that has, for the past five years, represented the nation in the annual, three-day Relays Carnival during the last week in April.

Even while on a month-long vacation in New York, McKie said he has visited Kingsborough Community College, in the Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and has had discussions with the school’s athletic coaches.

He said that the Vincentian athletes have not obtained a scholarship from the two-year community college, but added that they may be on course to getting one from other colleges as their athletic career progresses.

McKie also revealed that, while Thorpe is injured, Da Silva and Kirby, were expected to compete in the Penn Relays this week, representing Kingsborough Community College – rather than St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The sports minister did not disclose when Thorpe was injured or the nature of the injury.

In recent weeks, Cordice had taken to task, describing as “real foolishness,” an un-authored article that appeared in THE VINCENTIAN on Feb. 26, 2016.

The article, captioned “Opportunit­ies open for Vincentian athletes,” stated that “The quartet of Erasto Da Silva, Rogike Thorpe, Neilo Thomas and Consolo Adams have had part of their dreams realized,” and that “last Monday, they embarked on new academic and sports lives at the Kingsborough Community College in New York, USA.”

Cordice, the former president of the Philadelphia-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania (SVGOP), had told THE VINCENTIAN, in an exclusive interview, that some information in the story was inaccurate and that the article, as a whole, was misguided.

“I feel this thing is real foolishness; some of the facts are inaccurate,” he said. “Up to now, I don’t have a full synopsis. No one has taken the time to have a full conversation with me. I don’t feel our parents should pay to send their children to school [college in the United States] if they can run [demonstrate athletic prowess].”

The humanitarian and community advocate, who is a senior executive member of Team Bickle Jamaica, the group that provides meals for Jamaican and other Caribbean athletes during the Penn Relays, said that the Vincentian Penn Relays effort, which he initiated almost singlehandedly in 2011, is aimed at being “a vehicle to enhance or obtain academic goals

“This is the purpose of us taking this journey,” he said. “I believe that, if we bring these children up to this level, then the school that wants them must be able to recruit them with a scholarship.

“Our community should not pay, the Diaspora should not pay and the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines should not be forced to pay, because the children [athletes] have a talent that is desirable of a scholarship,” Cordice added. “That’s their reward.

“Then, if they have to pay [athletes have to pay tuition], then what’s the purpose of bringing them to the Penn Relays?” he asked rhetorically. “They come to the Penn Relays to get exposure and then to get a scholarship.

“But to initially start off that, they [athletes] have to pay and to hope that this school [Kingsborough Community College] will ensure them a scholarship to another college or university, that is sheer stupidity,” Cordice declared. “That does not make sense. What if they can’t [get an athletic scholarship, it’s going to come back to the community, because you’re going to put pressure on the community to help out.”

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