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Other Sports of Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Source: GNA

Ghana's Olympic Games display an awakening call

(By: Veronica Commey, GNA Sports)

Accra, Aug 26, GNA - Ghana's contingent to the just ended Beijing 2008 Olympic Games returned without even a "wooden medal" in a manner that raises questions about the nation's ambitions towards making an impact at such global events.

It has been so long since Ghana last made any meaningful impact at an international sports tournament where the stakes are high and more than just effort and good intentions are required to deliver. Evidently, the performances of countries like Jamaica, China, among others at the Games brought to the fore the reality that it takes more than a year or two to build a glittering team for a no mean event like the Olympics.

Jamaica made waves at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on the wings of sensational Usain Bolt, Shirley-Ann Fraser, and Veronica Campbell-Brown among others largely due to the fact that they understood the true meaning of long-term planning.

The reality that talent alone was inadequate to pile medals at global championships had obviously been valued for so long that it was only natural that the fruit of that labour was to be reaped sooner than later.

If Bolt had gone into the tournament with just raw untapped talent he would not have broken three World records in Beijing. Ironically, this is a truth that has so often dawned on Ghana but has sadly been pushed to the background in place of some elusive faith and ad hoc preparation as major tournaments draw nigh.

Occasionally, the talk about investing in school sports and laying emphasis on complete planning would emerge and yet the will for implementation consistently remains still at birth.

The bottom line is, while Bolt, Fraser and Campbell-Brown were going through the drills and preparing for future competitions, we were just content with another appearance at the Olympic Games where returning home without a single medal will be no news.

After all, with 11 appearances at the quadrennial games since 1952, Ghana can boast of only four medals, a silver and three bronzes. Boxing has produced three of the medals, Clement Quartey (Silver, Rome 1960), Eddie Blay (Bronze, Tokyo 1964) and Prince Amartey (Bronze, Munich 1972) before Sam Arday led the Black Meteors to bronze at the Barcelona Olympics, 1992, the first ever medal for African side in football.

Bolt's talent had been identified at a younger age where his peers and teachers could afford to name him the "lightening Bolt" and perhaps made the resolve to prepare that talent till it blossomed periodically through school to the World Junior Championship in 2002, in Kingston, Jamaica where he took Gold in his favourite 200m.

Four years on at an Olympic event where American's Tyson Gay and former fastest man on earth, Asafa Powell were on parade alongside other experienced athletics, Bolt did not only make a case for hard work and planning, he even smashed his own record of 9.72 with a time of 9.69 and extended it to the 200m.

Introducing entertainment to the sport also meant that the Jamaican who declared just after aiding his team to win the men 4x100 that the Caribbeans have taken over the tracks had proven that without polishing, hard work, focus and planning, he could have ended up like any Ghanaian athlete who can only hope and hallucinate.

It is amazing why it is taking eternity for a country that prides herself as a sporting nation to learn that beneath the layers of hope is the obvious legitimacy that Ghana has done next to nothing in terms of identifying and nurturing talents for future laurels.

What is the use of the Sports Associations when they cannot excel in basic roles like unearthing and nurturing talents to represent the nation and excel at global events?

Do these associations deserve to exist when they are unable to even draft short, medium and long-term plans about their disciplines and deliver?

How many associations can today present a four-year comprehensive plan for a discipline knowing the Olympic year comes around every four years?

Have those at the helm become negligent because we have failed as a country to hold them accountable and accepted horrible results for so long?

The painful reality is that most of the Associations only exist in names, with some being occupied by square pegs in oblong holes! Year in and out, new talents are seen through the half-baked Schools and College Sports competition but the furthest any of those travel is competing once a while in a National Championship so often dominated by boycotts.

One will have expected that Vida Anim's performance at her second Olympics would have been better but talk of circumstances that has often characterized their participation at international events and one is tempted to sympathize with her regardless of her outburst over financial disagreement during the Beijing event.

Anim must have improved by now because of the experiences gathered from her maiden appearance but devaluing the relevance of competing at events that creates exposure and familiarity with most of the athletes that would be met at the grand competition can be suicidal. Bolt is exceptional to have dominated at the highest level as a debutant, but reasonably athletes with more than one experience get better. One can however not help but be reduced to wishful thinking if a first appearance at an Olympic Games occurs anywhere after 22-years. Included in the Cameroonian team for the Games was a 12-year-old swimmer, Antoinette Guedia Mouafo, with a positive forecast that she would stand a strong chance of becoming a medal hopeful by age 16 when she makes a second appearance at the event to be staged in London. Though Antoinette finished the 50m freestyle in 33.59s, 9.39sec behind the fastest time swum by Cate Campbell, she managed to still leave seven "older" swimmers behind.

There are too many good reasons why Ghana must attach more seriousness to finding the missing link to her inability to deliver at the bigger stage and none needs a reminder that preparing towards making an impact in London 2012 must have began yesterday. Starting today, however, is better late than never as the sages say.