Elite athletes’ funding questioned

Opposition lawmakers queried the government’s funding for the Ministry of Sports Elite Athletes’ program last week, with one legislator seeking to determine if all the athletes in the program should continue to receive payment.

Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden said there were four athletes currently in the program: swimmers Shaune and Brett Fraser, hurdler Ronald Forbes and sprinter Kemar Hyman. According to government budget documents, each man will receive the same annual amount – $39,425 – for their efforts in sports and what is referred to as “ambassador” work.

“Performance standard is only one criteria,” Minister Bodden said. “An elite athlete has to be a role model. Someone who has the ‘total package,’ as it were.”

West Bay MLA Bernie Bush said it seemed that some performance standards were not being met in the program.

“One of these ambassadors is not training and is not going to the Commonwealth Games,” Mr. Bush said, not mentioning the name of the athlete he was referring to.

“Mr. Bush, are you saying he’s receiving money and he shouldn’t be on the program?” Finance Minister Marco Archer said.

Mr. Bush said he was simply asking a question and did not wish the current sports minister to be “blamed” by the public over the issue.

Minister Bodden said he was aware of the matter and responded in general terms about how athletes in the elite program are evaluated.

“[It] happens for various reasons with athletes,” Mr. Bodden said. “If there are problems, they can be put on probation or removed from the contract.”

Later on in the discussion, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman MLA Juliana O’Connor-Connolly wondered why all of the athletes in the elite program were males.

Mr. Bodden said Cydonie Mothersill, Cayman’s all-time most successful sprinter, had recently retired and was no longer a part of the Elite Athletes program, though he expected she would play a “major role” in Cayman’s sports scene going forward.

However, the minister said there were others coming down the pipeline. “I know we have some excellent swimmers on the female side,” he said.

East End MLA Arden McLean mentioned one local swimmer, Lauren Hew, would get his vote to be added onto the program now.

Mr. Bodden said Ms. Hew, who is only 14, is too young to qualify for the program at the moment. However, he said other youth development programs did exist to help the “junior” athletes and that government would be placing an increased focus on those in the coming years.

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