Shane Brathwaite is Barbados' latest hero. In Ostrava, Czech Republic, this 17 year old produced a new personal best record of 6261 points, and became not only Barbados’ first World Youth champion but his country’s first ever athletics gold medal winner in a global competition at any level. He has understandably begun to receive the recognition that such a feat deserves. I read in today's papers that he was met by a large crowd at the airport and driven away in a limosine. But that's where the concern starts, because already the major issue is whether he will continue to be treasured and be able to compete and develop his talents to the highest level. The cost of trying to pursue his sport are very high.
His story should be an interesting contrast to that of Rihanna, who is currently Barbados' "shining star". I don't know which of them Barbadians will feel more associated with, and for whom the average person will feel more needs to be done. Will this young man's success and obvious talent translate into more than a "flash in the pan". I would hope that at least one substantial local sponsor would see it as worthwhile to plan to bank roll this young man's success. Yes, he may deservedly get an athletics scholarship to a university in the USA. But he should also see from now that the necessary financial pieces that would help his success are quickly put into place. He could gain some financial success on the athletic tours but his combination of sports does not feature often--it's really to the major national, regional, and international events. But this would be more likely if he had stunning skill in one of his disciplines.
If a country really values its heroes, they should not have to struggle to fulfill their potential. But, it's also often the case that the "heroes" are only there for a short while. This young man should be a celebrity, but he is unlikely to be seen that way. And the way that things are, if he is not seen as a celebrity, he will quickly become a "nearly was".
In coming months and years, it will be interesting to read more about the Shane Brathwaite story. Let's celebrate his amazing success--initially for Barbados, but also again as an example of astonishing Caribbean talent. Let's hope that one of his countrymen (personal or corporate) quickly stands up to say that they want to be financially supportive of his athletic prowess. He has a hard road to travel and it's a long way to go. Well done, Shane and good luck!
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