GAA Sponsor flays former athletics boss

Madam Deborah Eleazar, a sponsor of Ghana Athletics Association (GAA), has slammed a news report attributed to former GAA Chairman that sought to undermine the achievements of the Association in the 2015 All Africa Games (AAG).

“Being a corporate and private sponsor of Ghana Athletics since the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, I find it very disheartening the incorrect facts being published about the current state of athletics in Ghana, “she said in a statement, issued in Accra at the weekend.

Madam Eleazar said the former Chairman of the GAA, Dr Haldane Lutterodt described Ghana Athletics medal haul at the Games as “shameful and disgraceful” because five silver medals and three bronze medals that were won were not worth a grain of salt.

There was also an erroneous suggestion that three of the eight medals were from para-athletics. The truth is that all eight medals came from GAA’s athletics team.

“The eight medals represent Ghana’s second best medal total since 1980. This achievement cannot and should not be considered ‘below average performance’ as it is mathematically impossible to draw such a conclusion.

“At the same competition, the following notable accomplishments were also attained: two national records were broken (Javelin [men], Triple Jump [women]); women’s 4X100m relay team produced the second best performance in Ghana’s history; first ever medal in pole vault; John Ampomah (silver medal) lost the gold medal to the reigning (2015) world championships silver medalist.

“The former chairman also asserts that GAA is not focusing on developing local talent but rather relies on foreign-based athletes. Again, this is untrue. The company I represent has been funding local GAA developmental programmes for both juniors and seniors for the past six years.

“In fact, some of the current crop of athletes who performed so well in the 2015 AAG participated in these local developmental programmes as juniors, some even going back to 2009,” she said.

According to Madam Eleazar the fact that the athletes recently left Ghana for the United States on GAA facilitated athletic scholarships less than three years ago does not make them any less Ghanaian than they were a year or so ago.

“I don’t understand the criticism of GAA for helping local athletes move on to opportunities that guarantee a higher level of investment in their athletic potential. I also don’t understand criticism of GAA for helping these young men and women secure a future for themselves beyond sports, through studying at colleges.

“Criticising GAA for helping these local athletes move on to better opportunities in their lives is hitting below the belt. It is unsportsmanlike.

“There are real issues that we should be discussing and asking ourselves as sponsors and lovers of the sport, regarding how best we can help the athletes and GAA.

“The athletes’ current level of performance is not a problem but rather a bright spot in challenging times. It is no secret that the various national teams that participated in the 2015 AAG had very little preparation funding. Indeed, I was dismayed to hear that GAA was given only GH₡ 10,000 total towards preparation of 20 athletes; about $150 per athlete.”

Madam Eleazar said some key equipment needed for competition at the 2015 AAG never made it to Congo “even though I understand GAA submitted estimates and directions to the National Sports Authority (NSA) Games management committee months before the competition”.

Yet, despite having to borrow equipment (pole vault poles) from a fellow competitor on the day of competition, an athlete managed to claim a silver medal and almost beat the person who lent him the poles for the gold medal.

“Should we not be celebrating such exploits even as we try and help GAA secure its own equipment and not have to rely on NSA knowing how iffy funding can be?

“I don’t think any lover of Ghana Athletics should trivialise significant progress by athletes as a way to criticise personalities in administrative positions because they contested against them a year ago. This should not be happening at a time when Ghana’s athletes need much more external sponsorship and are performing well.

“Painting a bleak picture about performance when the opposite is true will ultimately mean less support for the very athletes we all claim to care about.

“I know most of the current athletes and have kept abreast with their progress over the past few years. In addition I and other sponsors/patrons get regular updates through formal and informal means.

“Therefore my company and I will continue to support the activities of GAA and the athletes.

“Next year will be the 31st Olympiad in Rio, Brazil. Ghana’s athletes need all the help they can get as preparations get underway. Let us not distract or dishearten them with unfounded depressing news about their performances and management of the sport,” Madam Eleazar said.

She called on all potential sponsors who have an interest athletics to support the athletes adding: “The current athletes may not be World or Olympic Champions but they deserve our support, both financial and emotional, as well as our respect. GNA

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