A pandemic could not stop our Belizean athletes from doing what they do best. A delegation of 14 senior athletes travelled from Belize and the United States to Costa Rica to take part in the Central American Senior Championship. But this competition was unlike all others as the participants faced plenty of obstacles. Courtney Menzies met them at the airport, and has the story.
Despite the closure of gyms, the Marion Jones track, and the banning of most sporting activities, Team Belize was still able to bring home 11 medals from the Central American Senior Championship.
This year's competition was slated to take place in June, but was postponed due to the pandemic. Still, the athletes were mentally prepared, despite the major changes in procedures.
Deon Sutherland, President, Belize Athletics Association
"There was no fans, there was only one athlete per country per event, usually there's two athletes per event, but there's only one. You had to wear your mask all the time except the start and the end of your event, we had to social distance, even in the bleachers when you're not participating, so every single protocol was put in place and the athletes felt comfortable and so they did what they did."
"Physically it wasn't as expected and I think all the countries could have said the same with the limited time to train using the track there was no access to gyms, but these are senior athletes, these are people who know what to do and when to do it and so we relied on that to take us over the hurdle so they had to do what they needed to do at home, times when they could get at the track for a couple hours, they did what they had to do so we expected to do good, we didn't expect to do as good as we normally did but at the end of the day we came home with 11 medals and that was very good for us."
And with those challenges, Team Belize still one two gold, four silver, and five bronze medals. The athletes described how challenging it was for them to train with limited time and resources.
Ashantie Carr, Athlete
"This journey specifically was kinda rough because of the pandemic, however, we still managed to get our workout in and we performed the best that we could. I did, over there, hurdles, triple jump and the relay and I placed for three of them."
"We didn't really had access to the gym, we hardly had access to the track because it was closed for a while, but our coach sent us stuff to do, and we were in general prep that time, so we were still getting our workout in."
Mark Anderson, Athlete
"I competed in the 200-meter race, the individual events, and the team event for 4 X 100-meter relay."
"Training wise it was difficult from the jump, you know a lot of postponements with the meet, a lot of uncertainty as to whether we can compete or not, coupled with the fact that gyms have been closed for like three months and for us it's crucial for our development no matter what sort of experience you might have, you know we also went through the recent floods, the heavy rains that hit us, we lost about 3 weeks of work so that impacted a lot so COVID has definitely done a number on us so we really just had to go in with whatever we had with the time we had."
And while a pandemic, flooding, and limited resources already made things far tougher than usual, the athletes also had issues with their flight.
Tricia Flores, Athlete
"I competed in the long jump and the 4 x 100 meters relay. The challenges that we had to face were, while we were going we had like between 14 to 17 hours layover in El Salvador, so we had to stay there, we had to sleep in the airport, we couldn't leave the airport because of the quarantine measures for COVID so we had to stay in the airport so by the time we got to Costa Rica, everybody was tired and the competition started the day after so really we didn't get the amount of rest that we needed and so it's like we went into the competition feeling a bit tired."
"What's the feeling coming back knowing that you guys still performed exceptionally well?"
Tricia Flores, Athlete
"I can say we have talent, we do have talent. We could have done better but of course because of the COVID measures and all those things, the quarantine and all of that, that was a bit difficult for us but we came through but hopefully next year or next season will be much better."
The gold medals were won in the male triple jump and the female two hundred meters categories.