Saint Lucia will send a team of 15 to the XXII Central American and Caribbean Games to be held from November 14-30 in Veracruz, Mexico.
Having earlier this year sent its biggest team ever to the Commonwealth Games, the Saint Lucia contingent to CAC is five shy of the 20 that travelled four years ago to the XXI Games in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. On that occasion, Saint Lucia came away with a single medal, Levern Spencer taking gold in women’s high jump.
Spencer leads the 2014 team once again; the 30-year-old Caribbean record holder recently won gold on Mexican soil, at the Pan American Sports Festival, and will be seeking to become Saint Lucia’s first double champion at this level. She will be joined once again by Rick Valcin in the men’s pole vault, whilst Miguel Louis and teenager Marbeq Edgar will contest the men’s long jump and men’s 1500m, respectively.
No qualifying standards were set for athletics, but Saint Lucia had natural qualifiers in three sports.
In swimming, Jordan Augier qualified in the 50m freestyle and 50m backstroke. Danielle Beaubrun and Siona Huxley, who competed at Mayaguez, are unfortunately no longer active. Beaubrun made finals in three of her five events and set three new national records in Puerto Rico. Julien Brice and Joshua Runako Daniel failed to make the requisite standards for the 2014 meet.
Saint Lucia also qualified in men’s and women’s beach volleyball, thanks to the country’s North and Central American and Caribbean (NORCECA) rankings at the end of 2013. Joseph Clercent returns to the Games, but instead of Dayne Williams, he will renew his collaboration with Julian Bissette. Dania Hamilton and Samantha Mann-Reid had originally meant to be the women’s team for 2010. Four years later, it is so. The men’s team ended 2013 ranked ninth and the women 13th. A total of 16 teams will be represented at Veracruz. This is the second time Saint Lucia’s volleyball pairs have made the CAC Games.
The third and final sport in which Saint Lucia has a natural qualifier is tennis, where Julia D’Auvergne will play the women’s singles draw. The youngest member of the team, she will represent the island’s first participation in CAC Games tennis since 1993, Saint Lucia’s first outing at those Games, and the year in which the Saint Lucia Olympic Committee was first admitted to the International Olympic Committee.
Saint Lucia’s absence from sailing is not quite as long, having competed in 2002, but this is the first time a female sailor will represent the nation. Stephanie Devaux-Lovell has gained a great deal of experience of late, contesting the World Championships and South American Championships. The teenager will be looking to put that knowledge to good use in her quest to qualify for next year’s Pan Am Games.
For the first time, two boxers will step into the ring in Mexico for Saint Lucia, weeks ahead of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Championships. Miguel Auguste will go in the 75kg middleweight division, whilst Dalton George will take on the challenge in the 60kg lightweight class.
In cycling, two athletes are being sent for the men’s individual time trial and road race, the Maraj twins, Kurt and Kirk. Both are making their return to the Games, though in 2010, Saint Lucia sent a team of five riders. Kurt finished 13th in the time trial and 46th in the road race in Puerto Rico. Kirk did not take part in the time trial and was one of three Saint Lucian riders who failed to finish the road race.
Aside from the fact that swimming and cycling have less representation this time around, the reduction in the number of athletes from 20 to 15 – despite the return to two sports and the addition of a third – is partly accounted for by the absence of a table tennis team. Saint Lucia sent a four-member men’s team in 2010. Along with the beach volleyball teams, the table tennis team failed to win a single match.
This year, over 5,700 athletes from 31 countries will contest 36 sports at the CAC Games. Aside from Spencer’s gold in 2010, Dominic Johnson has claimed gold in the men’s pole vault in 2002, and both Spencer and Johnson have won minor medals at other editions of the championships. The CAC Games are the oldest continuing regional games in the world, and only the Olympics have run longer.
In presenting the locally-based members of the team to the media on Wednesday, President of the Saint Lucia Olympic Committee (SLOC), Fortuna Belrose, laid out her expectations for the team.
“All we ask is that you give of your best and that you perform better than you did when you left for the Games,” she said. “We have a good blend of the seniors who have been out there and who have won medals, with the younger ones who we hope will be hungry and going for medals. The most obvious places we will be looking for medals will be Levern and the athletics crew but we will also be looking for strong performances especially from our younger athletes.”
The officials for CAC will be led by Chef De Mission, Wayne Burton, assistant general secretary of the SLOC and president of the Athletics Association. Denise Herman will coach the athletics team. Conrad Fredericks will coach the boxers, with Brian McDonald as manager. Ramon Leal Diaz will work with the cyclists.
Beth Lygoe, James Keener Jr and David D’Auvergne will take charge of the athletes involved in sailing, swimming and tennis, respectively. The beach volleyball teams will be under the watchful eyes of Volleyball Association President, Brian Louisy, and João Carlos Campos, aka Coach Cafe.