The 36th edition of the gala evening ceremony will be staged on Saturday, 13 February. According to Director of Youth and Sports, Jim Xavier, the event will be returning to its former home, the National Cultural Centre. This is after several years at the Gaiety on Rodney Bay, which is presently unavailable, and an attempt to use the William Jefferson Clinton Ballroom at Sandals Grande in 2015.
That information was handed down by Mr. Xavier during the course of a press conference Thursday morning at the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports in the Blue Coral Building. Event coordinator Claudia Noel Jn Baptiste, meanwhile, divulged the names of most of the individuals shortlisted for the prestigious individual awards, the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year, Junior and Senior.
From 40 nominees, representing 24 national federations, the list has been whittled down to 13 from six sports. The Director intimated that he was less than satisfied with the number of nominations, which should ideally come to 96. Even given that netball is less likely to have male nominees, the number should still total well over double the number of nominees actually received. Xavier did hint that there might be some degree of sanction against federations which failed to nominate anyone.
The numbers are even less encouraging when one considers that seven of the 24 federations entered the maximum of four nominees, meaning that more than half the nominees are from those seven sports. Three federations had a single nomination each, and 10 federations had no nominations at all.
But on to the shortlists.
The four athletics nominees all made their respective grades. However, their names are yet to be revealed – officially – pending the Saint Lucia Athletics Association’s awards ceremony on 23 January.
Were one to hazard a guess, the Sportswoman of the Year nominee from athletics is likely to be 12-time winner, Levern Spencer, a national champion in Saint Lucia, the first-ever Pan Am Games champion from Saint Lucia, and a repeat winner at the North and Central American and Caribbean Athletics Confederation (NACAC) Championships.
Levern would just edge fellow high jumper Jeannelle Scheper, but she will crush national cricket captain Yasmine St. Ange and volleyballer Skye Faucher Mondesir, who inexplicably made the cut for Senior Sportswoman of the Year, but missed out on the listing for the junior award. Perhaps this bespeaks the paucity of competition amongst the women, whilst the girls’ gong looks as if it will be the hottest contest of the four.
Missing out for the senior award are Stacey Roheman from tennis, Ellaisa Marquis from football, Nena Joseph from netball, Sharon Charles from rugby, and Thalia Bergasse from swimming.Roheman, Marquis and Bergasse (along with Spencer) are repeat nominees from 2015.
For the Sportsman of the Year award, the four-man shortlist includes swimmer Jordan Augier, boxer Lyndell Marcellin, cricketer Johnson Charles, and the nominee from athletics. This is likely to be Albert Reynolds, who reset not only the national record, but the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) mark as well. He became the first Saint Lucian to hold the OECS record, altered the Saint Lucia record twice, and won at meets in Martinique, whilst picking up a major regional medal at the NACAC Championships, the only person on the list to so do.
Left off once again is volleyballer Julian Bissette. Despite his massive, unprecedented exploits in the Greek Volleyball League, where he was the Most Valuable Player of the first half of the season, he did not play locally in 2015, and represented the nation just once, at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, Canada. There, he contested the beach volleyball competition with partner Joseph Clercent.
Also missing out are Kegan Preville from basketball, his sport’s sole nominee, Sheldon Emmanuel from football, Boniface (Cliff) Alcide from golf, again the sole nominee from that sport, Lenford Eugene from rugby, Jean Renee Duboulay, the lone entry from shooting, Chris Wells from table tennis, and Nesbert Vaval from tennis. Emmanuel, Augier (a shortlist repeater), Bissette and Marcellin were all nominated for at least the second year in a row.
The junior Sportswoman of the Year accolade could be the most interesting. It will be decided between record-breaking swimmer Katie Kyle, who has multiple regional honours to go with local titles, tennis player Meggan William, rated as the top player in her age group in the Caribbean, and the nominee from athletics. This could be either javelin thrower Rochelle Etienne, repeating from 2014, or sprinter Julien Alfred. Both coached by Cuthbert Modeste, Rochelle won a medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games, whilst Julien broke several national and regional records on her way to gold at the Central American and Caribbean Age Group Championships. The younger Alfred may be the stronger prospect.
Qiana Joseph from cricket failed to attain the shortlist, as did Shanet Joseph from football, Megan Nestor from volleyball, Cheyenne Samuels from rugby, Cherese Darcheville from table tennis, and Mondesir from volleyball. Mondesir, Joseph, Darcheville and Etienne were all nominated in 2015.
Johnnel Eugene and Adriel Anthony Bousquet will again go head to head for the Junior Sportsman of the Year title, which will also include the athletics nominee. This one is a bit harder to call – high jumper Ace Louis and javelin thrower Denzel St Marthe both won national junior titles, Inter-School gold, and medals at CARIFTA. Meanwhile, Johnnel might have had a stronger case in 2015, when he lost to Adriel, in what many considered an upset. This year, there might even have been debate as to the nominee for cricket, given the sort of season Kimani Melius enjoyed.
The boys left off the shortlist are Nathan Ferrari from boxing, Nyrone Winter (once again) from football, Najson Cox from rugby, Terrel Monplaisir from swimming, MArio St Cyr from table tennis, and Anton Richard from volleyball. Aside from Eugene and Bousquet, only Monplaisir and Winter were entered last year.
Along with the individual awards, the February ceremony will reward top coaches, sponsors, journalists, administrators, community sporting organisations and national federations. One notable change is that some of the awards have been moved to the School Sports Awards, inaugurated in 2015, in order to highlight the young athletes, and to streamline the “main” awards.