Cayman’s elite athletes are well-supported by the private and public sector although more cash is always welcome.
Reaching for the ultimate in your chosen sport requires a support network of coaching, friends, family, but most of all the money to be able to pursue your dreams.
“To excel at the elite level,” says Donald McLean of the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee, “You need to be a full-time professional athlete. The days of amateurs have gone. And that costs money.
“It is always a challenge financially. Performance is directly related to funding; take the UK sailing team as an example. In 1996 they were poor but they got national lottery funding and the results improved dramatically.
“The Cayman Islands Olympic Committee’s responsibilities include selecting, outfits, transport and getting teams to multi-sport games. And there are a lot more now, like the Commonwealth Youth Games and the Winter Youth Olympics for the first time,” said McLean.
Grants and scholarships
There are a number of grants and scholarships that can be applied for which Cayman can take advantage of. One is the Olympic Solidarity scheme, which was set up in 1984 to disperse money generated by the games themselves such as the enormous sums from selling the TV rights. This money is dispersed amongst the 205 member countries, although only used for specific purposes.
There are funds for preparation for the continental, regional, Pan-American and Olympics games which can help with specific games. There are also grants given by government which, although declining, McLean says are useful. A helpful scheme is the Elite Athletes scheme of the Ministry of Tourism, for example.
The International Olympic Committee also has specific programmes for individual athletes, and with London 2012 coming up fast this is a funding source that five athletes have been granted.
“It’s the London 2012 scholarship and the goal of that is to assist athletes to train and qualify for the games. They take the ones who look most likely to qualify. We manage it and put US$1,000 a month directly in the athletes’ bank accounts.
“They send four months at once and the athletes have to account for it – they can’t just go out and buy iPods.” The Olympic committee also has the obligation to develop sports in the Cayman Islands, not just the elite athletes but helping with the grassroots of where the next generation will arise.
One way that money is raised is through private sources. Betty Baraud founded the Cayman Islands Olympic Fundraising committee in 1992, when her son Stefan – a cyclist – was in need of funding and hoping to qualify.
“Being an excited mom and very happy for him I looked at what was happening and the committee was born. I try hard to do two events annually and from 1992 to now we have raised over $100,000 each year.”
Fundraising events such as red carpet premieres of films, complete with the stars of the movie, have proved extremely successful. Gourmet tours round the world and cruise ship luncheons have also been popular as the committee brings in sponsorship, donations and money from tickets.
“It truly takes money to develop and train these athletes up to world-class standard. I know what it feels like to see your people on the world stage; it is the proudest moment other than when someone related to you is in it.
“If we want to see our athletes there we have to group together, work hard and focus as a community to make this happen. We will be happy and proud to see the position Cayman will be at next year.”
Another source of funding is sponsorship; whilst in the past individual athletes have been sponsored, such as Cydonie Mothersill with Adidas in the past, that is not the case currently.
“That is not to say that a local company like Cable & Wireless, Lime or Cayman Airways couldn’t sponsor an athlete but they tend to contribute to the fundraisers anyway. We haven’t and wouldn’t approach them in this way, it would be down to the individual athlete to sort out that sponsorship.”
Should all qualify, no athlete will be left on the tarmac, he added.
“It is very difficult to win a medal at the Olympics; there is too much emphasis put on that by the general community here. We have won medals at every single games aside from the Olympics. Last year at the Central America and Caribbean games we won more medals in one games than in all the previous ones we’d attended.
“My assessment is that we are doing quite well. This is the most money we’ve ever accessed from Olympic Solidarity. The money is there, the programmes are there but you have to apply for them. Before the Olympic committee was less organised and lacked manpower. But things are getting better.
“The long and short of it is that we draw from a very small pool of eligible Caymanian athletes. They’re not lacking finance but could you always do with a bit more? Yes.”