Youth athletes forced to look long-term after Commonwealth Games postponement

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JUNIOR athletes targeting success at the highest level are facing dramatic readjustments to their sporting dreams following the postponement of the 2021 Youth Commonwealth Games.

Jersey's juniors travelled to the Bahamas in 2017 for the Youth Commonwealth Games, but those aged between 14-18 next year will miss out completely Picture: NATHAN JEGOU

The quadrennial event was due to be held in Trinidad & Tobago next year but has been called off indefinitely as a knock-on effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. It leaves many teenagers who are approaching elite status without a short- or medium-term goal, with the 2026 senior Commonwealth Games likely to be their next chance to compete on a global stage.

As it stands the 2022 Games in Birmingham is still going ahead, although it will come too early for those currently signed up for the youth equivalent – open to 14-18-year-olds.

‘It is disappointing for the kids because they will totally miss out now,’ said Commonwealth Games Association of Jersey vice-president Morag Obarska.

‘Age-wise they won’t be eligible for the next Youth Games in 2025, so it’s a complete turnaround for them. I suppose their focus now will be long-term, looking at other international competitions, if they’re good enough, and then the 2026 senior Games. We’re going to have to do a six-year process with them so that they are getting some support.’

The postponement has scuppered CGAJ’s funding plans for Trinidad & Tobago, although there could be silver linings with regards to earlier focus on Birmingham.

Obarska added: ‘We won’t get any funding for the Youth Games now but Federation grants for the Youth Games are nowhere near what they are for the senior Games. It would have been expensive, so we won’t now be spending that money. We were at the stage where we were looking to sign people up specifically to sponsor us for the Youth Games but obviously that’s all on hold now.

‘Birmingham is still going ahead, so the focus for us now is finding ways to quantify athletes’ performances and organise our pathway. They need competition, that’s what they’re going to be lacking. They can train and train and train but it’s not the same as competition.’

Jason Fox

By Jason Fox

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