2021 AP Invitational – the ‘gateway’ to Tokyo Games for Caribbean athletes
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Aliann Pompey
Aliann Pompey

THE June 19 Aliann Pompey Invitational (API) could be one of the most important track and field events in South America and the Caribbean, since it can potentially be the last resort for athletes who are hoping to qualify for this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.
Like everything else, globally, the 2020 edition of the AP Invitational was postponed because of the advent of the novel coronavirus.
However, Pompey believes that the move may have been a blessing in disguise, with some additional challenges in ensuring the safety of athletes.
The AP Invitational, which ran off its inaugural event in 2016, saw 11 athletes, all from overseas, moving on to compete at the Olympic Games in Rio.
“I think this year is more critical as compared to 2016, or any other qualification year for the world championship, just because of how 2020 played out with the postponement of the Olympic Games and subsequent cancellation of a number of competitions, even in 2021. So the opportunity for athletes to qualify for the (Olympic) Games have been reduced and the attractiveness and importance of the API becomes that much more critical,” Pompey said.

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

Scores of athletes from across the Caribbean and further afield are expected to converge on Guyana in a bid to qualify for this year’s Tokyo Games.

Speaking exclusively to Chronicle Sport from her New York location, the St John’s University coach revealed that talks with Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Charles Ramson (Jr), with regard to the support from the Government of Guyana, have been bearing fruit.
Pompey said Minister Ramson has been “very supportive of the meet and we have a few new features to roll-out for the 2021 edition of the API that we haven’t had in the past, which I’ll be excited to share in the future”.
She pointed to the fact the API “aligns very much so with our government’s commitment to increasing opportunities for our young people using sports, as well as regionally”.

HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS
Meanwhile, stating that though the AP Invitational’s organising committee is still very early in the planning and implementation phase, “with everything moving as quickly as it probably will, with the vaccine being available and health protocols and requirements changing over time, we’re not sure what the testing and quarantine requirements and protocols would be a month from now, much less five months from now”.
“We’ll just have to play it by air and be very cautious and make sure that all the safety measures will be met because we’re still in a very uncertain period of time given the coronavirus, especially if we expect international athletes to participate,” Pompey said, as she also highlighted that a close-working relationship with the country’s National COVID-19 Task Force will be established to ensure that all protocols are covered and observed.
Asked about corporate support for this year’s event, taking everything into consideration, the Olympian and Commonwealth Games 400m gold and silver medallist told Chronicle Sport that the event’s sponsors have played an important role in terms of the success of the meet and she believes that “in 2021 for the ones that do agree to move forward with us, they’ll be very, very important in providing this opportunity for Guyanese athletes and athletes in the Region”.
Pompey reasoned that she will be “looking again for our sponsors to meet us where they have in the past, in terms of their support, and help us ensure that we have a bigger and better API this year”.

ADDITIONAL INCENTIVE
In February of 2020, Pompey’s API was added to the newly-structured World Athletics Continental Tour and the Guyanese called the achievement “a tremendous opportunity not just for the Aliann Pompey Invitational, but also for Guyana and athletics in the region”.
World Athletics said the impetus for creating the Continental Tour was to provide more competition and to earn opportunities for more athletes.
The Continental Tour will be divided into three levels – Gold, Silver and Bronze – whose status will be determined by the quality of competition and prize money on offer.

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