By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE revelation that a junior water polo team withdrew from a tournament because it lacked funds to continue has been “misconstrued” by critics, the president of Bahamas Water Polo said in a statement on Tuesday.
Many reacted angrily on social media to news that the under-18 boys team withdrew from the Central American Caribbean Swimming Federation (CCCAN) tournament in Barbados over the weekend before their scheduled gold medal match because the team could not afford to stay an additional day. Many blamed the Minnis administration for the development and questioned the administration's priorities.
However, Chris Illing, water polo president, defended the government and the Bahamas Aquatics Association.
“The quote in The Nassau Guardian today was misconstrued into a political agenda and degradation against the government of the Bahamas and the Bahamas Aquatics Federation," he said. "This was not the intention of the statement that was given.
"In 2018, the Bahamas National Water Polo team qualified for the U-17 Pan American Games to be held in Trinidad in August 2019 by placing second at CCCAN in El Salvador. Priority for Bahamas Aquatics was to fund participation in this tournament as it is the qualifier for junior world championships in 2020.
"In order to prepare for this tournament, and to qualify for Jr Pan American games 2020, the decision was made by the executives with Bahamas Water Polo to participate in the CCCAN tournament held this weekend. The water polo family independently tried to raise the funds required to compete in CCCAN and although this tournament was not budgeted for by Bahamas Aquatics, a $4,000 contribution was made to assist with water polo’s fundraising efforts.
"A wide net was cast to assist water polo with funding and the difficulty is that there are so many competing requests in The Bahamas community, that this request was not successful despite the very best of efforts.”
Mr Illing said the decision by Bahamas Water Polo to compete in CCCAN was multifaceted. Water polo at the Pan Am Games later this year will be played under new rules and officials wanted the team to prepare for the altered format by facing strong competition. The team also hoped to use the event to qualify for the Pan Am games in Canada in 2020, according to Mr Illing.
He said Bahamas Aquatics, the governing body, was not advised that the water polo team was short of its fundraising goal and would not be able to stay in Barbados if it qualified for the gold medal game.
“Further," he said, "the decision to purchase the tickets with funds raised was an independent decision, made entirely by water polo, even though the community knew that the dates they were contracting would not allow them to compete for the gold medal if the team advanced to this round.
"The government of The Bahamas or Bahamas Aquatics were not involved in this decision and in hindsight, this should have been done before the tickets were contracted as we knew the schedule of games, and this concern should have been highlighted to our parent body. Having said this, it should be noted that after purchase of the tickets, we were informed by CCCAN that other teams had withdrawn from the tournament and we appealed to CCCAN and Barbados Aquatics to change the tournament schedule. This request was denied.”
Despite the withdrawal, the team qualified for Pan Am 2020, Mr Illing said. He thanked the team's sponsors, including Bahamas Aquatics, Comfort Suites Paradise Island, Hurricane Hole Development, the Medent group, Lowe's Wholesale, the McPike Foundation and Nassau Agencies.