Last week, the International Olympic Committee approved the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games’ event program. The approval included 5 new sports and 15 new events, which will increase the number of women participants and fulfill the committee’s gender balance goal. Out of Liberia’s 46 past Olympians, 9 are women. Liberia’s first female Olympian, Grace Ann Dinkins represented the country in 1984. Since then, Liberia has sent at least 1 female athlete to each attended Game. Liberia has done well sending women to represent the country, at the last 3 Olympics, but how does Liberia support female athletes outside of the Olympics? Let’s take a look.
I hear you want to represent Liberia in the Olympics. Well, you’ve come to the right spot. This article should give you enough information to get started. Getting to the Big Game takes lots of stamina. The journey is filled with competitions and qualifiers, but it all starts with the athlete.
1. KNOW THE QUALIFYING STANDARD
As an athlete, you have to know the qualification criteria for your sport. The international federation that governs your sport sets a basic standard and publishes it to their website. Runners can get qualification standards from the International Association of Athletics Federation webpage. Boxers should visit the International Boxing Association site. Find your international federation and start there.
Sometimes federations publish their Olympic qualifying criteria closer to the Olympic Games. They might even amend the standards. Pay attention to the possible changes. If you cannot find the standards for the upcoming Olympics, use the criteria for the previous Games as a benchmark.
Now that you know how fast you must run or what competitions you must enter, start working towards that goal.
2. TRAINAND COMPETE
Serious Olympic hopefuls must adhere to a strict schedule. You must learn to weave training and competing into your everyday life. In addition to the time commitment, prepare for the financial responsibility.
You must register and attend specific competitions in order to qualify for the Olympics. Again, you’ll find this information on your sport’s international federation webpage. The costs to train, travel, and compete adds up, but there are ways to minimize these expenses.
If you live in Liberia, you can contact the national federation for your sport. Depending on your sport, this could be helpful. Some federations are more active than others. Liberia has 29 sports federations/associations.
In 2015, the Ministry of Youth and Sports established guidelines for each government funded federation and association. These rules were created to monitor the organizations and assist them with their missions. If you qualify, your sport’s federation should assist you in representing Liberia. Below are some active Liberian Sports Federations.
Other national sports federations/associations include golf, kickball, amputee football, taekwondo, weight lifting, karate, volleyball, cricket, lawn tennis, handball, swimming, cycling, wrestling, netball, chess, wushu, canoeing and rowing.
If your sports federation is not active, you can still compete in international competitions, but you’ll have to represent a local club. This means your club will have to register you and assist you with funding.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) also offers athletic training scholarships. Financing your journey will take time and research.
If you live outside Liberia, don’t depend on the national sports federations for too much help with training. Their job is to develop their sport within the country. You might need to take advantage of your local resources (schools and clubs), until closer to competition time. Even during competitions, Liberian sports federations have struggled to finance Liberian athletes. Still, try to communicate with the federation. They might be able to guide you in some area.
Remember the IOC offers scholarships. Do your research. A little research can go a long way.
What if Liberia does not have a federation for your sport? No problem. The Liberia National Olympic Committee (LNOC) can vouch for you.
3. CONNECT WITH LIBERIA NATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE
The LNOC submits the final roster for the Liberia Olympic Team to the International Olympic Committee. The IOC then decides whether or not to accept each athlete as Liberia’s representative. It’s the LNOC’s job to make sure every athlete is qualified to represent the country.
If you have been training, competing, and meet your sports’ Olympic qualification standard, you might get the chance to represent our beloved Lone Star. Keep in mind this process is easier read than done.
This path can be filled with bumps, sharp turns, and even dead ends. You will probably spend half your time trying to reach the appropriate contact person and the other half searching for funds, but don’t give up. Remain persistent and keep working hard. I believe both of these issues will get better over time.
It has been nine months since the 2016 Summer Olympic games. Many Olympians have jumped right back into the groove of preparing for meets, including Liberia’s very own. Since the beginning of 2017 Emmanuel Matadi has competed in four meets.
Matadi ran the 100 meter race in 9.96s (+3.0 wind) at the Longhorn Invitational in Austin, Texas at Myers Stadium on April 29, 2017. This time ranks him at number six under Wind Assisted Marks on IAAF’s website. We wish him continued success!
Check out Matadi’s 200 meter race at the Grenada Invitational below.
Few professional athletes are blessed enough to gain national support and sponsorship, allowing them to focus solely on the grueling competition process. Others have to muster up the time and money to train, travel, and compete. Many Liberians find themselves in the latter group. In between full-time jobs, some Liberian athletes have the energy to not only train and compete, but also win. Their victories matched with the minimal support they often receive makes their medals even more impressive.
In August 2016, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved five new sports to debut at the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan. They are baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing, and surfing. The decision to add these sports are the product of a two year process to refocus the Olympics with innovation, flexibility, and youth development in mind.
“The five sports are an innovative combination of established and emerging, youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games.”
Thomas Bach – IOC President
One of these sports in particular has been emerging in Liberia, since 2005. Surfing. Yes, you read that correctly. However, you won’t hear Liberians saying, “surfs up.” To Liberians surfing is known as “sliding” on the water.
Liberians proudly shout “Team LIB,” year round. It’s the unofficial abbreviation for all things Liberian. In the past, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) assigned Lebanon the LIB country code. Why? Because of France. Between 1920 and 1943, the French held Lebanon under colonial rule and redefined the area. They stretched its borders into parts of Syria and renamed the country Le Liban.
From 1964 to 2016, Lebanon used the LIB code at the Olympics, but it looks as though that will soon change. The third and current abbreviation for the Lebanese Olympic Committee is LBN. That releases the LIB code. Why let a good code go to waste?
We’re not sure how Olympic team coding works, but here are five reasons the IOC should exchange Liberia’s LBR code for LIB.
At LIB Olympic Blog, we hope to see Liberia’s presence at the Olympic Games expand, but we’re not looking for just any representation. We are looking for the “cream of the crop.” We desire to watch competitive Liberian athletes perform on the world’s stage. After all, we believe that sports unite us.
Here is our first list of Liberian athletes around the globe to watch. Consider this our Liberia Olympic Team wishlist.
In track and field, relay races are one of the most highly anticipated events. Comprised of four runners (legs), they each must seamlessly pass the baton within the exchange zone to insure the last leg crosses the finish line for the win. Counting steps for the exchange zone is imperative. Practicing the baton release requires a rhythm: 1, 2, 3 … STICK. 1, 2, 3 … STICK! In the same way that relay runners pass the baton, two Liberian athletes have made the bold decision to pass the baton to aspiring athletes in Liberia.
Liberian Sprinter Phobay Kutu-Akoi.
Liberian Heptathlete Maya Neal (Image taken from IL.Milesplit.com).