When 15-year-old Deshanna Skeete won gold in the girls 400M at the South American Youth Games in Chile, on the surface it seemed like just another first place and medal for Guyana, but, for Skeete’s mother Nicketa Weekes, it was ‘pay back’ for her hours of walking around the community of Linden, asking for donation to help realise her daughter’s dream.
Apart from competing at this year’s Inter-Guiana Games (IGG) in Suriname, the South American Youth Games was Skeete’s first real taste of International competition and the Mackenzie High School (MHS) student introduced herself to the world in a rather ‘historic’ fashion.
The South American Youth Games, held every four years, never heard the Guyana National Anthem until Saturday October 7, 2017, given the fact that Guyana had never won gold at the event.
After crossing the finish line with a time of 57.28 seconds to finish ahead of Brazil’s Jessica Moreira (57.54) and Ecuador’s Andreina Valencia (58.81), Skeete palmed her face as tears started to flow. Those tears, however, came with a sorrowful story behind it.
Upon her return, Skeete told Chronicle Sport that while she was happy to make Guyana proud, her medal actually belongs to her mother in recognition of her sacrifice and tireless effort to ensure she stay the course and rise above her personal challenges.
Skeete’s mother, Nicketa, said “I would walk around Linden, begging people to help because there’s no other way for her to really be able to run and get a chance to live her dreams of representing this country.”
After attending the Wisburg Secondary School, Skeete would continuously excel academically with grades in the 90s, and, in recognising her gifted athletic ability, the Region 10 Department of Education transferred her to MHS to enable her to be better educated.
However, the move, according to Weekes, came with its share of financial burden. “When she moved to MHS, it became even harder, because we live in Wismar, so it wasn’t much to send her to school at Wisburg, but now, I have to find an extra passage to cross the river, then, she has training in the afternoons and lessons, because school is important to her.”
Over three years ago, Deshanna lost her father. Her father’s death was a devastating blow as the athlete put it, but it also left her mother to cater for six children alone and one of whom is gifted beyond her own imagination.
Thanks to the Community Organised for the Restoration of the Environment (CORE) Programme; an initiative of the Coalition Government, Skeete’s mother is able to have an income, but the woman said it’s barely enough to maintain the family and take care of an athlete.
“I make GUY$23,700 (EC$339.00) a month and that’s not enough to even take care of us, much less to send her to represent Guyana. I walk around this place, asking people for help, some of them will tell you all sort of things, but I know what it means to Deshanna,” said Weekes.
She added “When she was going to Suriname, I had to find money to get her stuff to travel. Then, when she was going to Chile, same thing and I know she has to eat right. Every time she travels, it’s expensive and it’s hard; trust me, it’s very hard.”
“They want these athletes to bring back medals and do Guyana well, but they don’t look out for them otherwise. Since when she broke the national record last year, I reached out to people to help because this means a lot to her, that’s all she talks about and dream about and it is only right that the people in power do something to help these athletes.”
Weekes said the Mayor of Linden, Carwyn Holland, is among those who would assist from time-to-time, but she had reached out to Director of Sport, Christopher Jones, for his intervention, but nothing was done.
Meanwhile, Weekes noted she was disheartened by the reception her daughter received upon her return to Guyana and more so Linden, since her medal will forever be remembered as Guyana’s first at the games, which only comes around once every four years, just like the Olympics.
“Things like these really frustrate athletes, and parents. Come on, some people don’t know the sacrifices us parents make to send our children to these events, because the Government and those in charge don’t do anything for them, everything is on the parents.”
It is Weekes’ hope that President David Granger could intervene to help athletes like her daughter and ease the burden of parents like her. (Rawle Toney/guyanachronicle.com)