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Shafiqua Maloney in her record-setting run in February.
Shafiqua Maloney in her record-setting run in February.
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Shafiqua Maloney, the Vincentian athlete who broke her national record in the 800 metres when she ran 1:58.69 at the 2024 Tyson Invitational in Arkansas, United States, on Saturday, has spoken about the challenges she faces as she pursues her professional athlete dream. 

In running 1:58.69, Maloney, 24, also met the 2024 Paris Olympic Games entry standard of 1:59.30 and a GoFundMe account has been set up to help her finance her dream.

Maloney told SportsMax that she was homeless for several months over the last year and has not paid her coaches for years. 

At the same time, she said that the national athletics group in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has said that it has no money to help her to pursue her dreams. 

“I’ve been homeless for like couple of months. … especially last year, I was bouncing around from home to home. Right now, I live in like a dorm situation. So, I’m happy for these people who allow me to stay here right now. But it’s been hard,” she said, referring to the University of Arkansas. 

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She said that she is largely supported by her parents, including her mother, who works on a cruise ship and also has to take care of two younger children with her meagre earnings. 

And despite her stellar performance, Maloney might not be able to leave the United States to take part in the Paris Olympic Games.

Maloney said that if she leaves the United States, she would not be allowed to return, pending approval of her application for an O-1 visa that would allow her to remain in the United States as an individual with extraordinary ability or achievement.

Maloney said she “recently” applied for the visa. 

“And that has cost me $8,500, which my mom has been sacrificing everything she has,” she said, adding that her mother works on a cruise ship and does not get paid much. 

“And she has two younger kids to take care of. So, every month, she has been trying to help me pay for that.”

Shafiqua Maloney 2
Shafiqua Maloney speaking on SportMax.

There is an EC$2,500 fee that an applicant can pay to expedite the O-1 process and get a response in 15 days.

“… but I could barely afford the lawyer fees. I haven’t been able to pay the expedited fee,” Maloney said.  

Maloney said her coach had told her since December that she could run sub-two and even make the Olympic standard. 

“But I didn’t think it was gonna be that early. But it happened. I was in disbelief because that week was hard for me mentally,” she said, speaking of the week leading up to her record-setting run.

She said she spent even more time in prayer and reading the Bible.

“And … that race is just the epitome of how good the Lord has been to me. Without him, that weekend would not have been possible at all. He has been keeping me these past few years, honestly,” Maloney said.

“I can’t even find the words to describe how just seeing how good the Lord has been to me.”

Maloney said that every week is tough for her

“I’m on sponsored; I don’t have any support. I can’t work legally; I don’t have any income,” she said, adding, “So …, trying to figure out where your next food is gonna come from. 

“If I have my mom or dad or I get some money from somebody, it’s like, ‘Do I pay bills or buy supplements? Do I get some groceries? Or do I go get me a massage and see the chiropractor?’

“So …, certain days it’s easier. And some days it’s not. In that week everything was hitting a little bit harder?”

Maloney said she has been sending emails to athletics officials in SVG “probably since 2021”, adding that after she graduated from the University of Arkansas in 2021, she signed up for a programme that allowed her to work for a year in her field of study. 

“And that’s how I was able to fund my 2022 season. And it was hard because I was working 60 hours a week plus training, and I was even surprised I ran 1:59; I didn’t even know I had that in me.

“And that day, when I crossed, I cried and I cried. And unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to go to the World Championships last year. It was not. But, with regards to my association and the Olympic Committee, from what they’ve been telling me is that they don’t have the funds to support an athlete of my calibre. So …, I’m not into where funding comes from.”

Maloney was grateful to her coach, who she said she has not paid for three years. 

“I don’t think a lot of people realise how much goes into being a professional athlete, especially in the US,” she said.

“I’m from the Caribbean. If I need some food, I can’t go over to my grandma’s house and be like ‘I’m hungry. Can I get some food?’ or whatever the case is. When you’re up here, most of the time you’re on your own; from coaching fee — like I have not paid my coach in three years or so. 

“And, you know, this is America, if folks don’t get paid, they’re not gonna work  and so a lot of kudos to my coach for sticking with me despite everything.

“And, he’s not in it for the money. He saw the talent and what I am capable of, and for him to be able to work with me, despite not being able to pay him and stuff because I would like to pay my coach, he sacrifices a lot.” 

Despite the challenges, Maloney is pursuing a dream that she has had ever since she learnt about Vincentian athlete Keneke Alexander, a sprinter who represented SVG in the 400m event at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics.

“Being a professional track athlete has been my goal since I knew who Kineke Alexander was. My dad always told me about Kineke and once I got to running in high school, I was just like, this is what I want to do. Anybody asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I said I want to run. It was very immature and when I got to college, I realised I can’t run forever. 

“So, some changes had to be made. But … I love to run and this is something I wanted to make a career out of. I’ve just been at it no matter the circumstance, especially these past two years. 

4 replies on “Record-breaking Vincy athlete struggling to buy food, pay rent in US”

  1. Donald De Riggs says:

    I truly empathize with this athletic diva, she is definitely made of gold that is currently being refined in the furnace of daily struggle. But her trust and hope in the Almighty will see her through this time of intense pressure.

    I know help will come from unexpected sources, so keep your head high and continue to aim for excellence.

    Nuff respect to the coach who is looking beyond your needs and is focused on your potential and ability.

    Despite the odds, keep going, you will make us all proud, just keep at it and ‘fly’ at the sound of the starting pistol.

    Blessings and guidance.

    Don De Riggs

  2. Urgent Support Needed for Record-Breaking Vincy Athlete

    Dear Minister of Tourism Mr. Carlos James,

    I am writing to bring your immediate attention to the incredible achievements and challenges faced by Shafiqua Maloney, the Vincentian athlete who recently broke her national record in the 800 meters at the 2024 Tyson Invitational in Arkansas.

    Shafiqua Maloney’s remarkable performance not only shattered her national record but also met the entry standard for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. However, her journey towards fulfilling her dreams has been marred by numerous obstacles. She has struggled to finance her athletic pursuits, faced months of homelessness, and has been unable to pay her coaches for years.

    As the Minister of Tourism, you have the power and responsibility to make a difference in the lives of our talented athletes. I urge you to take immediate action and allocate a portion of the country’s sale, marketing, and PR budget to provide the necessary support for Shafiqua Maloney. It is crucial that we show solidarity and put our full weight behind her.

    Furthermore, I call upon the citizens of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to rally behind our athletes. We should not be begging external companies for support when it is our duty as a nation to uplift and empower them. Let us stand united and demonstrate our unwavering support for Shafiqua Maloney and all our athletes who represent the pride and potential of our country.

    Minister James, I implore you to put politics aside and prioritize the well-being and success of our athletes. By investing in Maloney’s future, we not only provide her with the resources she needs but also showcase the indomitable spirit and talent of our nation on the global stage. This is an opportunity for St. Vincent and the Grenadines to shine and leave an everlasting impact.

    I expect prompt and decisive action from you, Minister James. Advocate for the allocation of funds, rally support from fellow government officials, and mobilize our tourism industry to back our athletes. Together, let us ensure that Shafiqua Maloney receives the support she deserves. The time for action is now.

    I trust in your commitment to the development of sports in our beloved country. Let us seize this moment to make a lasting difference in the life of this extraordinary athlete and set an example for future generations.

    Thank you for your immediate attention and relentless dedication to the progress of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.



  3. Situation is very dire however as someone who was involved in Sports a Administration for over 30 years there should be some area where the Corporate section of the Vincentians Society can be approached to assist along with the National Lottery in this situation. I know that the Athletics Association and the Olympic Committee of SVG don’t sponsor Scholarships but assist where they can and facilitate in areas where they can point towards getting sponsorship.With regards to the Olympic Games the National Olympic Committee is responsible for participation and as long as an Athlete is selected by the National Association the Olympic Committee is then responsible for participation. I hope that everything works out favourably and Ms Maloney is able to overcome ALL obstacles and her participation is made possible. Finally let’s keep Politics out of the situation.

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