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Shafiqua Maloney speaking on SportMax in February.
Shafiqua Maloney speaking on SportMax in February.
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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has pledged his government’s support for Shafiqua Maloney, the US-based Vincentian athlete who on Feb. 10 made the Olympic standard for the 800m even as she was homeless for several months over the last year, struggled to buy food and supplements and has not paid her coaches for years.

Maloney, 24, broke her national record in the 800 metres when she ran 1:58.69 at the 2024 Tyson Invitational in Arkansas, United States and met the 2024 Paris Olympic Games entry standard of 1:59.30.

But many Vincentians were shocked when she told SportsMax of the challenges she has been encountering while pursuing her professional athlete dream.

Speaking in Kingstown on Friday, Gonsalves congratulated Maloney on her “excellent performance”, which he said had “just come to the national attention from yesterday particularly since our interview with SportsMax”, a programme out of Jamaica.

He, however, said that while he did not know then that she had a race in a few days, he had asked at Cabinet on Feb. 7 for an update on a request for help for Maloney and another US-based Vincentian athlete.

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The prime minister said he spoke to Maloney Friday morning “to congratulate her and to thank her for all her gifts and more importantly for her own perseverance and the development of her skills and to commit to her the support of the Government of St. Vincent and Grenadines to the Olympics”.

He said he discussed “many, many things with her which I don’t have to talk about here”.

Gonsalves, who has been prime minister since March 2001, said Maloney came to his attention “just over 11 years ago”, when she was 13 and a student at the Thomas Saunders Secondary School in Kingstown.

He said Michael “Lord Have Mercy” Ollivierre, an athletics coach and calypsonian, had gone to see him about Maloney.

“I don’t think he was the coach there. And he thought that if she stayed here, she would not develop as well,” Gonsalves said, adding that Maloney’s parents were overseas at the time.

Shafiqua Maloney
Shafiqua Maloney in her record-setting run.

He said Ollivierre indicated to him that there was a lady who was in St. Vincent from Jamaica, who was involved in athletics and had gone and stationed in St. Kitts.

“He said he wanted her to go there and for assistance to help her to settle in and assistance on an ongoing basis.”

Gonsalves said he told Ollivierre that he needed notarised documents from Maloney’s mother, which he received.

The prime minister said he then called his St. Kitts and Nevis counterpart, Denzel Douglas and give him all the relevant information and ask him to “assign somebody to keep an eye out for me.

“And that was there and Mercy … will give me reports from time to time and then that relationship fractured.”

The prime minister said the next thing he knew was that Maloney had gone to the Olympics and “had a difficulty in the heats.

“The next occasion that I knew anything was it late 2022 when a request came to assist her for the first year to the tune of approximately 35,000 US for the first year. And naturally put it through all the various systems and nothing can come off it. All kinds of different reasons,” Gonsalves said.

“And I believe the systems through which it was put by the ministry would probably have been the local entities responsible for Olympics and the association.”

He said he subsequently understood that Maloney had a visa issue, adding that he did not want to go into all the details but was just showing what his government “knew of it”.

The prime minister said that on Friday morning, his wife, Eloise Gonsalves, showed him Maloney’s interview with SportsMax.

“I listened to her. And I knew her and knew of her and said to Eloise, ‘This young lady has gone through a lot. And she is deserving of the full support of the Government of St. Vincent Grenadines in going forward.’”

Gonsalves said that when he heard Maloney speak in the interview about her reliance on God, he told his wife that “the Lord works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform”.

Ralph Gonsalves
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves speaking in Kingstown on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024.

The prime minister said he did not know when he raised with the Minister of Sports, Frederick Augustus Stephenson at Cabinet on Feb. 7 — three days before Maloney’s record-breaking race — about an update on a request for assistance for Maloney and Handel Roban, another US-based Vincentian athlete.

“I didn’t know then that she had a big race on the Saturday. … this morning, I asked Gustus if when I spoke to him if he knew, he said no. Nobody told him; nobody in the association. Nobody told him about this race. But as I told Shafiqua this morning, when I spoke to her, … only the future is ours to desecrate….

“She told me many things this morning, which is not in my place to talk, about many emails which she sent to certain people and so on and so. I’m not going through all of that. Because I don’t want any controversy to attend this talented young lady.

“All I want to know is that in going forward between now and the Olympics, we help to take care of this young lady and see that she gets what is reasonably required. She told me a number which I wouldn’t reveal between now and August. I told her to send me the details.”

In her interview, Maloney spoke about an issue with her US visa, which, if not resolved, will see her barred from re-entering the United States, if she leaves to attend the Paris Olympics.

Gonsalves said he told Maloney to send him “all what has happened to see if at a particular level — … There’s a new [US] ambassador who may be able to make some representation…

“But she’s (Maloney) waiting on certain words. And we’ll see how that goes.”

The prime minister said that he also received information from the Eastern Caribbean Group of Companies indicating that it wanted to engage in possibly a sponsorship deal with Maloney.

“And I said, I’m sure we can do something together not only for her, but also for Dandal Roban, who is not in the same situation. But you know, but he needs support, too. And he had sent something also” Gonsalves said.

“I want to say this, as you might have heard me repeat this over and over again, when athletes go overseas, it is important that the athletes themselves, their coaches, the Athletics Association, the Olympic Committee, keep in touch with the government, through the Ministry of Sports. So that we will know what is happening, what times you are doing, what structures, what systems you are involved in, we can’t do this thing on an ad hoc basis.”

One reply on “Record-breaking athlete’s interview about hardships in US spurs SVG govt into action”

  1. Rhona Belle Vue says:

    Very good PM in your great effort and assistance in helping , you are a loving and caring person , my heart moved because I rad and watched hee interview and it was very heartbreaking, so very appreciative of kind love showing .

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