It was certainly not a fanfare homecoming. There was no motorcade and only a few school children to greet her. Nevertheless Saint Lucia’s world-class high jumper Levern Spencer was delighted to be back here following her arrival on Thursday afternoon at Hewanorra International Airport. A welcoming committee in the VIP lounge included Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, President of the St Lucia Olympic Inc, Fortuna Belrose and other officials.
“It always warms my heart with joy and pride whenever I set foot on Saint Lucian soil at the end of my season,” remarked Spencer. “But this time around, after what feels like the longest season of my entire career, I feel an even greater sense of satisfaction to be back home in the land of my birth. As the old saying goes, and I have said time and time again, there is indeed no place like home.”
Prime Minister Chastanet congratulated Spencer on her success at the Olympics and other events. He considered it a source of motivation: “It should inspire all Saint Lucians and show them we have the capability of competing against the best in the world, and not only just competing, but in winning.”
The Prime Minister mentioned his intention to form a school of excellence that all top athletes could attend. It would include a dormitory for those who have to travel long distances. Chastanet told Spencer: “It is your success that inspires us. The graciousness in which you conduct yourself and the coverage you give to Saint Lucia tells us that athletics is more than just about games; it is a way of life. There are incredible benefits to the destination Saint Lucia in having successful athletes and so I think there is a great opportunity and value here to share your story and let people know success does not come without hard work; it does not come without commitment. There is nobody there except you and those hours you put in during practice that makes the difference. That’s the lesson I want everyone to know, that what prevents from succeeding in many cases is ourselves, our focus and our dedication, and you have shown all of us that you are an inspiration. Thank you.”
There were also brief remarks from IOC member Richard Peterkin; Spencer’s Local Manager, Elder Gregory Dixon; St Lucia Athletics Association Representative, Rena Samuel and Flow Representative Dealfina Jn Baptiste.
Despite having had one of her most successful seasons, having accumulated medals of every colour and placing second in the Prestigious Diamond League, one gets the feeling Spencer’s sixth place finish at the Rio 2016 Olympics was not enough to satisfy Saint Lucians who hungered for bronze, silver and even gold.
Spencer may have felt the weight of a nation on her shoulder when she said: “I breathed a huge sigh of reliefhaving finally concluded what I can call a high pressured season; a season where the expectation of a nation was so great; a situation that is only felt, known and understood by the individual upon whom the expectations rest.” She concluded her speech by thanking everyone for their support throughout the year. She mentioned the Government and people of St Lucia and said, “It is the love and support of many of my people that sometimes carry me over the bar.”
The multi Sportswoman of the Year has since been busy: yesterday she made a courtesy call on His Excellency, Acting Governor General, McDonald Dixon. and another courtesy call on the Mayor of Castries. Then it was off to an official luncheon at Sandals Regency.
Today is dubbed “Meet the Champion” at Constitution Park, where Spencer will meet the public and sign autographs.
On Sunday the Babonneau Youth and Sports Council, in collaboration with Spencer’s management team, plans a motorcade and home-coming ceremony beginning on the Cacaco field at 1:00 pm. After that fans, friends and well-wishers will gather at the Good Shepherd Church in central Babonneau at 4:00 pm for an autograph signing session.
There’s more to come! From September 27 to October 6 is a Champion Tour which involves Spencer visiting schools throughout the island. The series of school tours ends at her Alma Mater, Entrepot Secondary School where a plaque will be unveiled in Spencer’s honour.