The 30th Anniversary of the ITF Junior Coca-Cola Tennis Tournament was celebrated in grand style Monday evening as government ministers, the Mayor of Castries, sports personalities, officials with the main sponsor and over 200 players worldwide attended this momentous occasion at the St Lucia National Tennis Centre.
Managing Director of Du Boulay’s Bottling Company Limited (bottlers of Coca-Cola), Dunstan Du Boulay along with his wife Jane, continue being the driving force behind this prestigious tournament which has prospered through tough economic times.
After welcoming everyone Du Boulay said: “Today is just not a significant and historic milestone in the promotion and development of sports tennis in particular in St Lucia, but also a most historic and gratifying moment in time for the Du Boulay’s Bottling and Coca-Cola, for having withstood the test of time and the ever increasing cost of sponsorship, occasioned by unfavourably global economic circumstances, to be proud sponsors of this important and prestigious event for 30 consecutive years. This is by any measure an unparalleled and phenomenal accomplishment.”
Through the years the company in addition to this tournament has also sponsored Castries Cricket. Never been one to trumpet their good deeds, Du Boulay said “personal accolade has never been of any interest to us. Rather, investing in the interest of our youth and building a healthier nation through sports, has always been and continues to be our utmost priority.”
Du Boulay pointed out the tournament was conceived in 1983 with assistance from his wife Jane along with former SLTA officials Reginald Cherebin and Johnny Easter and the late Romanus Lansiquot who at the time was the Minister of Sports.
Minister of Commerce, Emma Hippolyte, who maintains a close relationship with the SLTA thanked the association for their effort in the development of tennis and young people and said “the organization, governance and the structure of this body [SLTA] is worthy of emulation.”
On behalf of the SLTA President, Stephen McNamara, thanked Du Boulays Bottling Company and said: “We have been proud partners of theirs throughout this journey. What I think is fairly significant, is that we have every expectation that Du Boulay’s Bottling Company will probably be sponsoring this tournament for another 30 years. It has been a great ride thus far and the association looks forward to this continuing for many years.”
Minister for Youth Development and Sports, Shawn Edward, underlined the importance of this competition. “As government we continue to give greater impetus to sports tourism. It is tournaments like this one that will bring forth the growth that our country so badly needs in this period of economic crisis.”
He congratulated the SLTA for the manner they administer their sport which he referred to “as a model of what associations at the national level should be.”
In closing Edward said “on behalf of the government and the ministry I wish everyone a successful tournament and I hereby declare the 2013 Coca-Cola ITF Tennis Tournament officially open.”
Following his remarks there was a brief presentation ceremony with MC, Sports Personality and Cricket Commentator Joseph “Reds” Perreria introducing the chief honouree with the following words: “There are some things which must be done to honour someone who has made a significant contribution to tennis in this country and I speak of Vernon Lewis.”
Lewis who is a three time Sportsman of the Year, is one of if not the best tennis player St Lucia has produced. To this day he still plays at dizzying height. Recently Lewis was named by the ITF as one of the outstanding players worldwide, whose has played in the most Davis Cup ties. In recognition of this momentous achievement, Lewis received a special award from the SLTA. Prior to the presentation there was a video clip highlighting his impressive career.
In his acceptance speech, Lewis who is referred to as the “Ageless Wonder” thanked the association and dedicated the award to someone he has always looked up to – The late Arthur Ashe.
“He made a difference,” said Lewis. “He was a gentleman. He always exemplified great character, never cheated and helped numerous young people all over the world.”
In dedicating the award to Ashe, Lewis went on to say: “I want to encourage young people who played here and all the stakeholders in tennis and sport that our goal as sports people and administrators to use it for the greater good of everyone.”
Another individual Lewis looks up is Star Publisher and bodybuilding great Rick Wayne. Lewis said: “We tend to look at him as a political activist and great journalist, but I have always looked at him as our greatest sportsman.
Our first world champion and he has been my yardstick and maybe that’s why I am still playing at this age.”
Wayne who was the guest of honour excited his young audience with a motivational speech on what it takes to be a champion which will be featured in Saturday’s Star Newspaper.
Awards were also presented to Du Boulay’s Bottling Company Limited from the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports SLTA for their contribution to tennis. Manager of the National Tennis Centre, Ricardo Bowe and his wife Flores received appreciation plaques for their contribution to this tournament along with Head Official Anthony Jamison.