Aug. 31, 2004 – No medals are being carried back to the territory, but Virgin Islanders have every reason to be proud of the athletes who represented them in the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, Sen. Ronald Russell said Tuesday.
Russell, who is president of the V.I. Track and Field Federation, attended the games as a part of the V.I. delegation and in the company of his family.
Six athletes participated in the games on behalf of the territory: Adrian Durante and Laverne Jones in track and field, George Gleason and Joshua Laban in swimming, Timothy Pitts in sailing and Chris Rice in shooting.
"I was extremely pleased with their performances," Russell said. "They were very deserving of the opportunity to represent the Virgin Islands, and they did their best."
Russell said Jones missed making the semifinals in her event, the 400-meter race, by a fraction of a second. She placed 17th in the qualifying heat; the first 16 finishers advanced.
The best-known V.I. athlete competing at the Olympics was Tim Duncan, but he was representing the United States, not the Virgin Islands — as a member of the U.S. basketball team. The team won the bronze medal, with Argentina and Italy taking home the gold and silver, respectively.
Russell said he mostly attended track and field events and didn't get to see Duncan play.
"The 28th Olympiad was one of the most successful and well-organized games that I have had the privilege to attend," he said in a release.
Russell said since he attended the games in his capacity as president of the Track & Field Federation, the V.I. Olympic Committee sponsored his plane ticket. His said he paid for the travel costs for his wife and his five children who also made the trip.
As a government representative, Russell said, he was "treated like royalty" at the games. He and his wife received special passes to all the events and were seated in sections designated for government officials from around the world. His children also received passes to some of the day events, he said.
The St. Croix senator said he made use of the opportunity to promote the territory, handing out mugs and other items from the Virgin Islands and encouraging the other government officials to visit the territory.
Overall, his experience in Athens was enriching, Russell said. "It strengthened my belief that as human beings we're all one," he said, adding that the 2004 Olympic Games were among the best he has attended. And he has attended a lot of them, in two instances as a competitor.
He participated in track and field events for the Virgin Islands at the 1976 and 1984 games. And since he first attended in 1976, he said, he has only missed two Summer Olympics Games.
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