Minister of Sports, Stephen Lashley, and and??Daria Sharapova of Belarus testing out a??tennis racket, while President of the Barbados Tennis Association, Dr. Raymond Forde, and Director of the National Sports Council, Erskine King, look on.??(Image: Bernard Babb)

Barbados’ new Minister of Sports, Stephen Lashley, is insisting that sports is of invaluable importance to the island’s economy and has promised that Government would redouble its efforts to collaborate with stakeholders in that area.

He made the comments today while delivering the feature address at the opening of the Barbados Junior International 2010 Championships at the National Tennis Centre in wildey.

Mr. Lashley told the competitors: "We [Government] will pursue initiatives that are designed to make sports more attractive to businesses and individuals, as we seek to raise the profile of our sports both nationally and internationally. Moreover, we will continue to provide the requisite training and competitive opportunities that will provide

the preparatory foundation for our athletes to become world leaders in their respective disciplines."

The Minister commended the Barbados Tennis Association on its Schools Tennis Initiative Development Programmes, which cater to students from primary and secondary institutions across the island. He said he hoped that the venture would be conducive to inculcating a culture of sports as a profession, as government sought to elevate it to world-class standards.

Mr. Lashley gave the assurance that his Ministry would continue to focus its energies on helping young people realise their dreams in sports.

Additionally, he expressed the view that the time was ripe for Barbados to set its sight on hosting an International Open Tennis Championship, noting it would signal the island’s ability to stage world-class events.

Mr. Lashley congratulated all the tennis athletes who have been excelling locally and internationally and singled out rising star, Darian King, who also reached a new high of # 69 in the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) World Junior rankings.??

The one-week tennis event is a grade four competition, sanctioned by the ITF, and the Minister indicated it would stimulate the interest of young players, exposing them to a high standard of tennis.

He continued: "It allows Barbadian players in our under-18 and under-14 divisions to participate in an international competition, right here at home. In addition, these championships facilitate the fostering of invaluable and lasting friendships and

collaborations, through which you may derive new and innovative strategies towards your growth and development."

Athletes from 28 countries, including Belarus, Canada, Ecuador, Grenada, Italy, Lithuania, Lebanon, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, are competing in the championships.

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