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Queens Baton Relay
14 April 2014 Last updated at 11:21 ET

'Commonwealth Games is the pinnacle of my career'

Joe Chapman Joe Chapman, with the Queen's Baton

At the age of 15, Joe Chapman from British Virgin Islands was the youngest ever squash player to compete at the Commonwealth Games.

Now 23, he has turned professional and is training hard for his third Games in Glasgow this summer.

"For me, the Commonwealth Games is the pinnacle of my career and more important than any of my pro tournaments," said Joe.

"Because the Commonwealths are recognised throughout sports and across generations by people who don't know squash, maybe wouldn't understand a British Open title, or a World Championship title. But they would understand a medal at the Commonwealth Games.

"And also, there are fewer opportunities to perform at your best. You have one shot."

Start Quote

Once you get to the point where you are not being challenged in your home country, you need to start seeking out better players.”

End Quote Joe Chapman on competing at the Commonwealth Games

Squash is a 'core sport' that takes place at every Games. For Joe and other players, the Commonwealth title is one of the most coveted in the sport.

Joe added: "Coming from a small territory has been to my advantage as I have been able to go and compete internationally from a younger age.

"It is important to not think about how big the other countries are, or how big the talent pools they have to choose from - rather, to focus on yourself.

"At the end of the day, players from the big countries are individuals as well, and so it just takes a bit of confidence to say 'I am going to get to that level, and I don't care how hard it is'.

"I chose squash, because it was the sport (growing up) that I thought was the most challenging, had all the components to it: It has technique, it has fitness and it is a very thoughtful sport.

"Tortola (on the British Virgin Islands) is a very small island. So team sports aren't as relevant, because there isn't so many people, so you really have to pick an individual sport."

Joe is currently ranked 108th in the world and been competing on the professional tour since graduating from a US college last year.

"You need to be where the best players in the world are," he added. "So once you get to the point where you are not being challenged in your home country, whatever age that is, you need to start seeking out better players.

"Because of our proximity to the US and because of the importance that US colleges put on sport, that is a great avenue for young athletes from the British Virgin Islands.

"England right now is dominant within the Commonwealth, they took gold, silver and bronze in the men's at the last Commonwealth, and all three of them are top ten in the world."

However, Joe is not worried about the English favourites. He is once again looking forward to representing his island nation, with hopes of upsetting the odds in Glasgow.


Meet Zharnel Hughes' dad

Howell Hughes

In the world of athletics, all eyes are on 18-year-old Zharnel Hughes.

A few weeks ago, he ran 10.12 seconds in the 100m of the prestigious Jamaican Inter-Secondary Schools Boys and Girls Athletics Championships - beating a record held by sprinting superstar Yohan Blake.

Start Quote

"He always had that pace. From the age of 12, I figured he would make the top.”

End Quote Howell Hughes

As the Queen's baton travelled through his homeland of Anguilla, I hailed a cab driven by his father Howell. Now the most famous taxi driver on the small island, he laughs that he is no longer known as Howell and only as Zharnel's dad.

We stop for a coffee and I look up Zharnel's record breaking race from 28th March so we can watch it together. Within a week of being posted online, this clip has had over 33,000 views.

As Zharnel strides to victory, his father sits back with a deep, long laugh.

"It's not surprising to me - from an early age he was fast. We would often go to the beach and have a race, sometimes I beat him, sometimes he beat me.

"He always had that pace. From the age of 12, I figured he would make the top."

Like Usain Bolt, Zharnel is not the fastest out of the blocks, but at the 50m mark he strides out and finds another gear while the field fade around him.

Zharnel Hughes (L) beat Yohan Blake's 100m record when he won the Schools Championships last weekend. Zharnel Hughes (l) beat Yohan Blake's 100m record at the Schools Championships

It was a staggering run for a schoolboy.

Anguilla measures sixteen miles by three miles and there is only one grass running track on the island which Zharnel first trained on. The teenager now trains in Jamaica at the High Performance Centre, next to Bolt and Blake.

His dad explained: "From an early age, he was the fastest of his friends, the fastest on the island. He is a natural talent. Growing up there wasn't a chance for him to leave Anguilla, so now he is getting established he is getting to travel."

Howell is the most laid back man I have met in the Caribbean, which is really saying something.

He is proud of his son's style: "He is very relaxed. After the race he doesn't brag or anything. If you notice after some races he puts his fingers across his lips, which I think is his way of saying don't talk too much and just keep calm.

"I think a lot of people will be inspired by my Zharnel."

Howells has one final bit of fatherly advice for his talented son. "One step at a time, keep relaxed, and keep the party flame going."


Saint Kitts and Nevis to make table tennis debut in Glasgow

Saint Kitts and Nevis table tennis team Saint Kitts and Nevis table tennis team, with Andre (far left), Kevin (far right) and Angelisa

Eighteen-year-old Angelisa Freeman and her 19-year-old brother Andre are preparing for the competition of their lives at Glasgow 2014, as they form part of the first ever table tennis team from Saint Kitts and Nevis.

In a part of the world where most young people grow up dreaming of becoming sprinters or cricketers, the pair are inspiring a new generation of players.

The St Peters Community Centre is a modest, white washed concrete building, just big enough for two table tennis tables. The Saturday morning session is busy with about 20 youngsters, all training with and aspiring to be like their national stars, Angelisa and Andre, who are still teenagers themselves.

Kevin Hope, the President of the Saint Kitts and Nevis table tennis association, was there. He explained: "Since the first Caribbean Junior Championships held in Saint Kitts and Nevis in 2009, Angelisa and Andre have competed at the national level and we have been able to push the progress of these two young athletes.

"We feel it is now time to give them that bigger exposure at the Commonwealth Games and to prepare them as future Olympians."

Kevin also paid tribute to Laverne Merritt, who passed away on March 26th this year. He believes Laverne was a table tennis trailblazer in Saint Kitts and Nevis who went out into the communities to find and develop new talent.

Coach Calvin Lake, 42, and 15-year-old T'Anje Johnson will make up the four person team at Glasgow 2014. But all expectations are on the siblings, as Kevin explained.

"Angelisa and Andre are quite the pair - when you see them playing in the mixed doubles, that is when you will see where the passion lies. The family love, that they really push each other. And in table tennis you need that partner to challenge you to be better.

"Andre is a bit more on the aggressive side. Angelisa is a bit more of a balanced player. She is conservative, I guess that is her disposition by nature and she would at least keep herself in the game until the opportunity comes to attack."

For all the family rivalry, Angelisa is glad to have her big brother with her.

"It's a family affair so I won't be as nervous (going to Glasgow) as I would be if it was other players. When we play together, it was him normally winning, but now I give him some competition!

Andre and Angelisa Freeman

"Our parents motivate us and keep us focused. I am the only female at this level in Saint Kitts so I have to practice with other guys, which definitely raises my playing standards.

"I think I would like to play professionally and also teach other people, especially females, as there is a lack of female players. For the next few years I certainly be practicing a lot and keeping the sport alive in Saint Kitts."

Andre recalls how he first tried table tennis at a summer camp organised by Merritt.

He added: "We then got to go to Guyana to play for Caribbean juniors and the passion for the game got me, and I wanted to push it a little further, to go out there and make my nation proud.

"When I was growing up I imagined I would compete for my country, but I didn't know which sport. I played lawn tennis, basketball and cricket, but I soon loved table tennis the most, so I abandoned the rest and focused."

Asked what it will be like to face the best in the Commonwealth, Andre remains optimistic. "The big teams are not used to our playing style, so we could still give them a little hiccup as the underdogs."

Kevin, though, remains more cautious. "We will use Glasgow to give them exposure - to get them playing against the Singapores, the Indias, so that they can see the level and we can come back and continue working. Everyone likes a good underdog story.

"But we are going to be realistic, we want our athletes to get out there, to be focused, and to try and avoid making many errors. I am certain we will win points, hopefully a set, but hopefully they will recognise that they have a longer journey to go."

Come win or lose, Andre remains excited. "We all grew up knowing about the Commonwealth Games, but for table tennis in Saint Kitts and Nevis, it is our first time and our honour."


The Flag Man of Antigua and Barbuda

Flag Man of Antigua

I have had the chance to meet some colourful characters on the amazing journey of the Queen's Baton Relay so far, and Hilson Joseph is one of the most memorable yet.

Starting at 6.30am, Hilson - known throughout his country as 'Flag Man' - completed 12 hours of the relay in Antigua, through the streets of the capital St. John and across the island.

Dressed in an amazing bespoke costume and carrying a large Antigua and Barbuda flag, Hilson completed this impressive feat of endurance with ease.

I asked Hilson why he was doing it. "I am a carnival lover", he simply explains while grinning.

"It's love - I love to show my county to the world, this beautiful flag here.

Start Quote

I would love to go to Glasgow - that would be a dream”

End Quote Hilson Joseph

"We are beautiful people, we want everyone to share our lovely beaches and sunshine."

Hilson goes on to explain that he is actually a carpenter, but takes lots of time off work to turn up and support every single sporting event on the island that he can.

It started with cricket, then football and now every national game is in Hilson's sights.

When it comes to Hilson's incredible outfits, he designs each of them and has them made by a friend who is a seamstress.

His attention to detail is wonderful, with the national flag hanging from his earring and Antigua and Barbuda scribbled down the side of his sunglasses.

When it comes to the Commonwealth Games, Antigua and Barbuda will need every bit of support having not won a medal during the seven occasions times they have competed.

"I would love to go to Glasgow - that would be a dream," added Hilson.

Flag Man

Whether he manages to bring some Caribbean colour to the Games or not, he wants the Antigua and Barbuda team to take his message on board.

"I want them to do their best and leave the rest.

"Do a good job for Antigua and Barbuda, and make us proud.

"I am doing it, so they have got to do it for me too. Bring home a medal for us, for the first time."

If Antigua and Barbuda's number one sports fan makes it to Scotland, he will certainly stand out from the crowd.


Saint Lucia looks to Commonwealth Youth Games

Saint Lucia youths prepare for Commonwealth Youth Games

"I want to become the world's fastest man," comments 11-year-old Miguel Charlery, a member of the Rockets Athletics Club in Saint Lucia.

"I would like to make it to the Commonwealth Games and impress everyone. And I would hope to go the Commonwealth Youth Games! It will be great to have a big championship in my own country."

The first step of Miguel's dream of athletics stardom may come true in just three years.

The 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games are coming to the sunny shores of Saint Lucia. They have been held just four times, compared to the Commonwealth Games which will be celebrating their 20th anniversary at Glasgow 2014.

Up to 1000 teenagers, aged between 14 and 18, will compete in eight sports over the space of a week.

Throughout the journey of the Queen's Baton Relay around the Commonwealth, people have talked about the Isle of Man Commonwealth Youth Games which were held in 2011.

It has put that small island on the map with young athletes and sports administrators.

The teams may remember the Games for the horrific weather, with many arriving by boat after flights were cancelled.

Joyce Hall, a coordinator of the Games, recalls how that experience added to the great excitement and atmosphere. While Saint Lucia is almost identical in size to Isle of Man, around 600 sq km (372 sq miles), the Caribbean weather is unlikely to pose similar problems!

Joyce recalled: "I honestly don't believe the island has seen anything like it before. I remember my daughter calling me and she said she has never seen so many colours.

Start Quote

"The Commonwealth Youth Games incorporates a range of sporting disciplines and so for me personally as a former national cricketer I am going to do my best to ensure that cricket is part of the menu."”

End Quote Shawn Edwards Sports Minister of Saint Lucia

"All the athletes had gone out in their different coloured tracksuits. She said it was fantastic to see. Because the athletes were so very young, they brought something a little special to the island. It was a fabulous event to hold."

Richard Peterkin, the International Olympic Committee member from Saint Lucia, explained to me that there were not a lot of people bidding when it came to the Caribbean's turn to host the Commonwealth Youth Games, which is surprising when you compare Saint Lucia's sporting pedigree to its close neighbours of Trinidad and Tobago or Jamaica.

But Saint Lucia were keen for two main reasons. They wanted to show they can host a major international event, and to have a long term programme that will involve youngsters.

Richard explained: "The Commonwealth Youth Games has now proved to a very important stepping stone to start senior athletes at that younger stage."

Shawn Edward, the minister who is in charge of Youth Development and Sports on the island, admits Saint Lucia have not done well at the senior level with no Olympic medals and only a few Commonwealth bronzes to show for their efforts.

As well as developing a new generation of local athletes, Shawn also sees the games as a chance to introduce his national sport alongside the sports of track and field, swimming and netball.

"Cricket remains the lifeblood for the people of the Caribbean," he said.

"The Commonwealth Youth Games incorporates a range of sporting disciplines and so for me personally as a former national cricketer I am going to do my best to ensure that cricket is part of the menu."

Teenage swimmer Thalia Bergesse is one athlete who could benefit from the Commonwealth Youth Games. While she will be over 18 in 2017, meaning she will be too old to compete, she remains excited about the Commonwealth Youth Games and the promise of Saint Lucia's first 50m pool, something that will benefit swimmers of all ages.

This legacy also includes a complete redevelopment of the national track and field stadium. If all goes well, Thalia will still get to cheer on her younger brother and his friends at Saint Lucia's first major sporting event.


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