Bermuda is sending its weakest team to the Olympics in a long time.

That's an honest assessment from two men who should know - Michael Cherry and Austin Woods.

Many times you can get stats to prove your point, but in this case the numbers don't lie.

The six athletes confirmed to represent the island in Beijing, after yesterday's qualification deadline is Bermuda's third smallest team, only one of them qualified for the Olympics (Jillian Terceira - see separate story on page 60 about her stunning reversal of fortune); and none of them have a reasonable hope of winning a medal.

Cherry, who is the Bermuda Olympic Association's vice-president, said: "We have to be realistic. We'll be there to represent Bermuda well and be looking for some personal bests.

"Only, one of the competitors, and that was the equestrian, reached the qualifying standard. The other five didn't - they got invitations. If that's the indication of our strength, then unfortunately it's not looking good but at least we'll be there."

He added that Bermuda has never been in the position before of having just one athlete qualify.

"Historically we have had stronger teams. There was always someone in there who could come away with some sort of recognition, but it's not looking that healthy this year."

Cherry said Bermuda's best hope lay with Tyrone Smith in the long jump, but even then, Smith would have to pull off 'a phenomenal jump" just to make the finals.

Cherry lamented that Bermuda has to face the fact this may be the wave of the future for island teams, with the qualifying standards getting tougher and tougher.

But he said there were some things we could to improve for the future.

"What we have to do is start at the bottom and work our way up from the CAC Games, Pan American Games and Commonwealth Games. It's a four-year cycle. People can't expect to come along at the last minute and do well - not that these athletes did that."

He said the Junior Olympics and Junior Commonwealth Games would help develop athletes over a longer period of time.

He said Government could help by finally building the 50-metre pool so the swimmers could train in an Olympic-sized facility.

Woods, who served as BOA president from 1988 to 2000, took a slightly bleaker view. He said the island better get used to having teams of this calibre because the rest of the world has passed us by.

"It's getting more and more difficult to make the Olympic team unless you've been out there for a while competing and training."

Woods said we shouldn't be surprised as he forecast eight years ago Bermuda was going to be in this position.

"There is no surprise in terms of the number - that's the minimum quota set out by the IOC. The days of having 12 people going to the Olympic Games are gone for Bermuda.

"The days of the Brian Wellmans, Nicky Saunders are gone. We don't have those people any more."

He says Bermuda is lacking quality coaches and quality administrators to help groom those types of athletes.

Woods said Government has to work with sporting bodies to upgrade those two areas.

"If you are going to depend on people who are part time or wishy-washy, we aren't ever going to be able to produce anything. They have to be out there four to eight years or they might as well forget it."

Woods said a cash infusion along the lines of what cricket and football is not the answer.

"Throwing money at it is not the solution," he said. "If you had money when Nicky and Brian were competing, we would have had some medals at the world stage. Now we're throwing money at no talent."

He said there were only two or three athletes, like Keira Aitken, who have dedicated their whole lives to their sport, in which money could make a difference.

He cited track and field as being a large organization but it's a 'big laugh' that no athlete qualified and could only get in on a wild card.

"We used to have track athletes who used to qualify on their own right and didn't have to rely on the quota."