Monday, January 22, 2018

Don’t ignore our heroes

IT WOULD have been a simple courtesy for Minister of Sport Darryl Smith to acknowledge the letter sent to him by the members of the Trinidad and Tobago gold-medal winning 4x400-metre relay team at the 2017 World Championships in London, England.
For those who may have already forgotten that event, on August 13, the quartet of Jereem Richards, Jarrin Solomon, Machel Cedenio and Lalonde Gordon topped all the major nations with a superb exhibition of teamwork and skill to take the spoils.

Since then, the athletes have been honoured with T&T’s second highest national award, the Chaconia Gold, but not much else has come their way from the powers-that-be.
Hence the reason they decided, along with alternate Renny Quow, to write to Minister Smith and the Government, appealing for the “same level of appreciation and reward as those athletes that have performed well before us”.

That correspondence, dated October 3, 2017, was hand-delivered to the Minister’s office by Mr Cedenio, but up to Wednesday, there was no response.
Now everyone is well aware of the dire straits the country is in at present and the Government certainly can’t give the moon and the stars as in years before, but just an acknowledgment from the Minister would have given these athletes the assurance that their achievements haven’t been swept aside and ignored.

Instead, they had to read the Express on Thursday to find out what is the Sport Ministry’s plan in that regard, whereas prior communication would have eased their anxiety over the perceived lack of appreciation from those calling the shots. Indeed, Minister Smith said the Government is very appreciative of the World Championship victory and he is hopeful that by the end of the year, the relay gold medallists will know how they will be rewarded.

“For the first time in our history, we will have a reward and incentive policy,” said the Minister. “It is in front of Cabinet right now and, once approved, all athletes will know moving forward what to expect for their performances. I’m hoping the policy will be approved before year’s end.”
He said the policy will be applied retroactively and in addition to the 4x4 world champions, 2017 Para Worlds double gold medallist Akeem Stewart, 2015 World Championship men’s 4x4 silver medallists, and women’s 4x100m bronze medallists will benefit.

Now that the plan to establish an official policy is out in the open, we do hope that it will be given the green light by Cabinet without further delay and our World Championship heroes will not be forced into writing another letter seeking answers.

“And to not even have received a thank you at this point is disrespectful,” said Mr Solomon. “The kids coming up behind us need to see a celebration of this kind of achievement as an incentive to keep working towards excellence.”  Our sportsmen and women provide some of the few bright spots in these troubled times for Trinidad and Tobago and we must all encourage them to strive for and achieve even greater feats, backed by our support, rather than ignoring them and seemingly taking them for granted.