The fact that T&T has not been winning medals in the current Olympics has blinded many persons as to how well we are doing in this most international of international events. Granted the phenomenal success of the Jamaicans in the athletic events is a wonderful tribute to that country we need to remember that this is in many ways our best Olympics ever.
Since our first appearance as a nation in the 1948 Olympics T&T this year has more athletes competing in the Olympics than in any other single Olympic games in its history. We have 30 competitors in six separate sports as compared to 2008 when 28 athletes competed in four sports. It means that more athletes than ever before were able to achieve Olympic standard than in any previous year and in a wider variety of sports. Those who presume to say that we are excessively praising our athletes who, but for one at the time of writing, have not won medals simply do not appreciate how well, they have done and continue to do and what they have done for our country by extension.
It seems to me that instead of focusing on the failure to come away with medals it might be of greater value to assess how we performed in previous years and how we performed this year in terms of the variety of disciplines.
In 2008 we made the finals in four athletic events: (two in) the 100 metres; the men's 100 metres relay; and the 400 metres. Richard Thompson won silver in the 100 metres and the T&T team won silver in the men's 100. Marc Burns placed seventh in the 100 metres as did Renny Quow in the 400 metres event. While other athletes reached the quarters and semis in some events, they were not finalists.
Fast forward to 2012. At the time of writing we have reached the finals in nine events and we have done so in three separate sports: athletics, swimming and cycling. So far we have won a bronze medal. On this basis alone therefore T&T can claim to have an outstanding Olympics.
It is useful to consider the variety of events we have excelled in as compared to the last Olympics. In 2008 our achievements were solely in the track events. Richard Thompson did run 9.89 to achieve a silver medal whereas this year he ran 9.96 to seventh place. It is significant to note that in 2008 Marc Burns in placing seventh in the 100 metres ran 10:01 seconds as compared to Thompson's 9.96. Our relay team ran 38:06 in the 100 metres relay. At the time of writing our team has qualified for the relay final.
All our athletes who participated in Beijing and have reached the finals this year but for Thompson have done better than 2008. Kelly-Ann Baptiste made only the quarter finals in 2008 in a time of 11.47 seconds. This week she made it to the finals and finished sixth in a time of 10.94 seconds, a significant improvement.
Semoy Hackett reached the 100 semifinals in a time of 11.26, a distinct improvement in her Beijing time of 11.46, which was good for the quarters only. This Olympics she added the 200 metres to her repertoire and made it to the finals in her first attempt in this event at the Olympics. That is something to be proud of. In 2008 we had no competitor in the women's 200 metres.
George Bovell, although he did not medal this year, made the finals which he had not done in 2008. Although his time of 21.82 in the 50 metres freestyle was slower than his semi-final qualifying time (21.77) he was faster than his performance in the 2008 Olympics.
New qualifiers in track
This year saw T&T advancing to the finals in the 400 metres hurdles which we had been unable to reach in previous Olympiads. Jehue Gordon stunned the national community when he did so with a time of 47.96. He eventually placed sixth in the finals. We also had a man in the 110 metres hurdles in the person of Wayne Davis who made it to the semi-finals whereas in 2008 Mikel Thomas had only made it to the quarters in a slower time.
Our sole medallist (at the time of writing) is previously not widely known Lalonde Gordon who won bronze in the 400 metres in a time of 44.52, a personal best. With Renny Quow injured it was heartening to see another national step up to the plate and excel, getting an Olympic medal in an event in which T&T last medalled in 1964. The inspiration of Gordon no doubt has led to T&T qualifying third behind the Bahamas and the US in the 4 x 400 metres relay for the final, a feat we did not achieve in 2008.
Similarly the T&T women have qualified for the women's 4x100 relay final, placing second in the run offs, interestingly ahead of the Jamaican team who go into this relay finals in fourth place.
As if that were not enough we have for the first time a finalist in a men's field event in the person of 19-year-old Keshorn Walcott. He has made it to the javelin final which takes place today. The variety of talent among T&T's athletes was also displayed convincingly in the performance of Njisane Philip in the cycling sprint event last week. The 21-year-old emerged as hot crowd favourite and made it to the finals where he finished fourth following an exhilarating series of cycling sprints.
T&T athletes have done us proud in these Olympics, excelling in the overall performances of athletes as compared to every Olympic year before in a wider variety of sports and a greater number of events. They deserve every accolade given to them.
* Dana S Seetahal is a former