Jehue Gordon’s golden positive
Jehue Gordon’s gold medal at the IAAF World Championships yesterday could hardly have been better timed for Trinidad and Tobago.
While any success at major athletic events is always a boost to the nation, citizens have been roughly buffeted by events over the past few days. Within the sporting world, the exit of two of the country’s female athletes under a cloud cast an immediate damper on T&T’s participation in the competition. The effects must have been even more disturbing for the T&T athletes, and any loss of focus never bodes well for performance.
Within the world at large, the ongoing spate of almost-daily murders reached a new low this week, with three teenagers, one of them a pregnant 16-year-old girl, being executed by gunmen on Wednesday. It is in this context that 21-year-old Jehue’s victory becomes particularly salient. Two years ago, in an interview with the BBC, Jehue noted that many of the young people he had grown up with in northern Trinidad had not made better lives for themselves. “Shoot-outs. Some are in jail. Some have made children,” he told the BBC reporter. “It’s a really sad sight to see.”
In 2008, his family’s house in Maraval was half-destroyed by a landslide. That incident helped motivate Jehue to develop his athletic talent to the highest level as a means to help his family and himself. Moreover, unlike most T&T athletes who have done well in the international arena, he did not emigrate to North America. Instead, he remained in Trinidad and trained on the sporting grounds here, honing his skills and fitness to reach the elite ranks of world athletes, as well as furthering his education at the University of the West Indies.
His early successes allowed him to become a professional athlete in 2010, getting a deal with Adidas, and now Jehue has topped the world. He is only the second athlete from the Caribbean to win gold in the 400-metres hurdles, after Winthrop Graham from Jamaica in the 1993 championships in Zurich. But Jehue’s win is more than a sporting one, representing as it does the culmination of hard work and ambition by a young man determined to rise above his circumstances.
“You don’t have to limit yourself because of the situation that you’re in,” Jehue said in that 2011 interview. “Because you are from the ghetto doesn’t mean you have to act like you’re in the ghetto. Most people who are into sports are from the ghetto and they’re some of the best people in society.”
Unfortunately, the “ghettoes” also contain the worst elements in our society. But young men like Jehue may help change the environment which brings out those negative qualities.