Saturday, February 24, 2018

Proper support for best results

Express editorial logo464

Mark Fraser

For the second time in two years, Great Britain was the location for Trinidad and Tobago’s athletes to send the patriotic mercury soaring.

Four medals, including Keshorn Walcott’s golden surprise in the men’s javelin, made London 2012 the most successful Olympic Games in the country’s history.

The city this time was Glasgow, and there was a great sense of anticipation ahead of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. For close to half a century, the T&T benchmark has been nine medals, the 1966 team having set an extremely high standard.

On paper, the Glasgow gang had the potential to surpass that nine-medal haul and, perhaps, even match the five-gold showing of the Kingston crew. But medals are earned on the track, in the field, in the ring, on the shooting range... not on paper.

Eight times in Glasgow, there were podium finishes for T&T athletes.

Reigning champions Olympic gold medallist Walcott and IAAF World Championship men’s 400-metre hurdles king Jehue Gordon added Commonwealth silver to their already impressive resumes, further justifying the decision each has taken to train at home.

Walcott’s 85.28 metres national record was an emphatic response to critics bent on painting a picture of the Toco athlete as a one-throw wonder. And in the one-lap hurdles final, Gordon produced the season’s best clocking.

T&T’s other Glasgow silver medallist, Cleopatra Borel, is also based at home and is coached by the man who guided Walcott to Olympic gold, Cuban Ismael Lopez Mastrapa. Switching her training base to T&T has worked well for Borel, who now has two Commonwealth silvers as well as a bronze.

Track and field captured four bronze medals in Glasgow for a total of seven medals at the Games. And there was bronze too for lightweight boxer Michael Alexander.

For those who are inclined to criticise the team for not striking gold, hold that thought. Athletes faced a high level of competition, and even the fastest 800 metres runner in history, Kenya’s Olympic champion David Rudisha, was denied gold.

Glasgow 2014 was a satisfactory outing for Team T&T. As we build on that performance and continue preparations for the 2016 Rio Olympics, the athletes must be given the support required to compete with and beat the best in the world.

Many T&T athletes have been preparing for national duty without funding. Yet, there is a high level of expectation. A two-time Olympic medallist should not have to go to the press in June appealing for the $250,000 elite funding cheque that should have financed his preparations for the 2014 season, Glasgow included.

To add insult to injury, that athlete, and others in a similar situation, must read about a $34 million LifeSport payment for absolutely nothing.

What a difference $34 million can make for the athletes who labour on a daily basis to bring glory to the country.

To those in authority equipped with the resources to make a difference in our sporting fortunes, the ball is in your court.