Friday, December 15, 2017

Bigger house for Keshorn


MORE SPACE: A view of Federation Villas in Federation Park, St Clair, yesterday where Olympic gold medal winner Keshorn Walcott was awarded a home following his success at the London Olympics earlier this year. The Housing Development Corporation is building another home for Walcott which will allow more space for his family and his javelin equipment. –Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

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Olympic javelin gold medal winner Keshorn Walcott will not be occupying his Government-gifted $2.5 million house at upscale Federation Park.

Housing Minister Dr Roodlal Moonilal said yesterday the single family unit which was given to Walcott was too small and the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) was now working on a residential compound for the 19-year-old Olympic athlete.

"The HDC has been in touch with him and it was decided that Keshorn needed a more expansive space for his family and for storage of his equipment and gear. So the HDC is constructing a residential compound for him and we should hand over a key by February of next year," Moonilal told the Sunday Express.

He said Government made a decision to do the necessary infrastructure work so Walcott can accommodate support staff like his family and manager.

"This is our Olympic gold medal winner and we decided to go the extra mile for him. So he would be out of Toco but the environment will still feel like countryside," said Moonilal.

He declined to disclose the location of the compound but said he would invite the media to tour when it was complete.

In the meantime, Walcott has said he's comfortable in the Mt Lambert house which has been his home for the past year.

In an interview with the Sunday Express before he began his daily training at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain last week, Walcott spoke of the changes which Olympic glory brought to his life and why he hasn't changed residences just yet.

"I am comfortable. Now I have begun to train in preparation for April next year," said Walcott who scored a first for the country at the London Olympics in August.

Walcott won gold in the javelin event with a throw of 84.58 metres and closed a 36-year gap between T&T's last gold medal which was achieved by sprinter Hasely Crawford in the men's 100 metres final at the Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada in 1976.

Asked if having a house to himself at age 19 would give him too much freedom, Walcott laughed and then responded: "Yeah."

The reserved Toco-born athlete, who heads home on weekends, said life was now "busier".

He joked that he's probably set a record for being tagged in local Facebook pictures.

"My lifestyle hasn't changed too much. But my schedule has been busier, doing a lot more stuff than training with appearances all over," he said.

At the same time last year, he was doing about six hours of training and would "sleep out" the mornings.

"Now there's other stuff to do in the mornings. So there's not much sleep," he said, noting that he's trying to "catch up" on his physical fitness.

After the Olympics, Walcott moved from the junior category, in which he was the world champion to the senior category.

In July, for the first time he'll be competing in the senior category at the world championships.

And he's aware that there'll be pressure for that performance following his Olympic victory.

But he's more focused on the immediate things, like school.

Come January, he intends to take up the government's scholarship offer at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) but is still undecided on just what he'll study though he's attracted to business subjects.

"Javelin is only one phase of my life, you can't throw javelin forever," he remarked.

He noted that while Government has granted the scholarship, "there was some further talks about other things but nothing has come out as yet so we're still waiting to see".

In addition to the house and scholarship for his accomplishment, Walcott was granted the sum of $1 million, 20,000 square feet of land in Toco, a Caribbean Airlines aircraft in his name, the Toco Lighthouse to be named the "Keshorn Walcott Toco Lighthouse" and a HDC development in Walcott's name in Toco.

Walcott recalled that the arrival ceremony at the Piarco International Airport was unexpected and long.

"When I came back it was a big surprise. It was nice knowing I won. People were celebrating more than me. I am not one who likes the spotlight and too much attention. I like what I do and if I could be in the dark, that'd be good," he said.

"I try to enjoy most of the things I do but it's tiring. Sometimes, I get fed-up of most things because it's a lot, but I suck it up and try to do it," he said.

He said he was well aware of the public comments about him being paraded about the country by the People's Partnership Government.

"I read them. It was good going around seeing people. All the people couldn't have come to the airport so I was going to different villages which I've never been to before and it was a good experience. My family was there enjoying themselves. It was a bit exhausting. If it was during my season, I wouldn't be doing that," he said.

But the exposure hasn't been all that bad.

Walcott recalled that last year when he went to parties, he wasn't noticed but now he gets more than his fair share of attention from women.

"I don't see it as a problem but sometimes it can be overwhelming. I am coping," he laughed.