Saturday, February 24, 2018

Few knew Lalonde Gordon


BACK HOME: Lalonde Gordon

Mark Fraser

It is no accident that few in Trinidad and Tobago knew who Lalonde Gordon was before he showed up in the London 2012 Olympic heats on August 4 for the first of a string of performances that led the quarter-miler to double Olympic bronze.

Even after chatting with the introverted Tobago-born athlete, it is hard to get a picture of who he really is.

But one can sense that the runner is as humble as he is reserved.

Gordon’s mother Cynthia Cupid, though, has shed more light on the soft-spoken Olympic hero.

His desire to be surrounded by positives is complemented by his quietness, Cupid explained as reporters attempted to get some insight on the runner, whose favourite animal as a youngster, coincidentally, was a cheetah. She pointed out that her son does not like being around “negative people”.

She was speaking yesterday at the Piarco International Airport as her son returned to Trinidad and Tobago after the Olympic Games.

As a child, Cupid said, Gordon – who spent most of his life in the United States – fell ill.

She took him to the hospital where he had surgery, and the doctor said her son “wasn’t really sick”. He had too much muscle around his abdomen which was impeding his intestines.

Even as a six-year-old, Gordon had that spirit of determination. In elementary school he won a trophy, and promised her the next week to pick up an even bigger one.

“And he brought back the bigger one,” Cupid said.

It was little surprise to Cupid, then, that Gordon would be on his way to the Olympics to run the individual 400m lap after failing to achieve the qualifying time at the Sagicor National Track and Field Championships, despite toppling defending champion Renny Quow, also of Tobago.

“After the trials, he said ‘Mommy, I am going to the Olympics’. He was already in the 4x400m (relay), but he wanted to run by himself (in the 400m event). So what I did, I bought him a ticket to go to Nebraska where he competed and he [clocked] 45.02. Right away we went to England (ahead of the Olympics).”

Cupid watched on from the stands as Lalonde strode to second in his heat, then first in his semi-final in a personal best 44.54, a mark he then improved on in the final for another personal best and Olympic bronze, all after just two years as a quarter-miler.

After that performance, she was positive T&T’s 4x400m team of Gordon, Machel Cedenio, Ade Alleyne-Forte and Deon Lendore, in the absence of Renny Quow, would medal for only the second time, and the first time since Wendell Mottley, Kent Bernard, Edwin Roberts and Edwin Skinner did so in Tokyo 1964.

“They were very positive,” Cupid recalled. “I met them, and they were dancing in the restaurant, and they felt like they were going to do something good. And they all get along because I see that they look out for each other. There was no hostility, there was love.”

Cupid believes that Lalonde’s 400m bronze medal–T&T’s first at the Games–helped inspire his 4x400m relay teammates.

“… I spoke to every one of them and I said ‘you guys can do it’,” Cupid said. “Because when I see the other guys and I saw the times (they were running), I said, you know what, you guys could do it. Just go out there like there’s a lion running behind you guys, and just do it And I was happy when I see they came in third.”

Following his arrival at Piarco yesterday, Gordon said: “I know I can do a lot. I just (learned) I can do a lot.”

The lanky soft-spoken, quarter-miler returned to Piarco International Airport before heading to Tobago for celebrations at Arthur NR Robinson Airport in the sister isle.

Gordon was treated to a hero’s welcome at Piarco’s VIP Lounge, and mobbed by the media with a plethora of questions after the official proceedings were over. And just as he did in the Olympic 400 metre finale, the 23-year old US-based college student, took every question calmly, and in stride.

Asked how he felt about his Olympic performances, replied: “Knowing that this is what I wanted to do all my life, and knowing that I made my country proud that day, it was a good feeling and I just thank God.”

Only three years ago, Gordon said he had returned to track and field after a six-year hiatus. And he only picked up the 400m–an event he did not even like–in 2010. It turned out to be a genius idea.

“I was running since I was small, but I didn’t run for about six years,” Gordon told reporters yesterday. “I started back training in 2009, for my college, Mohawk Valley Community College…started doing the 400m in 2010, never liked it, but I just wanted to give it a shot. Every week I started getting better at it, so I just stuck to the 400m.”

Gordon won the event at T&T’s National Championships in late June. He persevered to make the time at the US National Club Track and Field Championships in Omaha Nebraska, clocking 45.02 in his last shot at the qualifying mark. He would push the envelope again, twice registering personal bests to secure T&T’s first medal at the Games with a 44.52 clocking. “My body never went so fast like in the rounds, so it was like a type of shock,” Gordon explained. “But I said in the finals I just have to come through and I could pull through, so I just give it all I got.”

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