Pan am record: Njisane Phillip

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2013 - A mixed year for T&T sport

By Kern De Freitas

There are many moments for sport in 2013 that stood out from a Trinidad and Tobago perspective, some that brought fans joy, some more difficult events, some that made it hard to watch, read or follow, and others that were downright bizarre. It’s impossible to list them all, but today the Express looks back at some of the highlights that graced our pages this year.


JEHUE GORDON 

GETS GOLD

Jehue Gordon’s several trips to the SOSA (Spirit of Sport Awards) and TTOC (T&T Olympic Committee) awards ceremony stages, as well as his TV6 People’s Choice Sports Personality of the Year accolade, had little to do with luck. But 2013 was the turning point for the quarter-mile hurdler. As he himself and his coach admitted, it took some changes in his diet and routine to lift Gordon to another level. He steadily improved as the season went along, and his path to the final hinted at a medal before his dart at the line confirmed the colour was gold. He became only the second T&T athlete to secure a World Championship title at just age 22.


BLAZING NJISANE

Cyclist Njisane Phillip showed a drizzle of his potential last year when he blazed to the Pan American sprint record, before falling one step from T&T’s first Olympic cycling medal. In 2013, the speedster set out for top level international competition again. With new equipment and a never-say-die attitude, he took the Cycling World Cup first leg by storm in Manchester, England in November, sealing silver in the sprints, which only primed him for another searing Pan Am record of 9.643 in Aguascalientes, Mexico to ensure his berth at the 2014 World Championships in Colombia.


DOPING ISSUES

It was not a perfect year for sporting administrations, neither was Trinidad and Tobago exempt from the sporting scandals of the past 12 months. T&T’s top female sprinter, Kelly-Ann Baptiste, tested positive for an unnamed substance and was forced to return home from the Moscow World Championships in August before the meet had even begun. Strangely, after five months, there has been no word on the status of the athlete’s B sample. Even more questionable was the NAAA’s (National Association of Athletics Administrations) decision to overturn a provisional ban on two-time offender Semoy Hackett, which made her eligible to run at “Nationals” and “Worlds”. She too was sent home from the Championships after the IAAF restored the ban, and took the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where it is set to come up in February.


SPORTING ADMINISTRATIONS

Speaking of administrations, it was not a good year for relations, particularly relations with the Ministry of Sport. The Ministry’s feud with the T&T Cricket Board (TTCB) is well documented, but its relationship with the National Association of Athletics Administrations hit a new low over the Semoy Hackett saga. Roberts called on NAAA president Ephraim Serrette to resign over the decision to let Hackett run at “Worlds”. More surprising, though, was the verbal battle between the T&T Hockey Board (TTHB) and Ministry over their spending budget, with T&T having hosted the World Hockey League first round. It left them without a budget for the Pan Am Cup teams, and the Ministry denied the TTHB’s claims that it had agreed to cover the deficit. Things between those parties seem to have been smoothed over since. Ironically, the TTCB and NAAA had both their presidents—whom Roberts at different times called on to resign—return to their posts via elections late in 2013.


ELECTION FEVER

The saying “it’s not over until it’s over” rang true in the TTCB elections. The battle for a third term by Azim Bassarath’s Movement for Change looked all but over when an opposing slate, led by Dinanath Ramnarine and Daren Ganga, made some serious inroads in the lead-up to the polls. They swept the National League elections, and took victory in four of the seven zones. In the end it wasn’t even close, with Bassarath and company returning to the executive. The incumbent president beat Ramnarine 28-20, with much of the executive returning unopposed.


SOCA WARRIORS REBOUND

Scandals, lawsuits, mountainous debt and a first round World Cup exit saw T&T’s national senior men’s football team slide down the CONCACAF and Caribbean football standings—it was no wonder they found it so difficult to find opponents to willing to face them. Just before the Gold Cup TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee made the bold move to replace co-head coaches Hutson Charles and Jamaal Shabazz and install T&T-born former Canadian coach Stephen Hart, with former Soca Warriors coach Leo Beenhakker set to become director of football, a decision criticised by many experts. The “Soca Warriors” exceeded expectations with a quarter-final berth where they lost 1-0 to Mexico, and finished the year off with a string of encouraging performances, including home and away wins against a youthful Jamaica.


AKEEM ADAMS DIES

If there ever was a tragedy, it would have been the series of that saw Akeem Adams lose his life. A strong, young left-footed defender with a promising career ahead of him, the player was transferred to Hungarian first division side Ferencvárosi. The young player had barely been there a month when he suffered a massive heart attack. Four surgeries later he was still battling for his life with aid of a mechanical heart, with his favoured left leg amputated due to poor circulation. Things looked encouraging for Adams’ recovery with a heart transplant needed, but the player suffered another big blow when he suffered a stroke on Saturday and died yesterday.


CARIBBEAN PREMIER LEAGUE

With T&T winning the final Caribbean T20 installment, all eyes were on the Caribbean Premier League. Its predecessor failed to bring out the crowds, and the West Indies Cricket Board faced questions about the new tournament as well. It surpassed the hype and not only packed stadiums around the region with integrated teams and foreign players, but on an entertainment level as well. The tough task now for the CPL organisers for 2014 will be to emulate that success.


SHANNTOL INCE 

BREAKS THROUGH

She’s shown her potential as a young Paralympic athlete, but the teenage really came of age in 2013. Intelligent, hardworking and determined, she shook off her Paralympics disappointment of London 2012 and hit the pool again in 2013, this time with a big splash. All her preparations were geared to the Paralympic Junior Pan Am Championships in Argentina in September, and Ince did not disappoint. In fact, she returned home with gold in four different events. At SOSA, Ince was not only the Best Athlete with a Disability, but the Emerging Athlete of the Year honour as well. (TTOC). All of her plaudits are richly deserved.


DYLAN CARTER 

ON FIRE

As a 16-year-old, Dylan Carter was disappointed not to qualify for the London Olympics from a local base. A change of locale in 2012 and a new programme saw the T&T swimmer break out of his shell, leading to several record performances at the 2012 US Speedo Junior Winter Nationals – as well as the 2013 instalment – and then in 2013 at Carifta level. It was only a sign of things to come as the swimmer constantly threatened and broke national records, and made some big waves at the FINA World Youth Swimming Championships in Dubai with men’s 50 metres butterfly silver. Carter capped off the year with a new national record in the 400m freestyle, breaking the 17-year mark by over five seconds. He was deservingly SOSA earned awards for Junior Male Athlete of the Year and Record Breaking Performance.


BOVELL MAKES 

A SPLASH

You can’t talk swimming in T&T without referring to George Bovell. The outstanding veteran picked up where he left off on a medal spree at the 2012 World Cup series. Almost everywhere the swimmer went he was followed by silverware. He dominated at Canada Cup, and then swam off with World Championship bronze in the 50m freestyle in Barcelona in July to go with his short course bronze in the 100m IM a year earlier. Bovell returned to the pool in the FINA World Cup series and his 13 medals (one gold, five silver, seven bronze), which brought his two-year tally to 29 (ten gold, 12 silver, six bronze), and left the swimmer dreaming of the Rio 2016 Olympics.

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