Minister of Sport Anil Roberts is not particularly known for his crooning, but yesterday he was in full voice, singing the praises of Trinidad and Tobago's Olympic athletes who competed at London 2012.
During yesterday's reception for double Olympic bronze medallist Lalonde Gordon at the VIP Lounge of Piarco International Airport following his return to T&T, Roberts paid tribute to the lanky quarter-miler.
"People saying they [don't] know where he coming from," Roberts said of the Tobago-born athlete, who lives in New York. "This young man running good since early last year, a consistent 45 (seconds plus)…"
Roberts was impressed by the calmness, confidence and humility of the runner, who earned a medal in "one of the greatest, stylish, technical manners possible".
"…For Lalonde Gordon to not get excited and hold his pace and finish his race and bring bronze to Trinidad and Tobago under such immense pressure, and show humility and class, that is what it's all about."
Also in line for acclamation were 100 metres and 4x100m sprinters Richard "Torpedo" Thompson and Keston Bledman, who were part of T&T's relay teams to win medals at successive Olympic Games, with silver in 2008 in Beijing, China and bronze in London, as well as 400m athlete, 19-year-old Deon Lendore.
The Minister lauded Thompson for overcoming an injury-plagued season to reach the men's 100m final. But it was Thompson's 4x100m anchor leg, where he got the baton behind the rest of the field, which drew Roberts' praises.
Said Roberts: "Had Richard Thompson not run from last to fourth, that bronze medal would not be here for Trinidad and Tobago. It was one of the greatest anchor legs in history and it takes character when all is lost...to fight through and run to a tape like that was a brilliant run."
Roberts also commended Bledman for running a "blistering leg" in the 4x100m relay with groin and hip injuries, and Lendore for "holding off 80,000 Britons chasing him down" in the anchor leg to edge T&T to 4x400m relay bronze.
"Let us be real and let us be fair," Roberts insisted. "Each and every one of our qualifiers did us proud. Each and every one of them was deserving of accolades and praise."
But to the media, Roberts was not as generous with his words. He slammed articles that he felt unfairly criticised Semoy Hackett—who missed out on the women's 100m final—and cyclist Njisane Phillip.
"Nothing went wrong (in Phillip's match sprint fourth place finish); he rode to the best of his ability, he did everything right, he was fantastic," Roberts said.
"[The criticism] not bother me; my back is broad…," Roberts continued. "These athletes cry long tears; they feel hurt when people analyse their performances in the wrong way. So members of the sporting media, please let us accept our responsibility."
Roberts also hailed javelin thrown gold medallist Keshorn Walcott's coach Ismael Lopez Mastrapa as a "genius", and coach Angus Eve and T&T's under-23 football team, who missed out on the Olympics in final round qualifying.
"…We were shocked that they went to the qualification and were throttled by Mexico 7-1 and we couldn't explain what happened. Now we know what happened.
"Mexico was not just a CONCACAF champion; Mexico was the best team in the world and won the [Olympic] gold medal, and Honduras, who also qualified, eliminating Trinidad and Tobago, were quarter-finalists…"
With his parting words, Roberts returned to Gordon, who will line up on Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland for a Diamond League meet that will feature Olympic 400m champion Kirani James.
He asked the runner to break "my friend Ian Morris' 400m record" 44.21 seconds, which has stood since 1992, when Gordon was three years old.
"So by next year around July, we will break that record," Roberts declared. "And to Kirani James, we love you, we respect you, but don't think you are going to chalk up gold after gold after gold and coming back with [Grenadian] spice, spice, spice.
"We have spice...Tobago spice coming at you with Lalonde Gordon."