Ismael Lopez Mastrapa, who guided Trinidad and Tobago's Keshorn Walcott to Olympic men's javelin gold in London, England, in August, has been named North America, Central America and Caribbean Athletics Association (NACAC) Coach of the Year.
"I am surprised and honoured by the announcement. There are so many good coaches in the region, not only sprint but also in the field events. It motivates me to keep working hard to develop throwing events in a sprint-frenzy country," the 42-old Cuban-born coach told the NACAC website http://www.athleticsnacac.org.
In a magic 2012, 19-year old Walcott achieved a national record and second best junior mark ever (84.58 metres) to claim gold in London, the second Olympic title in the nation's history and the first in 36 years, following Hasely Crawford's men's 100 metres gold at the 1976 Games, in Montreal, Canada.
Walcott also collected the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Junior Championship title, and World Juniors gold in Barcelona, becoming the first athlete to win the world junior title and an individual Olympic gold in the same year.
Reflecting on Walcott's win in London, Lopez said: "I wanted to jump to the stadium in joy and remembered the long distances I covered twice a week to coach him back in 2009. It was the best present for the country's 50th anniversary of its independence and also showed that a football and sprint-crazy nation can also succeed in other events.
"It was a very long season, starting training in December 2011 after the Pan American Games. A training camp in Cuba was crucial in April-May in his success as we missed a number of training sessions during the busy domestic football season."
On behalf of the NACAC Coaches Association and the IAAF Coaches Commission, Víctor López—who chairs both entities--congratulated Lopez "for an outstanding year with Keshorn Walcott, who won all major competitions and ended 2012 with a unique feat by winning gold for a country without tradition in the throws.
"Ismael makes the region proud as he is part of the IAAF's development programme for the hemisphere. He exemplifies cooperation among Caribbean nations, in this case Cuba."
A former hammer thrower, with a 67-metre personal best, Lopez Mastrapa started coaching in 1993, and moved to T&T in 2004. He started working with Walcott after the 2009 Carifta Games, and steered him to his first CAC junior title in Santo Domingo in 2010.
In 2007, Lopez Mastrapa started a national throwing programme, and he currently trains a dozen athletes. Since then, T&T has been represented in the throwing events in every major regional and global championship.
Happy with Walcott's nine-metre improvement in one year, Lopez Mastrapa is now focused on coaching his pupil for the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Russia.
"Eight-seven metres are possible, but more importantly, we are here for the long run. We want to stay among the world's best for many years to come and inspire up and coming T&T athletes to dream big."