After Keshorn Walcott was celebrated and showered with gifts for becoming the world's youngest ever Olympic javelin throw gold medallist in London this year, his coach, Ismael Lopez Mastrapa was quietly rewarded for his part in Walcott's success.
Minister of Sport Anil Roberts revealed yesterday that Mastrapa received a total of $350,000 from the Sport Company and the Ministry of Sport for his hard work with T&T's second Olympic champion. The Minister was responding to a question about rewarding coaches and other support staff of successful athletes while addressing corporate interests about the benefits of investing in sport at the Trinidad Union Club in Nicholas Towers, Port of Spain.
Of that sum, the Cuban-born field coach got $100,000 for helping Walcott to javelin victory at the World Junior Championships, and a further $250,000 for helping the athlete bring home Olympic gold.
"For the first time in the history of Trinidad and Tobago, a coach, Mr Mastrapa of Cuba, has been rewarded…for his success in coaching young Keshorn Walcott," Roberts said.
"…Ninety-five per cent of the credit goes to (Mastrapa) as a coach, with all due respect to the administrators and the media who reported on it and so on."
He added: "You all have been the first to find out about it because unlike other politicians, this Minister does not need to get in the papers. I try to stay out."
Roberts pointed to his pedigree as a successful swim coach, the highlight of which has been assisting George Bovell to Olympic bronze in 2004, and again to the Olympic 50-metre freestyle final in London this year.
"…So I make sure to recognise the contribution of coaches, and we must understand that," he explained. "The beauty of it, the teachers and the coaches in this country are the ones who are going to save us. Not jail, locking up people and video cameras."
But when asked about rewarding athletes who have not won medals—a topic that had been a hotbed of debate in the aftermath of the Olympics—Roberts, in his trademark style, went from philosophical to chastising in a mere moment.
"Recognition is for winners," the Minister stressed. "Life is competitive. And if you want to be like the marathon runner to come last and ask us to recognise you, that not happening. There is elite sport, and elite sport means win. If you coach a football team and you get $75,000 a month, win, or be gone."
He continued: "If you're not the best of the best, go and train hard and then come back a next time. You will get a shake hand."
During his speech, Roberts urged corporations to support local sport, athletes and clubs, and invited them to take advantage of the 150 per cent tax breaks—up to a maximum $3 million—for corporate support of non-governmental organisations, particularly sporting bodies.
He also emphasised that the Government, and in particular the Ministry of Sport is looking at ways of increasing the viability of sport tourism in Trinidad and Tobago.
He pointed out that they are currently looking at ways to bring in further sporting revenue, which will be used for many things, including maintenance and upkeep of facilities, such as the new cycling velodrome, aquatic centre and tennis facility currently under construction to the tune of roughly $770 million. These projects are expected to be completed late next year.
But Roberts also emphasised that corporate T&T will have to play a big role in helping to exploit local sport and sport tourism as a business.
"We understand that," Roberts said, "and we will be counting on the resources, expertise and brain of the corporate sector."