Nice piece: Ace Trinidad and Tobago swimmer George Bovell, right, and his coach, Minister of Sport Anil Roberts, check out a commemorative statue made for him by gift store, Stechers Ltd, at a small reception ceremony at Piarco International Airport on Monday. —Photo: Ishmael Salandy

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I NEARLY QUIT

Bovell reveals how he almost missed bronze medal

By Mark Pouchet

George Bovell thought about quitting swimming after his narrow fourth place finish in the 50 metres freestyle; mere hours before he won this country's historic bronze medal in the 100m individual medley (IM) at the FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships in Istanbul, Turkey 11 days ago.

And the four-time Olympian gave his coach, Minister of Sport Anil Roberts his bronze medal as a token of his appreciation for the work he has put in over 11 years and because the pair finally achieved their goal after nine final appearances in Worlds competitions.

On Monday evening at a reception at Piarco airport following Bovell's return from Russia where he completed his campaign for the year, both he and Roberts said the fourth place in the 50m freestyle—just four hundredths of a second away from the bronze—really hurt and nearly sent them both into premature retirement.

Bovell said it was really frustrating after the 50m free which was won by Russian Vladimir Mozorov because it reminded him of all the World Championships finals he had failed in before.

Recounting his feelings after the 50 free, Bovell said: "It could be the cruelest thing....You want it so bad and you come so close and you relive it in your mind and think to yourself what you could have done differently in the last few weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds to get that medal."

Roberts, who was in Turkey as a guest of the world governing body, FINA, said it took him 12 minutes to get down to the warm-down pool to meet George and for once he was left speechless.

"Bovell's piercing blue eyes were looking straight into mine, searching for some philosophical belief, some words to ease the pain and nothing came. Not one word," Roberts said.

The Athens Olympic bronze medallist said 30 seconds later Bovell uttered the first words.

"He (Bovell) said 'my soul is tired'," Roberts recalled, noting that up until the final touch, Bovell looked a shoe-in for a medal.

The minister said Bovell then told him he wanted Roberts to forget about politics, take three months off and join him in the Seychelles to do some deep-sea fishing and scuba diving.

But Roberts told him to bottle his pain and focus on the 100m IM prelims which was less than 11 hours later.

The rest is history as he went on to win bronze in the final.

"The greatest thing that 100m IM bronze medal did was it ensures George will be around till 2016. Had God forbid, George come fourth in the 100m IM, his soul couldn't get back from that. It would have been over. He would not have gone back into the pool and nobody could have convinced him. I could not convince him to stay on," Roberts said. He added that Bovell's trials and successes throughout the year epitomised what sport was all about.

Bovell rated his bronze medal in Turkey even higher than his Athens Olympic bronze medal because of, "the sheer will and the way I bounced back and finished the year.

"The way I started then finished off the season, I am actually more proud," he said.

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