Trinidad and Tobago’s second Olympic title came 36 years after the first, Keshorn Walcott joining 1976 men’s 100 metres champion Hasely Crawford in the elite club with men’s javelin gold at the 2012 Games in London, England.
Similarly, the country has just two senior global athletics champions. Ato Boldon became the first with his men’s 200m triumph in 1997. And in August, this year, Jehue Gordon broke a 16-year drought, climbing the top of the rostrum at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia to receive his men’s 400m hurdles gold medal.
While Crawford and Boldon benefitted from the United States collegiate system during their careers, Walcott and Gordon are based in T&T—home grown talents who have conquered the world.
The 2013 IAAF World Athletes of the Year, Jamaican sprinters Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce have also achieved globally as home-based athletes.
Bolt is part of the Racers Track Club stable, and trains alongside other top class athletes, including 2011 men’s 100m champion Yohan Blake. Fraser-Pryce, meanwhile, trains with MVP Track Club, a group that has also produced former men’s 100m world record holder Asafa Powell.
But while Gordon and Walcott can boast of global success from T&T training bases, under the coaching guidance of Dr Ian Hypolite and Cuban Ismael Lopez-Mastrapa, respectively, Gordon does not believe T&T is ready to establish professional training groups in the mould of Racers or MVP.
Speaking to the international media in Monaco, last week, during the build-up to the IAAF World Athletics Gala, Gordon said: “It’s something that we could look at but we don’t have the right support systems in place.
“Right now,” he continued, “things are a bit haywire. We’re looking at short-term development in Trinidad and Tobago, compared to long-term—actually mapping out a strategic plan or programme to foster development throughout the coming years.
“I could really see us implementing something like this, but as of right now the system is not in place to accommodate this type of thing.”
The Monaco press conference was hosted by Boldon and also featured women’s 100m hurdles world champion Brianna Rollins of the United States.
Gordon spoke about the factors that contributed to his golden run in the Russian capital, last August.
“The belief in my system, the support of the people I had around me. I stuck to the programme that they mapped out and guided me through. Since I was 12 years old I’ve been with the same coach, Dr Ian Hypolite. Also, the medical team that I’ve been working with, they were able to map out a programme to help with some of the discrepancies that were found at the Michael Johnson Performance Centre earlier this year.
“It’s things we’ve been working on ever since,” the 21-year-old Maraval athlete continued. “But you could never get everything at a hundred percent. I don’t think any athlete could ever be at a hundred percent. It’s just to continue working on these minute problems that we tend to overlook most times.
“It’s really belief in the system, having the right attitude, determination, keeping your eyes on the prize, and not letting too many people in on that close circle. A lot of people are going to say you’re doing the wrong things. They’re going to say that you should have gone to the US to train, you should have gone to school in the US, but I think once you make that decision then everything should work out.”
Gordon first made a global impact at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Germany. Just 17 at the time, he produced a shocker, finishing fourth in the one-lap hurdles final.
“In 2009, I was running like a rabbit out of a hat. It was natural to me and I wasn’t focusing on all the technical aspects of the 400-metre hurdles. You could say I was running from police,” he quipped.
Fast forwarding to Moscow 2013, Gordon looked back at the jaw-dropping finish that earned him gold, the T&T track star diving across the line to win in a national record time of 47.69 seconds.
“The moment was kind of like a wow and an OMG moment. We dream about it, we think about it, we train hard and we make all the sacrifices, and to actually see yourself being called the world champion, for me it was a wow and an OMG moment…oh my gosh.
“I’ve never had such a dramatic finish before. I could have seen Michael Tinsley in the periphery, but for some reason my eyes just kept focus on my lane. I knew he was there, but for some reason my body wasn’t allowing me to think that he was at the side of me. In the last few steps my heart jumped across the line before my body actually crossed.”
Gordon also gave the international media some insight into the factors that have made him into a world-beater.
“Things were never easy for me from a very young age. At 17, I went to the 2008 Beijing Olympics to watch it. After I came back my house was destroyed by a landslide. Since then things went a bit downhill for my family financially. My father is an alcoholic, my mom…things weren’t stable at home. So I had to set my eyes on something. How am I going to help my family get out of this situation?
“The friends I had,” Gordon continued, “they supported me and were genuinely there for me—since then, up until now--and I always make reference to them. From a young age I had to know what I was all about. I had to be more disciplined than a regular 17-year-old. I had to know what I wanted and where I wanted to go. Those are the key elements that helped me to separate myself from everybody else.”
Now that he’s world champion, Gordon has a target on his back, and will have to work that much harder to stay ahead of the chasing pack.