HEADLOCK: South Africa’s Werner Kok, right, is tackled by Trinidad and Tobago’s Agboola Silverthorn during the Rugby 7’s tournament at the Ibrox Stadium during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, last month. T&T went down 36-0. —Photo: AP

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MORE PADDING THAN SUBSTANCE

By Garth Wattley garth.wattley@trinidadexpress.com

 Not unexpectedly, the public statements of officials connected to Trinidad and Tobago’s Commonwealth Games effort has accentuated the positive.

The National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) wasted little time in hailing the athletes who earned medals in Glasgow—Keshorn Walcott, Ayanna Alexander, Cleopatra Borel, Jehue Gordon, Lalonde Gordon  and the men’s 4x100 and 4x400 metres relay teams. That was quite within their rights and appropriate. 

Track and field yet again was the principal medal-bearer for these islands at a major multi-sport games. Only boxer Michael Alexander with his lightweight division bronze medal contributed hardware from the other disciplines. But it just seems that in the public assessments so far of T&T’s Commonwealth Games showing, too much focus has been on what track and field did or did not do.

A bigger, more important concern should be those six other disciplines from which no medals came. In most of those cases, the T&T teams also struggled to even be competitive.

At the Central American and Pan American level, the national hockey teams have performed creditably over the years, winning medals here and there, but both the men and women struggled in Scotland. Badly.

The T&T women managed just one goal in their four Pool matches, but conceded 48. The individual results make no less painful reading: 16-0 against South Africa, 14-0 v New Zealand, 14-0 against India and a “respectable” 4-2 defeat against Malaysia.

After the second beating, the 14-0 drubbing against New Zealand, coach Albert Marcano told reporter Kwame Laurence that his team had gone into that game with a plan, “not to concede more than we conceded the first time. They achieved that goal today, so it was a plus for them”.

A plus? To lose “only” 14-0? I shook my head when I read that. It seemed a clutching at straws. But clearly the T&T women were out of their depth in this level of competition which pitted them against some of the strongest teams in the hockey world.

The men’s team did not lose in double digits, and to their credit came away with a 4-2 victory over Malaysia. But they also had difficult days, losing 6-1 to England, 8-0 to New Zealand and 3-1 to Canada.

In Rugby Sevens, the T&T men lost all three of their matches against the Cook Islands, Kenya and Canada in the Pool stage but managed a win over Malaysia in a consolation Shield game, before losing heavily to Sri Lanka in their final match.

Meanwhile, the netballers went into the Commonwealth competition as the tenth ranked team and left it, having kept their status. At least no ground was lost. But for a team that was once the best in the world and among the top five in the Commonwealth, winning one match out of six cannot be satisfactory. 

I therefore read with interest the newspaper comments yesterday of Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee president Brian Lewis on the Commonwealth effort. He sought to focus attention on what the Glasgow effort should mean for the athletes moving forward to the Rio Olympics in 2016. 

Essentially, the TTOC president encouraged the sporting fraternity to use the good and the bad from Glasgow to gauge what needs to be done for the next Olympics. 

There was also a plea for equitable treatment for athletes across all sports when it came to the distribution of Elite funding. Implied, was the suggestion that some national competitors have not yet got funding for the year. 

This is an area that ought to demand the attention of the new Minister of Sport, Dr Rupert Griffith. As has become more clear in recent weeks, all is not right in the ministry. As such, paying outstanding money to athletes may not be so high on the minister’s list of priorities. 

But even taking into consideration the relevance of the comments by the TTOC boss, and the issues of funding that all sporting associations face, those bodies also have to look themselves in the mirror. 

Some of those results in Glasgow did not justify the presence of national teams there; specifically the manner of the defeats. If regional Games provide the opportunity to test where countries are in relation to the highest levels of competition in their respective sports, then T&T are not measuring up, and local sporting bodies have to look not only at how they prepare teams but at how effectively they are running their competitions and training their players, from youth level upwards.

Otherwise, these T&T games contingents will continue to be more padding than substance.

 

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