Dexter St Louis is making an urgent appeal to the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) for help in getting a T&T table tennis team to the August 28-31 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games qualifying tournament, in El Salvador.
St Louis told the Express the T&T Table Tennis Association (TTTTA) recently received $283,000 from the Ministry of Sport to fund its activities for 2014. However, he explained that money was owed to T&TTTA president Reeza Burke, who had dipped into his own pocket to ensure the country’s participation at the Latin American Championships, Youth Olympic Qualifier and Caribbean Junior Championships.
When other expenses are factored in, including development funding, just $30,000 is left for the CAC Games qualifying tournament—about half of what is required to field a team of three men and three women, including France-based St Louis and Rheann Chung.
“Today is a sad day,” said St Louis. “I am publicly asking the TTOC if they can help us in any way. I hope someone could come to our rescue. We are lacking some $30,000 to send the team…I guarantee we will qualify for the Games.”
At the 2014 Latin American Championships, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Chung earned bronze in the women’s singles event, while St Louis reached the quarterfinal round of the men’s singles. In the team events, however, T&T exited in the preliminary round. But while the men—St Louis, Curtis Humphreys and Aaron Wilson—had the consolation of a 3-2 victory over Uruguay, the women’s combination of Chung, Aleena Edwards and Linda Partap-Boodhan were winless.
St Louis was critical of the TTTTA’s decision to send a women’s team to the Latin American Championships.
“This is so shameful that we cannot attend the (CAC Games) trials, because from what I see it was money badly spent (on the Latin American Championships). We have to put money where results are possible, and not do favours by giving joy rides. We cannot compete on that level in the manner we train in Trinidad. So why go, if year after year it’s only an additional stamp in your passport?
“John Public,” he continued, “please take note, the level of table tennis in Trinidad and Tobago is way below Latin America, simply because we have neither the budget, skills nor coaches to run training programmes to play at this level. Rheann Chung winning a (women’s singles) bronze medal at the Pan Am Festival and Latin American Championships does not indicate our level at home.
“It was a mistake to spend money on Latin American Championships, which is not in our medal range, and leave out the CAC trials,” St Louis ended, “which should be a must for us.”
In response, Burke told the Express that while he understands the point being made by St Louis, the exclusion of a women’s team for T&T’s 2014 Latin American Championship campaign would still have left the TTTTA short on funding for the CAC Games qualifying event.
“It cost about $15,000 to send two women to the Latin American Championships to make up a team. Had we not sent a team, we would still have been significantly short of the additional $30,000 needed for the CAC qualifiers.
“Had we not allocated money for development,” the TTTTA president continued, “we could easily have sent a team. But it’s a balancing act between spending on our elite athletes as against spreading the sport far and wide in Trinidad and Tobago.”