Thursday, January 18, 2018

T&T 'Legends' make it night to remember


LEGENDARY TRIO: Dwight Yorke, left to right, Russell Latapy and Brian Lara were among those in the spotlight on Thursday night when Trinidad and Tobago's "50 Greatest Legends in Sport 1962-2012" were honoured at a gala dinner at Hilton Trinidad ballroom. The event, organised by All Sport Promotions, paid tribute to past and present T&T athletes, including Olympic gold medallists Hasely Crawford and Keshorn Walcott. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES

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It was a fitting tribute to Trinidad and Tobago's "50 Greatest Legends in Sport 1962-2012", with an unprecedented gathering at Hilton Trinidad Ballroom for Thursday night's gala dinner.

The event, organised by All Sport Promotions, brought out a line-up that comprised a venerable who's who of past and present Trinidad and Tobago athletes, one that made a four-hour programme worth every minute.

Names that had failed to grace the pages of newspapers for some time were in line for another printing. Like the tall, once limber figure of Merrick "Jim" Anatol, who in the 1950s and 1960s represented T&T with distinction in basketball, or Charlie Davis, a classy former West Indies batsman.

Reunited were T&T's record-breaking 1966 Commonwealth Games team--Wendell Mottley, Kent Bernard, Edwin Skinner, Edwin Roberts and Lennox Yearwood.

And members of the 1979 "Calypso Girls" netball squad, including captain Sherrill Peters, Peggy Castanada and former manager Barbara Chandler, all sat at the same table.

They all rubbed shoulders with T&T's 2006 World Cup "Soca Warriors" and cricket's 2009 Champions League finalists.

The event began with a typical speech from Minister of Sport Anil Roberts, who blasted the media, saying it was important to pay tribute to our sporting heroes, rather than criticise the Sports Legends Committee for some candidates' non-selection or invitation to the gala affair.

Roberts praised athletes like 1976 Olympic 100-metre gold medallist Hasely Crawford, footballers Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy and former West Indies star batsman Brian Lara, relating some of the trials they faced and overcame during their careers.

The highlights of the night were the brief video profiles honouring each of the selected sport personalities, some with footage and photographs from as far back as the 1960s of the national heroes in action.

Among the administrators awarded were Eric James (football, posthumous); Ann Browne-John and Alloy Lequay (cricket); Lystra Lewis (netball, posthumous); and Alexander B Chapman (Olympics).

The entertainment lived up to its billing as well. Paul Keens-Douglas kept the eyes of the audience glued to the stage and filled with tears of laughter as he talked about the qualities that make sportsmen great, including focus, discipline and dedication.

But amidst the laughter, the message was very clear and delivered in the inimitable style expected of the veteran storyteller.

Then there was calypsonian Funny (Donric Williamson), who among his ditties delivered one of his earliest compositions, "Sweet, Sweet Trinidad".

Two legends also won all-expenses paid vacations to Grenada to Spice Island Beach Resort, courtesy owner Sir Royston Hopkin and daughter Nerissa Hopkin. They presented the prizes to ace former shooter Bert Manhin and hockey whiz Stacy Siu Butt.

A few of the legends, including ace sprinter Ato Boldon and professional golfer Stephen Ames, were unable to attend, but sent video messages and greetings to the other awardees.

Also missing were former weightlifters Brandon Bailey and Hugo Gittens, due to illness.

London 2012 Olympic Games medallists Keshorn Walcott (javelin gold) and Lalonde Gordon (400m, 4x400m bronze) were also absent on Thursday night. Gordon is still competing abroad, while Walcott was part of a motorcade from East Trinidad to Port of Spain and could not make it in time.

Still, the assembly of legends from the last 50 years, a feat unlikely to be seen again, certainly made it a night to remember.