Reigning Olympic men’s javelin champion Keshorn Walcott will have the honour of carrying the Trinidad and Tobago flag at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony here in Glasgow, Scotland, today.
Walcott will lead out the T&T team at Celtic Park, home of the famous Celtic Football Club.
The opening ceremony is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (T&T time). Apart from the Parade of Nations, which will showcase the flags of the 71 participating countries, the 40,000 spectators in the stadium, as well as the one billion-plus television audience, will be treated to performances from British megastar Rod Stewart, Susan Boyle and Amy Macdonald.
Chef de mission Dr Ian Hypolite believes T&T’s 2014 team can improve on the country’s best-ever Commonwealth Games medal haul of nine, achieved at the 1966 Kingston Games. Team T&T earned five gold medals, two silver and two bronze in the Jamaican capital.
“I think we have the firepower,” Hypolite told the Express, “but nobody gives out a medal before the Games begin. You have to go through the process of competition.
“You would understand and appreciate,” he continued, “that I don’t like to make predictions. I expect the team to do very well. There are many different disciplines, and all have their own particular standing in the Commonwealth. There has been a great effort to prepare the best that they can, and that’s cause for satisfaction. In some instances, it may produce personal bests, and in other instances, medals.”
Hypolite has been here in Glasgow for close to a fortnight. He arrived on July 11 to ensure everything was in place at the Games Village for the T&T athletes and officials. The chef de mission said he is satisfied with the facilities provided.
“Very much so, except that they’re now catering for larger numbers than planned. Training venues and the dining room are getting crowded, but the facilities are adequate.”
Hypolite is also impressed with the competition venues for the 17 sports. Among them is Hampden Park, which will host track and field between July 27 and August 2. Hampden Park is Scotland’s national football stadium, and in order to accommodate the track and field meet, temporary facilities were constructed on hydraulic stilts 1.9 metres above the playing surface.
“You could not tell,” said Hypolite. “It’s absolutely wonderful.”
Hypolite is wearing two hats here in Glasgow. Apart from being the head of the T&T delegation, he is the personal coach of Jehue Gordon, the reigning men’s 400m hurdles world champion.
Gordon has been battling with a leg injury that has prevented him from being aggressive over the hurdles. As a result, he has not yet notched any victories in his pet event this season.
Gordon’s best clocking to date in 2014 is 49.29 seconds—a time he produced in finishing sixth at the Athletissima IAAF Diamond League meet in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 3. He is 24th on the 2014 world performance list. Nine of the athletes ahead of Gordon are expected to compete at the Commonwealth Games.
Cornell Fredericks is third on the global list, with a 48.42 seconds clocking. The South African is one spot ahead of Jamaica’s Roxroy Cato, whose fastest time in 2014 is 48.48. Another Jamaican, Annsert Whyte, is fifth at 48.58. England’s Niall Flannery is eighth with a 48.80 run while Bahamian Jeffery Gibson and Welshman Rhys Williams are joint-14th at 48.95. South Africa’s LJ van Zyl (48.96), Jamaica’s Leford Green (49.00), and Kenyan Boniface Tumuti (49.25) are 17th, 18th, and 23rd, respectively.
But while Gordon’s task seems a tough one, based on current form, Hypolite is seeing improvement and expects his 22-year-old charge to do the country proud here in Glasgow.
“Jehue has made some progress. He’s now running with a lot more comfort than before. He’s training well, and his performances are improving week by week. Jehue ought to do well. You can never predict. The job has to be done before you put a stamp on a medal. But he’s doing what he’s supposed to, and as time goes on, I’ll be able to be more precise as to what he is ready to do.”
Gordon’s personal best is 47.69 seconds—the clocking he produced to strike gold at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia.
125 T&T athletes to compete in 13 sports
From tomorrow, the focus will be on the various competition venues where some 4,500 athletes will bid for precious metal in 17 sports. T&T will be represented by 125 athletes in 13 of those sports—boxing, cycling, gymnastics, hockey, judo, netball, rugby 7s, shooting, squash, swimming, table tennis, track and field, and triathlon.