There are 106 days to the start of the 2012 London Olympics and nothing is being done to promote these prestigious games in T&T. Of course, there are those who will argue that “nothing” is a strong word. They would prefer me to say “not enough,” but alas that would be wishful thinking. We have to stop pretending that we carefully plan the road ahead in sports, because this is far from the truth, even if it is ideal. And for those miscreants in sports administration that believe that it is unfair to compare us with other countries, my advice is to “wake up and smell…” For those who have been in this beautiful country over the last six months and may be wondering where is all the promotion and drive along with energy and zeal for one of the greatest sporting spectacles in the world hiding these last few months, I suggest you read on. Let me do the job of the ailing sport administrators in this country, in particular those who must “ensure” that the proper systems are in place for this country to have a chance of gathering some medals. And yes, while those of you with sporting acumen, will state, it is too late to start to think about grooming some for medals, I want to disagree, because it is never too late to learn something new that can improve someone’s performance or give that Olympic participant an edge.
While in the sporting world some may believe that three months is never enough, in the business world where sport is fashioned and for whom sport depends, three months is enough time for acquisitions and mergers of gigantic proportions. Therefore if we can somehow show those with the power to influence our performances at the London Olympics some headlights, they may follow the correct path and try to assist our athletes. We need to find out from the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC), the Sports Company and the Ministry of Sports, why this neglect of the London Olympics. Now is the time, as well, for these organisations to step forward and promote our athletes who will be at the Games because most, if not all of those who will represent us are already well known. What may be left is deciding on the composition of the 4x100 metres men and women’s teams. And whether or not this country will be represented by 4x400 metres men’s and women’s teams. So for starters opening a clear, consistent and co-operative line of communication with the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) would be a step in the right direction and avert any of the problems of the past, where apparently the NAAA selected a particular team only for the TTOC to make their own changes. There was so much doubt, cross talk and disenchantment caused by this in the past, that one hopes that both the NAAA and the TTOC would have adequately learnt from this and therefore seek to ensure there is no repeat. Here are some test cases, which I am certain if adhered to, can assist our athletes at the London 2012 Olympics.
1. Richard Thompson—100 metres and 4x100-metre relay
Can anyone in the Ministry of Sports or the Sports Company tell us if Thompson has received the necessary funding for the Olympics?. And if not, why? It is no good sending the funding when the Olympics is over. If it is that both the Sports Company and the Ministry of Sports need to open up proper lines of communication with the athletes, then there are proper ways to ensure this is done. Of course, I know that there will always be some reasons, such as delay in financing from the central government or that some paperwork was not done on time. But this is an Olympic year, where officials must act out of the box and not only seek to help those athletes who are their friends or students. Thompson has made a major (and expensive move) to be trained by John Smith. This is a sacrifice he should not have to bear alone. Because I am certain should he return with a medal or two as in Beijing, many prominent government officials will be parading at our Airport to meet, greet and enjoy photo opportunities with him.
2. Kelly Ann-Baptiste—100 metres, 200 metres and 4x100 metres
As I think of Baptiste, I remember one Guy Boldon more than six years ago telling me that he likes this young lady and she has a very bright future. So even as Boldon is under the weather and still recovering from surgery recently, let us wish this very proud and knowledgeable father a safe and speedy recovery. Again, we are forced to ask the Ministry of Sports and the Sports Company, have they assisted this young lady who seems on the verge of challenging the Jamaicans dominance in the sprints. We need to have persons from these two organisations co-ordinating with her through the NAAA, on what she needs. That is what is called real support, not just standing and talking loud nonsense. It is time for persons in these sporting administrations to move forward collectively with our athletes and not attempt to be autocratic. That, as we have witnessed in the past (with the changing of the dates of the National Championships in 2011), will bear little fruit.
3. Jehue Gordon—400-metre hurdles, 4x400-metre relay
Even as Jehue Gordon attempts to be different and train and study in T&T, it is clear that he is facing a lot of challenges. As we have all witnessed and read and heard on i95.5fm I sports, Gordon and his coach were denied use of the Hasely Crawford Stadium immediately after Carnival. This is wrong as he is one of our elite athletes and therefore arrangements should have been put in place to ensure that he is given the best opportunity to succeed. If enough effort and emphasis are not given to athletes like Gordon who train in this country to excel, we will pay the ultimate price at the London Olympics. Let us hope that good sense will prevail because at the moment, all of this unwanted pressure appears to be having a negative impact on Gordon as witnessed by a rare defeat on home soil against Puerto Rican Eric Alejandro. This should be of concern to all and officials should be making appropriate enquiries to ensure all is okay in the Gordon camp. Of course all of this is presuming that they care.
4. Njisane Philip—Cyclist Keirin and Match Sprint
Despite, Njisane Phillips’ tremendous performance to qualify for the London Olympics and become the first cyclist since Gene Samuel to do so, it is not going to be easy for the youngster to medal. Especially as over the weekend, we watched the defending champion Sir Chris Hoy of Great Britain win the Keirin at the World Championships in a marvelous finish. The fact that Hoy is a hometown favourite means that Phillips is going to need to be supremely fit, focused and determined and of course have some racing luck. I honestly believe that in the correct environment and given the proper continued support and foundation, Phillips can surprise and upset a few of the favoured cyclists from Europe in both events. So again, we call on the Ministry of Sports and the Sports Company to work with the Cycling Federation and the cyclist to ensure all of his needs and wants for the London Olympics are put in place. Also it was rather disappointing to observe and learn of the type of support given to Dr Basil Ince’s book launch entitled: 75 years of T&T’s history at the Olympics 1934-2010. Both the Ministry of Sports and the Sports Company of T&T can and should do more to ensure this beautiful legacy and history of our sporting endeavours is made into a collector’s item.
As well it must be a failing of the TTOC in not being able to recognise this work, with the high plaudits and recognition it deserves. That to me is another factor that is of concern with this current TTOC. Perhaps some have suggested that the incumbent President Larry Romany has too much on his plate, having to share the dual role of chairman of the Pro League. Whether that is true or not, I cannot believe that someone such as former president Douglas Camacho would have not realised the necessity to fully support this venture in every way possible. If so, we also have to ask the other executives on the TTOC were they sleeping on the job and please do not say you helped a little, the point is you all could have done more, much more. One day, I hope truly that this country can be blessed in sports by a new dawn of leadership. To wait for that though seems to be like an eternity. Anyway, let us hope our athletes and officials can ensure we are properly prepared, mentally, physically and financially for the London 2012 Olympics. Oh and by the way, least I forget, the Olympic Games run from July 27 to August 12, 2012.