When the cheering stops, and Olympic athletes pack their bags to return home, two athletes from T&T will take centre stage in the Paralympics in London from August 19 to September 9. Shanntol Ince will remove her leg prosthesis and climb up to the starting blocks to swim the 100-metre fly, 100-metre backstroke and 400-metre freestyle, and blind powerlifting champion Carlos Greene will compete in the shot put and discus. Both athletes, sponsored by British Petroleum Trinidad and Tobago (bpTT), will compete in the Paralympics for the first time. Trinidad and Tobago returns to the Paralympics after a 24-year absence. It’s an honour, 43-year-old Greene says, that he never takes for granted. “I feel proud to walk through an airport wearing the red, white and black.” Every morning from 6.30 to 9.30 Greene leaves his home in Waterloo for training at the National Stadium with his coach, Lester Osuna. There, in the outer field of the stadium, he stands inside a circle with three discs or shot puts at the bottom right of the circle. Feeling his way to the disc by sliding his right foot along the gritty cement circle, he bends, picks up a disc and counts off his steps to find his place to wind up for the throw. Greene, who lost his sight to glaucoma in 2000, uses sound and touch to orient himself in track and field events that depend on sight. It’s a new challenge for the power weightlifter, who can easily lift 700 pounds. From Page A33
He has always enjoyed sports. He was involved in school sports when he attended Carapichaima Senior Comprehensive and Chaguanas Junior Secondary. “I played some soccer in school, but after school, I was just trying to survive,” Greene said.
He gave up sports and worked in an electrical company, putting up fancy track lights. He was a part-time tailor and did voluntary social work before he lost his sight. “The doctor said I would be blind in five years. “Three and a half months later, I was totally blind. I was thrown into a world of darkness,” Greene said. “It was a frightening place. I was in darkness. I was scared to move around. I was home. "I couldn’t work as I had before. I gained a lot of weight, but I’m a fighter, and I decided to live again. I went to the gym and began to lift weights,” Greene said. His first powerlifting competition was at the Maraval Country Club in April 2003, when he won a consolation prize as the only blind person to compete. “I felt proud. A door opened,” Greene said. With support from the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, Greene began to represent T&T abroad. In 2006, he discovered the North American Regional Power Lifting Championships, but he was sidelined with a back injury. In 2007 he competed in the North American Regional Power Lifting Championships in Guatemala City, where the team earned a silver medal in the 125 kg class. “I felt I could live doing this,” he said.
Greene garnered gold medals, breaking 11 world records at the World Blind Powerlifting Championships in 2008. In 2009, he broke seven of his own world records from the year before. But he wanted another challenge—shot put and discus. Mastering these events would challenge his sense of space and balance on a whole new level. But the biggest challenge was to find a trainer. When Greene met Osuna, he relentlessly pursued Osuna to be his coach. “I had coached my whole life,” Osuna said. “I had almost retired—and here comes Carlos. It was a new challenge. I saw his dedication. He deserves this.” Much to their surprise, soon after they began training, Greene earned a silver medal in shot put at the 2011 Sagicor National Championships. “There’s something about medalling that makes you want to do more,” Greene said. His enthusiasm, dedication and determination solidified his relationship with Osuna. “In little T&T there are people with big minds and big dreams. Carlos is one of them. He works hard,” Osuna said. “I dream big,” Carlos said, “but I don’t believe dreams fall from the sky. You have to make them happen.” Regardless of what happens, Greene says he’s going to London as a winner. “Just being chosen makes me feel like a winner. “In the next four years, I’ll be at the top in discus and shot put. It’s not far away: just a few more turns of the circle.” Green is already looking to Brazil for the 2016 Paralympics. “I can make it. I have a few good people around me. That’s what you need—a few good people, not a crowd.” Among them are his wife and three daughters. “It takes time to learn technique,” Osuna said. “But he has the talent and the willpower. It’s all a science of mind, body and spirit.” When it all comes together—mind, body and spirit—you get a remarkable athlete like Carlos Greene.