It’s mid-morning Wednesday and this interview is clearly not going to happen.
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1964 Olympic medallist:
Edwin Skinner was a member of T&T’s famous quartet that captured the bronze medal at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, in the 4 x400 metre relay final. His illustrious teammates were Wendell Mottley, Edwin Roberts and Kent Bernard. It was T&T’s first Olympic medal in that event and it took 44 years before we earned another medal in a relay event, this time in Beijing, China, in 2008 in the 4x100 metre event. Of the four it is only Skinner who has maintained a presence in the field of athletics locally. Today, the recently turned 73-year-old Skinner is the highly accomplished coach of the Memphis Pioneers Athletic Club that has produced hurdle sensation Jehue Gordon, as well as many other track and field stars.
As coach, he has accompanied several national teams to the Olympic Games as well as other competitions. It was while at Queen’s Royal College that he showed his promise as an athlete in the 200- and 400-metre distances. After secondary school, Skinner joined the Dookie School of Athletics where he focused on training in his two pet events. He excelled at the various track meets and by 1962, following sterling performances at the Southern Games, he was the holder of the national records on both events. His continued good form earned him a full scholarship to Maryland State College in the United States, where he was named both Outstanding Senior Scholar and Man of the Year by Maryland State College for his Olympic performance and presence on the Honor Roll during his college career.
Later, following his career as an athlete and now a coach, he has been inducted into Witco’s Hall of Fame and awarded the Humming Bird Silver Medal (2006) for his contributions to the sport of track and field. In 2008, he was inducted into the Central American and Caribbean Hall of Fame. In 2009, he was awarded the IAAF Veteran’s Pin for his contribution to the global and national athletics movement. The quartet was honoured in 2012 at the 50th anniversary of Independence as one of the Legends in Sport. Yet another award was conferred on coach Skinner in 2012, the Alexander B Chapman award for outstanding contribution to sport and Olympism by the T&T Olympic Committee awards function.
Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
Who are the people who influenced and inspired you the most, in your career and in life in general?
My Parents. I consider myself a product of good parenting. Also elder brother Teckle and coach Mannie Dookie.
What schools/institutions did you attend?
I had the privilege of attending Tranquility Elementary School and St Crispin EC School, QRC, Maryland State College and Rutgers University.
What advice would you give to the young people of Trinidad and Tobago?
Be the best that you can be in whatever field of endeavour that you select.
There is not short cut to success which comes only from hard work over a long period of time
What motto do you live by, and what is your recipe for success?
Good things happen when you do good things. Be prepared to take calculated risks. Immunise yourself from the fear of failure.
Athletics has taken you to many countries. Representing T&T, which countries did you compete in?
Let’s see…USA, Jamaica, Japan, Puerto Rico and Canada.
Coaching has taken you to many countries. As a T&T coach or official, which countries have you been to?
Hmm…that’s a long list. USA, Jamaica, Grenada , St Lucia, St Kitts, Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, El Salvador, Brazil, England, Poland, Finland, Russia, India, South Korea and Australia.
Who was your hero growing up and why?
Mc Donald Bailey, the first Trinidadian to hold a world record and medal at the Olympics. He was a trailblazer. He showed that Trinidadians can be best in the world.
When and how did you get into coaching?
In 1988, when Michael Maxima, then the head coach of Memphis Pioneers asked me to assist. The club was at that time basically a road running club. I was given the responsibility to get the club back on the track.
When and where did you first represent T&T?
The first time I represented T&T was at the Olympics in 1964 in Tokyo.
Of all your accolades, prizes and awards which do you rate as extremely special?
The Bronze Medal at the Olympics. Not only because it was the Olympics, but I almost missed the games because I was injured early that year.
What goals and or ambitions do you still have?
To continue to be influential in developing young athletes to be the best that they can be.
What is your coaching schedule for the next year, and what are your plans for the future?
Assist in preparing Memphis athletes for local meets, Carifta Games, World Junior Championships, CAC Games and Commonwealth Games.
Describe yourself in two words, one beginning with E, the other with
Efficient and Scrupulous.
What was your inspiration to start your Memphis Pioneers Athletics Club? When was it started? Where is it based?
I joined Memphis Pioneers in 1988. It was started by Michael Maxima and others in the late seventies. The club is located in St James.
Where do you practice? How often do you practice? What is a typical practice like?
We practice at St Mary’s grounds and when available, Hasely Crawford Stadium. The under 13 athletes train three days per week and under 15 + train five days per week. It is difficult to describe a training session. It is based on the programme designed by the club’s technical director.
From where do you get your young ‘recruits’?
From the primary and secondary schools in Port-of-Spain and the environs.
Name some of the stars that have emerged from the Memphis Pioneers Athletics Club.
There are many: Emanuel Callender, Simon Pierre, Wanda Hutson, Lincoln London, Jevon Toppin, Keisha Gray, Honary McDonald, Garvin Nero, Dawnell Collymore, Kern Haripersad, Jamol James, Jameel Wilson, Renee Clarke…to name a few. I believe we have won more international medals and our athletes have earned more scholarships than any other club in T&T.
What is your coaching philosophy?
There is no short cut to success. One has to train consistently over a long period of time to be successful. It is for this reason that the club has been the champion club since 1996, except for one hiccup when we lost the Senior Champion Club in 2011 but even then we were the Champion Junior Club.
Interesting that it is at CIC grounds, that an ex-QRC student has been coaching a world class ex-QRC student in Jehue Gordon…how come?
It all came together with an ex- CIC student, Dr Ian Hypolite, the club’s technical director who negotiated to get CIC grounds when King George Park became unsuitable. I view it as the coming together of talented athletes with excellent character qualities and a knowledgeable coaching staff and support team.