Two months ago, I was at Saith Park, Chaguanas watching a national table tennis tournament, when “he” walked clumsily across the gym floor, using his walking stick to keep his balance. Everyone except me seemed to know him as he waved and smiled broadly to all and sundry. I discovered he was the coach of 13 year old Aaron Wilson who went on to be crowned Under-15 champion and after each game Aaron played, his coach got off the bench with difficulty and stepping unsteadily went over to encourage him.
During the final, the coach applauded loudly every point Aaron won, and I mean EVERY point! Who was this man? Fast forward to last weekend, same venue for the Silver Bowl Junior table tennis tournament. I arrived early and could hardly believe my eyes when I saw Aaron and his coach warming up, the youngster slamming for all he was worth and the coach leaning on his walking stick and returning each ball as if it had been hit by a mosquito and not a national champion. Amazing!
I decided to meet this mystery man to hear his story, which brought tears to my eyes but also made my heart leap for joy knowing that such individuals were put on earth to teach the rest of us some valuable lessons about life. “The man’s” name is Dennis La Rose and he is 50 years of age. He was born in Guyana and contracted polio when he was four years old, hence his very obvious limp. Dennis loved table tennis and joined a small club but soon accepted that he would never be a top player because his polio prevented him from moving easily and he had to hold his stick in one hand to keep his balance. Dennis then began coaching and from 1987 did so at YMCA gym in Georgetown where his players enjoyed much success. In 1996, he came to T&T (he is now a citizen) and in 2003 joined the Carenage Blazers Club from which came Aaron Wilson whom Dennis has coached from the age of five. Par for the course, the Carenage club has no sponsor, coaches are not paid, the club needs 200 balls a quarter for practice sessions and Aaron needs new racquet rubbers ($700) and new shoes ($500) every two months apart from travel expenses for three overseas tournaments a year to keep his international ranking.
Beaming the biggest smile possible, Dennis advised me that the following day he was leaving for Budapest, Hungary as the first national to participate in a Table Tennis Para-Olympic tournament, his trip generously sponsored by T&T Para-Olympic Committee. I could have not heard better news as I sat listening to and admiring the undaunted spirit of this remarkable man who accepted his physical misfortune as God’s will and devoted his talent and time to helping others every day with little material reward. However, God has made sure Dennis will be remembered through the wonderful achievements of Aaron Wilson, and hopefully some generous godfather or Ministry of Sport will find a way to make a small donation to Carenage Blazers Club as a tribute to Dennis La Rose who has given us a magnificent lesson in why we should stop complaining about minor worries and turn negatives into positives beyond financial measure.
Thank you Dennis La Rose for showing me how to live for others; the nation wishes you good luck in Budapest. If anyone deserves such a rewarding and exciting experience, you do!
WICB’s losing war against WIPA
In ongoing attempts to banish negative thoughts about others, especially WICB, lawless squatters, short - sighted unions and time-wasting, non-productive politicians, I often close my eyes and mentally enjoy “seeing” in action the exquisite artistry of Roger Federer, the sublime football skills of Lionel Messi and Robin Van Persie or the power and speed of Usain Bolt. Sometimes I imagine “hearing” the music of Neal and Massy All Stars or the voice of Luciano Pavarotti. I find it difficult to comprehend how people with brains cannot govern a “dot in the ocean” country of 1.3 million, especially given our natural resources of oil, natural gas and gifts of music, sporting talent and creativity. Hopefully Constitutional Reform will limit the number of Cabinet members to ten for obvious reasons. It would also be a welcome bonus if the executive of WICB could change immediately as long as such changes guaranteed an enormous dose of common sens—at least enough to learn not to challenge WIPA in the courts. With the latest legal decision in favour of WIPA, the score must be 8-0 which does not exactly speak highly of the legal minds employed by WICB. My good friend “Dinas” must be smiling at his desk.
Region must learn from Bangladesh
I was very pleased with three sporting happenings during the past week.
(a) The overwhelming success of the Bangladesh T-20 tournament, not only from a cricket angle but even more important, for the resulting national pride of its citizens which point was made repeatedly by all commentators and sponsors. If Bangladesh with its many physical and financial limitations and poverty levels can stage such an event with limited time to plan, how come after fifty years, we cannot start Panorama on time or enjoy a crisis free Carnival? Why does WICB plan a training camp to clash with the four day regional tournament and how does TTCB realise this only two weeks before?
Add the Guyana Cricket Board debacle to this and no wonder it is so difficult to get a tournament sponsor.
(b) Denesh Ramdin captained our national cricket team to an easy victory over Windwards, leading from in front with a magnificent 151 not out in the first innings and stemming a horrible second innings collapse. I have followed Ramdin’s cricket career closely since he was a teenager and have many times publicly praised his batting ability, leadership qualities and obvious wicket-keeping talent. I even suggested that with his creative stroke play and outstanding reflexes, he should open the WI innings in limited overs games which he did for a time. I am not sure how long it takes for “class” to be recognised but hopefully our West Indies selectors will see the wisdom of bringing Denesh back to the Test side, and more hopefully, appoint him to take over the captaincy from what’s his name.
Kohli—India’s new wonder-boy
India’s new wonder-boy Virat Kohli, scored 133 not out off 86 balls, hitting 16 boundaries and two sixes, including blasting Sri Lanka’s bowling star Malinga for 24 in one over. Kohli’s innings allowed India (321/3 in 36.4 overs) to beat Sri Lanka (320 / 4) in the intriguing Commonwealth Bank Tri-Series ODI tournament in Australia. Kohli was described as being “in the zone”, his batting display as “imperious”, and in the past year no batsman has given me more pleasure to watch – especially his amazing wristwork as he guides balls at will. Kohli is not only a superb batsman but he runs like a hare between wickets, is a marvelous fielder in any position and his energetic body language, obvious passion for the game and pride in representing his country comes through the TV screen loud and clear. He hates to get out and is on occasion referred to as “aggressive”, “arrogant” and even “rude” to spectators who annoy him with their insults.
Kohli knows he is good, communicates his self-confidence from the word go, scores quickly and his results plus high-profile positive attitude and leadership qualities on the field have persuaded the national selectors to make him vice-captain of India’s team. That’s not bad for a 23 year old! West Indies cricket has batsmen with Kohli’s ability, but sadly only Dwayne Bravo comes close to matching his enthusiasm and all-out effort day after day. I wonder if “positive body language” and “a fight to the end attitude” are topics taught at WI training camps? If not, perhaps we can borrow the manuals from the Sri Lankan and Australian teams and Kohli’s private DVD library.