What have you done for me lately? Indeed some in sports may actually say—What have you done for me? In particular, as we prepare for this weekend’s NAAA Sagicor/NGC National Championships at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, it is relevant to state that there must be no problems with the surface and preparations as was the case in 2011, when the championships had to be postponed for a month. Let us hope that the relevant authorities will ensure everything is in place for our athletes and the officials. It is good for the sports that the Athletics Association, Ministry of Sports, Sports Company of T&T and the Minister of Sports appear (at least) to be agreeable in the main. All of these entities need to cooperate if our athletes are to succeed. However, this leads to the question, as to what has been done for our athletes to ensure they are at their best. There should be no doubting the importance of this weekend meets and the fact, that there will be some interesting events which could have a bearing on the final Olympic contingent representing this country in London. In context, the news from two of our Caribbean neighbours is so varied as to be significant to us. Barbados have only four athletes that have met the qualifying standards and are struggling to make an impact on the Olympics and will be relying on 100 metres Hurdler Ryan Braithwaite to return to his best.
On the completely opposite side, Jamaica expects to have at least forty five athletes at the London Olympics and is considered a favourite to capture the most gold medals in the sprint events. So in all of this, where we must ask is T&T. Saturday and Sunday may give us an answer because after this weekend, there are just about forty three more days to the athlete’s part of the Olympics and it should be interesting to watch them perform. Many times, the athletes seek to say they have not received enough support and while there will be some still saying that, we need for our athletes to find a way to “do something for us, the people of T&T.” This country needs something to smile about and for and there is no other avenue but sports that can do that for the people. So as we look to the saviours this weekend, there are some familiar and not so familiar stories which should make for interesting watching. It is time for sporting persons in this country to also recognise their roles and the need to ensure that they give back to the people of this country. There have been too much times in the past, where the athletes have received loads of funding and instead of producing creditable performances, have either faltered or just got injured. While no one can predict injury, there have been occasions when the athletes have not looked interested. We have to make them aware of the honour of representing this country and providing they have received the necessary support, both financially and emotionally from the respective sporting authorities, it is time to deliver. The London Olympics is not a joy ride—instead it is a job. Our athletes need to perform at their best and with the knowledge that the people of this country have paid for their participation, through their everyday efforts at work. And just for that, when, they run, they swim, when they jump, when they throw, when they cycle, they need to leave it all on the field of play.
For me, it is sad when we have people representing T&T, but instead of concentrating on their jobs, they decide to enjoy the trip, the travelling and even the shopping. This also applies to the officials who will be selected to travel with our team to the Olympics. It seems that just like all the other Caribbean countries, every single official who can travel will do so for this London Olympics. The word in the Olympic Federation is that unlike previous years when regions would assist each other with tickets from each association, this is not the case in 2012. Everyone wants to be in London. Interestingly as well, we will have to watch and observe, how many coaches, assistants, therapists, medical staff, mangers and other ancillary staff are selected to travel with all of the various athletes from the different sports. It has always been the biggest cry from many independent sport analysts that too many officials travel with the teams. It is almost certain this will still be the case in 2012, as it is very hard to believe that anyone would want to miss out on a free ride to London. On Saturday, the Men’s 100 metres final will be the marquee event for most, and the following week in Jamaica, there will possibly be eight men in their finals with times under ten seconds. in Trinidad, though. while this may not be the case, it will certainly be a competitive 100 metres and while the athletic association in this country has correctly stated that they are under no obligation to select the top three finishers in this event as our representatives in London, there is still a lot on the line. Richard Thompson is the defending champion and the 2008 Olympic 100 metres silver medalist and even though he has not scorched the tracks so far this season, this is a young man with a lot of pride and integrity and he will be determined to show that he has learnt a lot since joining the Smith camp. But, he will have to contend with the tenacious youngster–Keston Bledman–who has been producing good performances lately and will seek to show the country he has arrived and is deserving of one of the three places on offer in the 100 metres. The battle, though, is for the third spot, with the very competitive Marc Burns, the injury prone Darryl Browne, the dangerous Emmanuel Callender and the consistent Aaron Armstrong challenging for that prestigious spot. This should make for a great event.
Among the women, everyone will be awaiting, the reappearance of Kelly Ann Baptiste on our local surfaces after her great exploits in the last six months. It appears that Kelly will not have matters all her own way though as Semoy Hackett and Michele Ayee are promising something special. Whatever happens, it must be a source of great joy to all involved in athletics in this country to finally have women competing not only to achieve qualifying times, but to actually win medals. As it stands, whether this Tobago born speedster likes it or not, there is a lot of expectancy following her bronze medal in the World Championships 100 metres. We can only hope that people close to this very talented youngster can convince her to run in the 200 metres as well. It will also be an opportunity to examine the progress of Rondell Sorillio in the men 200 metres and Renny Quow in the 400 metres and Jehue Gordon in the 400 metres hurdles. These three athletes must convincingly win their events to not only enhance their personal confidence, but also to calm the nerves of many in athletics. As we look to encouraging our youngsters into sports in this country, we need to ensure that we not only assist them financially, but also ensure that they are aware of the importance of representing their country. Let us therefore not take anything for granted and attempt to ensure that everyone understands their role and their need to be professional in all that they do, not only for their sake, but for that of their country. Many of us would love to represent our country in sports, but we are not skilful enough, therefore to those for whom much is given, much is expected and also persons must appreciate the expectations. I am hopeful that we will not have to witness much excuses being made by our top athletes. We want their minds to be clear and at peace, so they can give of their best. Whatever you have planned for this weekend, please if you are truly a sports enthusiast, then find some time to be at the Hasely Crawford Stadium and show your support for sports and encourage our athletes and even our officials. It is time to unite behind our team and give them the belief they can succeed. I have a belief that we will all witness something very special this weekend, so it would be a shame to miss the action. Be there and be supportive.