T&T’s successful track and field teams which copped bronze in the 4x100 metres and the 4x400 metres relay events at the recently concluded London 2012 games were finally presented with their awards of merit, the Hummingbird Gold Medal, from President George Maxwell Richards, at Knowsley Building, Queen’s Park West, yesterday. The athletes were unable to receive the awards at the 50th Independence Day awards function due to their participation in the Diamond League (a series of European track and field events) . Yesterday’s brief ceremony was attended by wife of the President, Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards, Leader of the Opposition Keith Rowley, president of the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) Larry Romany, Minister of Sport Anil Roberts, among a host of other distinguished guests.
The 4x100m third place finishers including Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender and Richard Thompson, set a season best of 38.12 seconds to finish behind eventual winner Jamaica and the United States, while the 4x400m team of Lalonde Gordon, Jarrin Solomon, Ade Alleyne-Forte and Deon Lendore were third behind the Bahamas and the United States in a time of 2:59.40, setting a national record in the process. The prestigious accolades, which are awarded to nationals who have been deemed loyal and have provided a beneficial service to T&T in any field, comes less than a day after the same eight athletes were granted a cash reward to the tune of $300,000 each, by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, at a reception held at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s. Thursday’s function also saw Olympic swimmer George Bovell III honoured for his bronze-medal performance in the 200m individual medley at the Olympics in Athens some eight years prior. He too was awarded with $300,000. Most of the athletes expressed surprise at the honours granted them.
Speaking after the ceremony, Burns, who won silver at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in the same event (4x100m) was appreciative of the persons responsible for selecting the Olympic medallists for the award. “It’s a great honor receiving an order of merit for T&T and I’d like to thank everyone who was instrumental in making that decision for myself and my team,” said Burns. He continued, “My job is to represent T&T to its fullest on and off the field so this is just an accolade to my resume, and now it’s just to represent my country fully.” Thompson also spoke to the media following the presentation and when pressed as whether there should be a standard policy on the awarding of athletes who medal at the Olympics, he said that it was not a bad idea “in all fairness to everyone.” “We see George Bovell being awarded eight years afterwards. Now if there’s a standard policy then everyone, regarding what they achieve, will be treated fairly. I do believe that finalists should be rewarded as well, because just making it to the Olympics is very difficult and making it to the final is even more difficult, obviously. So that in itself is a huge accomplishment because the entire world sees that flag when you’re on that line in the final,” Thompson commented. “We’re always grateful for anything given to us as a reward. We just take great pride in representing T&T regardless, and this is a bonus for us, but representing the country is really what means everything to us,” said Thompson. President George Maxwell Richards and his wife Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards, stand with Chief Justice Ivor Archie, fifth from left, and Sports Minister Anil Roberts, fifth from right, as they pose with T&T Olympic bronze medal relay team athletes Jarrin Solomon, from left, Richard Thompson, Keston Bledman, Lalonde Gordon, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender, Ade Alleyne-Forte, and Deon Lendore, following the presentation of the Humming Bird medal, gold, to the athletes at Knowsley Building, Queen’s Park West, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. PHOTO: BRIAN NG FATTThe contingent joins T&T’s only gold medallist at the 2012 games and the second ever in the country’s history, Kershorn Walcott, who was recently awarded the highest and most prestigious award, the Order of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, at the annual Independence Day awards ceremony.