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Mastrapha disputes Serrette’s claims: NAAA was not in favour of Cuban coaches
Sean Roach, manager of T&T Olympic javelin gold medallist Keshorn Walcott, and Ishmael Mastrapha, the athlete’s Cuban-born coach, have taken issue with recent statements made by president of the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) Ephraim Serrette at last week’s NAAA annual awards ceremony.
Serrette, who gave the night’s address at the function, lauded his association’s contribution in the success of Walcott at the Carifta (CAC Junior) Games and the Olympic Games by means of its National Field Programme which he says was staged in Toco.
“We have seen the fruits coming out of our National Field Programme. Keshorn came out of that programme and had a great year from Carifta and the Olympics,” said Serrette, speaking at Capital Plaza, Port-of-Spain, where the ceremony was staged.
Serrette also claimed, “With regards to the field programme in Toco, we (NAAA) used to have the coach (Ishmael Lopez Mastrapha) go up to Toco twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday.”
However, Mastrapha, who arrived in T&T in 2004 through a bilateral agreement between the Government of T&T and Cuba’s Institute of Sport Physical Education and Recreation, said he was unaware of any National Field Programme: “Documents were never presented to the Ministry of Sport (MoS) or SporTT (Sport Company of T&T) about any National Field Programme in the Toco area.”
Mastrapha added that when he arrived in T&T, the NAAA was not in favour of Cuban coaches working with local athletes. However, he was still able to work with athletes through the MoS Primary School Programme.
“My relationship with sport in T&T has always been through the MoS and SporTT,” said Mastrapha.
Roach, meanwhile, took issue with Serrette’s claim that there was no fallout with Walcott and the association.
Roach claimed that after a request for Walcott’s use of a javelin for the purpose of training was made, he was told by Serrette, “You getting elite funding (Elite Athletes Funding) now, so you could buy you own equipment.”
Use of the javelin, according to Roach, was granted by the equipment manager (Mr Hyland), to substitute for an old, worn javelin which may have contributed to an elbow injury suffered by Walcott (as advised by Mastrapha).
Subsequent to the use of the loaned javelin, Walcott secured gold at the Carifta games held in Bermuda, last April.
As the pair returned from Bermuda, the throwing team was scheduled to travel to Cuba for a special training programme. He said prior to their departure to Cuba, the javelin was returned to Hyland for use at the meets during the four weeks.
Roach said upon his and Walcott’s return from Cuba, he once again requested the use of the more suitable javelin from Hyland.
However, according to Roach, Serrette was also present and upon his request, the president shunned him, citing his reception of funds from the Elite Athletes Programme as the reason for the denial.
He said he felt Serrette’s statement was not acceptable since the estimated cost would have taken approximately half of the funding by the MoS.
It was after the disagreement that Roach made a request to the MoS for a new javelin for Walcott, who at the time was already regarded as the top javelin thrower in the Caribbean.
On June 27, last year, the Minister of Sport Anil Roberts presented Walcott with four IAAF-certified Gill Athletics javelins at the MoS Head Office on Abercromby St, Port-of-Spain.